Marana chef writes recipes for revenge

Although his new book, “Cookbook for Revenge,” contains autobiographical details, Chef Gilbert-Alan Sanchez wants his readers to know he is not a serial killer.

That’s not to say that he hasn’t seen chefs purposely burn their servers’ hands by handing them a hot plate, or other cruelties inflicted by head chefs on to their staff or hapless visitors who unintentionally wander into a restaurant’s kitchen.

“When I was coming up in the business, it wasn’t a very nice business,” Sanchez said.

“People did whatever they wanted, and they got away with it. There were no HR directors. There was nobody around that could stop some of these guys from doing what they were doing because it was always, ‘Well, you know, he’s the chef. You know how the chef is.’”

Today, Sanchez is head chef at the White Stallion Ranch, a guest ranch located down a long dirt Marana road in the foothills of the White Mountains. He is not, he said, like the chefs you will find in his first-time novel, or anywhere else for that matter.

He admitted he’s seen plenty, and much of it has left its mark on him, including a couple of bouts with cancer.

Writing “Cookbook for Revenge,” a fictional story about two people who exact revenge on their former bosses, has helped Sanchez heal. He said he’s exorcized at least some of those demons.

“It was very helpful getting it all out on the pages,” he said. “It was therapeutic. Somebody at the (Tucson Book Festival) was telling me, ‘Sometimes you just have to let it go.’ I said, ‘I did; I did let it go on the pages of the book.’”

Reactions to the story have been mixed. Some, Sanchez said, loved it. Other readers have asked him if he is promoting revenge.

“I’m not promoting revenge,” he said. “I’m just telling my story of some of the things that happened to me along with adding more to the story. Not everything was true but just getting out what I needed to get out, it helped me.”

Getting the book to press was a family affair. Cover art, featuring a stylized bloody hand holding a knife-like carrot, was designed by his 14-year-old daughter, who is not allowed to read the novel. His adult son was his editor.

Sanchez began his restaurant career busing tables at age 14. Washing dishes was soon tacked on to his duties. Finally, his boss told him he could be in front of the house or in back. He chose back. Now at 60, he finds he loves to cook.

“To me, it’s an artform,” he said. “It’s a passion, making the person who is eating the food, making them happy is something that makes me feel good inside.”

In addition, he loves where he works.

“At 60 years old, I’m in a much happier spot working in this place than I’ve ever been, than I probably have been in my entire career,” Sanchez said.

Plus, he has a great crew, and it makes for a much nicer work environment. He reflected on the way he interacts with his employees now, instead of 20 years ago, when he had been trained to abuse his staff.

“The staff that I have now, we all joke, we all laugh,” Sanchez said. “I don’t scream, I don’t yell. There are no off-color jokes. There’s no cussing. I try to create a family type of an atmosphere where we’re all joking. For the most part, the atmosphere that I can create is way different than what I grew up in.”

Sanchez liked writing this first novel so much he’s working on a sequel. No release date for that one yet, but he said he’s hoping it will be ready a year from now.

"Cookbook for Revenge" by Gilbert-Alan Sanchez


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