When Gil Chavez was just a teenager, he left Honduras for the job of a lifetime.
Working on a cruise ship that coasted the Caribbean and other holidays haunts, Chavez began as a kitchen worker, moving up as he learned the food industry over the span of a decade to become a busboy, waiter, maitre d’, bar manager and finally a deck steward.
That experience back in the 1970s was the training he needed to come to Philadelphia and forge a future in the food industry.
Today, he is the proud owner of PTG Restaurant and Caterers, a Roxborough catering hall tucked alongside Ridge Avenue where he singlehandedly creates Italian foods that have made many a wedding, baby shower and party a success.
“I am proud of what we do, I want people to come back time after time.”
“I am proud of what we do,” said Chavez, a self-taught Italian food virtuoso. “I want people to come back time after time.”
Chavez met his wife, the love of his life, Luann, on a cruise while he was working. He is now a father of two girls. He recently catered his older daughter’s wedding and plans to cater his second daughter’s wedding in the near future.
“It was really nice; I did all the food,” Chavez said of his daughter’s reception.
Chavez bought the location at 6813 Ridge Ave. in 1996 and created a storefront where he sold ravioli, sauces, cheeses and prepared take-out meals. He didn’t yet have the room for a kitchen, so he built an industrial kitchen in his house and began doing catering jobs for family and friends on the side. His out-of-this-world ravioli and his penchant for presentation at parties quickly earned him praise.
“I just started out doing only family and friends (parties) and I had learned from the cruise ship, where you have to work every department and get a discipline for everything, that everything has to be done right.”
“A friend built the kitchen in my home,” said Chavez. “I just started out doing only family and friends (parties) and I had learned from the cruise ship, where you have to work every department and get a discipline for everything, that everything has to be done right.”
By 2006, with his catering gigs increasing, he purchased the property adjacent to his storefront on Ridge and expanded to create his first on-site kitchen and dining room. He opened a BYOB with 65 seats that served food nightly, all while continuing to do catering. Word of mouth spread quickly in Roxborough, with some die-hard fans of his Italian food saying there was “no restaurant anywhere near it that is in the same planetary orbit.”
But by 2013, Chavez decided to close the BYOB portion of the business to focus solely on private parties. Today, he does about 60 weddings a year, making the food at the Ridge Avenue kitchen and then bringing it off-site to La Luna Banquet Hall in Bensalem, The Merion Tribute House in Wynnewood and the Spring Mill Ballroom in Conshohocken.
At the Ridge dining location, he specializes in weddings and baby showers, rehearsal dinners and private parties. His attention to detail, something he learned aboard a five-star cruise ship, is really what makes his parties stand out. He offers an abundance of servers, extra hors d’oeuvres and artistic presentations. Customers who are looking for a party venue are thrilled to learn that there is no rental fee for the location. Everything is included for parties, from the food to the servers and the linens.
“I want to let people know we are here,” Chavez said. “A lot of people when they are looking for venues have to rent a place, then find the food. We do everything here; they just pay for the food.”
And the food is truly the highlight of the day.
For starters, his cold appetizers include antipasto, sweet peppers, cheese trays, whole poached salmon, and a seafood salad. Bruschetta is also a staple. Hot hors d’oeuvres range from mini meatballs to crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms and a shrimp scallop mousse. There are rave reviews about his lamb chop appetizer.
Dinner is a formal affair, with salad, pasta and vegetable courses and main course choices like filet mignon and chicken wrapped with prosciutto. And the desserts complete the package. Ten types of cheesecake, more than half-a-dozen mousses and nearly 20 different types of cake, from a chocolate Grand Marnier to an Italian rum torte.
For those who have never experienced his cooking, Chavez offers tastings to help customers design their menus. For a food lover like Chavez, it’s all a part of his mission. It’s why he’s a chef.
“I like it when I make something, and I make people happy,” said Chavez. “I just like to make people happy, with food.”
PTG Caterers is located at 6813 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19128.