Chris Gonzalez, chef and co-owner of Hapa Food Truck, has been named a 2017 Eater Young Guns Semifinalist. For the past five years Eater has been recognizing those up-and-coming in the industry who are either younger than 30 years old or have less than 5 years of experience in their field. Gonzalez is the first person from Connecticut to be included on an Eater Young Guns list.
Gonzalez was born and raised in the Philippines and spent time living in Hawaii later in life. It was in Hawaii where Gonzalez honed his cooking skills and learned how to manage and run a food truck. When he and his wife, Nicole Samela, decided to come back to the New York area they found Stamford very accomodating during the food truck permit process and decided to bring their love of Pacific Hawaiian cuisine to Connecticut. The couple opened Hapa Food Truck in early 2015.
The truck serves "American Street Food and Asian Pacific Cuisine" with menu items including nods to destinations as varied as Hawaii, Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Hapa is known for their furikake fries- showstring fries topped with house aioli and Japanese seasoning, and their Ahi and Hapa burgers which are served on an ube brioche bun giving them their famous purple color.
Over the phone Gonzalez said that it was "extremely humbling to be included with the other badasses on the list" and that "it is a blessing to be in this position" for something that he simply does everyday. According to Eater, they "received over 1,000 nominations for nominees who reside in 101 different cities across the United States and Canada." This list was narrowed down to 50 semifinalists by a group of Eater editors, past winners and a judging committee comprised of talent such as Hugh Acheson, Joanne Chang, Dominique Crenn, Corey Lee, Marcus Samuelson and more. Eater will announce the finalists on June 22, 2017. You can see the full list of Eater 2017 Young Gun Semifinalists here.