In the past year, a handful of new Latino restaurateurs opened their doors in Basalt, bringing fresh ideas and new energy to town. They came to Basalt chasing the American dream and have stayed in the hope that hard, honest work will pay off and leave lasting legacies in the community.
Cecilia and Sergio Gonzales have lived in Basalt for 15 years. Cecilia is a vivacious woman whose “can do” attitude and entrepreneurial spirit have sustained her through unimaginable challenges.
“I’m street smart and positive,” she says. “In the end, it’s attitude that opens doors.”
It’s also an attitude that resulted in the couple opening CC’s Cafe in downtown Basalt in September.
Cecilia got her first of many opportunities in the Roaring Fork Valley when a friend connected her to a job at the St. Regis in Aspen. Later at Zele’s café, she rose to become store manager, before being spotted by Lisa Haisfield, who recruited her to manage Peaches Cafe. “Serving a cup of coffee is more than just pouring coffee; it’s about perfecting the experience. People may forget what they ate or drank, but not what they felt. Experiences are what’s important.”
Cecilia is a relentless problem-solver with spunk and a bright smile who had long dreamed of owning her own artisanal cafe. She developed a business plan and, by a stroke of luck, learned last summer that a prime space was available in on Midland Avenue in downtown Basalt.
Within weeks, she signed the lease for the space remembered by many as Saxy’s.
Looking to the future, she wants to franchise the café and help others launch their own cafes.
“I hope this is the first of two or three CC’s cafes, and that people will remember me for having done something good,” she says.
Sergio agrees that legacy is important.
“I want the high school students who come here today to keep returning, and one day, when they’re older, they’ll be able to say that this is still a great place,” he says.
A stone’s throw up Midland Avenue, Alejandro Vazquez and Anabel Meza purchased the legendary Café Bernard last September from Bernard Moffroid and Cathy Click Moffroid, who founded the restaurant 28 years prior.
Vasquez and Meza also have lived in Basalt for more than a decade.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own restaurant, Alejandro says. “I love Basalt. I love French food, and Bernard’s is an historic institution — that’s why we’re here.”
In deference to Bernard’s legacy, developed over the course of several decades by its namesake founder, Alejandro plans to serve the classics, but will add his own flair beginning with a duck confit, foie gras and lamb shank, new desserts like chocolate soufflé and creme brûlée, and an expanded wine list.
Alejandro, who is from Veracruz, Mexico, came to the Roaring Fork Valley to work in the restaurant sector in 2001. He spent years learning the craft of French cuisine in some of Aspen’s top restaurants, including Cache Cache and Rustique.
Anabel is from Puerto Vallarta and arrived in the valley at age 16 with her parents who worked in La Cocina in Aspen. She also has impressive experience, having spent 12 years at The Upper Crust bakery in El Jebel.
“I’m investing all of my energy and love into making our restaurant a welcoming place where people enjoy great French food,” Anabel says. “It’s hard to take over a business with such a long history, but we’re working hard to uphold and build on Bernard’s reputation.”
Alejandro and Anabel will be open year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They want their business to support their kids’ education. They hope that one day their kids will take over the business.
Roaring Fork Grill
Near City Market, 26-year-old Lizbeth Dominguez runs the newly opened Roaring Fork Grill, a family-owned and operated restaurant that prides itself on offering the unique “sazon” [seasonings] of Puerto Vallarta, where her family is from, as well as American cuisine.
“My mom’s an excellent cook,” Dominguez says. “All of her friends call on her for weddings and other private events.”
For years, her family has encouraged her to launch her own restaurant. Instead of buying a new house, she took her life savings and started a business.
Lizbeth was only five when her mother, Lidia, came to the Valley more than 20 years ago. She has been working in housekeeping for Aspen Skiing Co. and private individuals since. After four years looking for the right location to open a restaurant, Lidia and Lizbeth found their spot in Orchard Plaza. They opened the Roaring Fork Grill with son-in-law Endy Torres, and husband, Eulogio Palomera — both having considerable experience with well-respected Valley restaurants.
It is a decidedly family affair.
After finishing their day jobs in Aspen, the guys run the kitchen at the Grill, while Lizbeth takes care of service and management and Lidia helps in the kitchen and bar.
“I was tired of seeing my mom work so much, so my husband and I stepped up to help,” Lizbeth says. “We want our parents to have peace of mind as they get older. We want them to know that they are going to be OK because we’re going to be a successful family.”
Lizbeth left her job with the Aspen School District to manage the business. She wants the Roaring Fork Grill to be known for unique flavors and great service. For her, food delivery comes more naturally than business management, but she’s determined to get it right. She claims some of the best business advice she’s received was “Always think like a business person, not with your heart.”
She explains that it’s important to plan your business moves and avoid spending on a whim. Her goal is to be a reputable, successful family operation.
Having lived and raised their families in the Mid-Valley for more than a decade, these entrepreneurs see a bright future in Basalt. They have established meaningful connections, and their new businesses are contributing energy and vitality to the town.