If you’ve ever eaten at Chicago’s Gibsons Steakhouse, chances are chef Moises Padilla cooked your steak.
After all, he’s cooked more than 1.7 million during his time at the Downtown location of the acclaimed steakhouse.
When he first heard the number, Padilla said he was shocked.
Time crept up on the 50-year-old.
“I said, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe that,’” Padilla said. “Chef told me. It was surprising.”
Aside from Executive Chef Audry Triplett, Padilla’s 27 years in the kitchen are the most at Gibsons. The restaurant is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2019, meaning Padilla has been the man behind your steaks for all but two of the years the restaurant has been open.
On a busy day, Padilla estimates he can cook as many as 300 steaks. In 2017, Gibsons sold 136,328 steaks at its Chicago location. On an average Saturday, the kitchen pumps out 494 steaks, according to the restaurant’s data.
He has the volume down to a science, although it can be stressful considering he is burdened with cooking the premier item at arguably the country’s most acclaimed steakhouse.
“You have to have a system and you have to watch your steaks,” Padilla said. “Some people cooking their steaks start looking at something else. You have to be watching what you are doing, always watching the temperatures.”
The Jalisco, Mexico, native came to Chicago in 1986 and has found a home cooking in the kitchens of the city’s great steakhouses.
He started in the kitchen cooking steaks at Morton’s as a 19-year-old, moved over to Gibsons three years later and has no plans of leaving in the near future.
“I’m happy working here at Gibsons they are nice people, everybody,” Padilla said.
His favorite steak to cook? The New York strip.
Most difficult? The porterhouse.
When things get crazy in the kitchen on the busiest nights, the grill master is able to cook 16 filet mignons at the same time.
That’s quite the task considering he also must keep track of the desired temperature on each customer’s steak.
“It’s so many steaks, I don’t want to get lost,” Padilla said. “I love cooking, it’s easy for me now.”
The most common orders that come in are for medium-rare to medium steaks, according to Padilla. But they do occasionally get the unconscionable well-done.
Padilla said the order happens once or twice a day.
“It’s going to be a little dry. It tastes like nothing, but I have to do it,” Padilla said jokingly.
Aside for the damage to the steak, the bigger issue with the well-done order is the length of time it takes and the space it takes up in Padilla’s broilers.
“That’s going to take a long time. It’s going to take forever,” Padilla said when asked of his reaction when he sees a ticket for a well-done steak print in the kitchen.
When he is not cooking at Gibsons, Padilla, who lives in Berwyn with his wife and four girls, likes to do the cooking at home.
Steak is usually not on the menu, nor is it an option for him at the restaurant these days — and not because he’s sick of them. While he prefers chicken and pasta, the order to stop with the red meat came from his doctor, but he does like to sneak a little piece now and then.
Looking farther down the road, Padilla said he has an urge in the back of his mind to open a restaurant of his own.
“I like Gibsons,” he said. “It depends how I’m feeling.”
The restaurant in his mind would serve Italian and Mexican food, touching on his background and his experience.
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Padilla said.