The role of a restaurant general manager is not for the faint of heart. Moreover, adding the 2nd title of assistant general manager to a hotel on that same person’s business card seems implausible. That is until you meet Justin Gonzalez, who holds those positions at Sister Ship and Faraway on Nantucket. Justin has just the right mix of magnetism, passion for the industry, work ethic, and a light that makes him beloved by all guests he greets.
1. You’re the AGM of Faraway Nantucket and the GM of the attached restaurant Sister Ship. Let’s start with the hotel first. These days, Nantucket has more accommodations than ever. So what makes the Faraway a unique destination?
JG- First and foremost, it has been an honor to be involved with a project like Faraway Nantucket. To be trusted with a time-honored property (The Robert’s Collection) that has been cherished by many over the years and bringing new life to the center of town is quite special and not lost on us as a team.
The design teams at Blue Flag and Life House created such a beautiful space while keeping the integrity of the overall structure. As a result, visitors say the Faraway is both a breath of fresh air and yet very familiar at the same time. The design team overlooked no details from the unique bunk rooms to the ivy wall surrounded courtyard oasis.
While the overall design is quite extraordinary, it is the team that creates the experience. The hospitality industry has shared the difficulties of finding quality staff, but we have been fortunate to find fantastic humans. Of course, building any culture always starts at the top. In this case, that is with our amazing Regional General Manager – MarcAnthony Crimi. As he would say, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” This mindset translates directly to the guest experience; every guest is attended to and leaves with a smile.
2. We know Sister Ship honors Susan R. Bloomfield, who captained an all-female crew across the oceans in the 1800s. How is her spirit infused into the restaurant?
JG- You will find Susan Bloomfield’s spirit in every corner of the restaurant, designed as her main living and entertaining space and decorated with many unique and special treasures found during their travels from port to port; from antique silver platters and antique books lining our bookcases to nautical ship compasses, paintings and many other items. You could spend an hour looking around the dining and bar space and not notice all of the details tucked away.
Let’s not forget the culinary program headed by the talented Chef William Harris. He created the Mediterranean-based shared plate menu with the inspiration of the crew’s travels and a celebration of Nantucket. After all, Nantucket is Susan’s main port-of-call. About 30% of our menu is literal farm to table, from the farmhands to our hands, from prep to plate. The produce never enters refrigeration; every bite exhibits that fresh ocean flavor.
3. Besides sister ship, what other restaurants on Nantucket set your epicurean heart on fire?
JG- Throughout my career, I have been incredibly fortunate to dine at some of the best restaurants in the world. Although I appreciate the fine dining culture and experience, I gravitate towards establishments that create low-key quality experiences. A few of my go-to spots on Nantucket include Afterhouse, The Tap Room, Nautilus, and Proprietors Table. There are still a few key establishments I have not been able to make it to just yet, so I am sure that my list is not complete.
4. If you’re setting up a guest for the dreamiest experience at your organization, in what room would you put them, and what would you order them for dinner at Sister Ship?
JG- I have two favorite rooms across the campus, and both are for very different reasons and experiences. For a dreamy couple retreat, my favorite room is 417, located on the third floor of the Gate House. You walk into this room, and the first thing you notice is this beautiful 20-foot tall A-frame ceiling over the bed. I am a lover of architecture, so I’m biased.
My other favorite is room 102, located in the Roberts House. This room features 4-queen size bunk beds, making it perfect for any group, young or old. It is just a lot of fun and beautifully designed.
As for dinner, Chef Will Harris modifies the menu based on what items are available from the farms (and what sparks his culinary inspiration). But, there are a few staples I recommend trying, like Patatas Bravas (with smoked sea salt, dill, and harissa aioli), the Grilled Fog Town Carrots (with whipped goat cheese, garlic confit, sumac, and lime emulsion) pictured above, the Cast Iron Shrimp (served in a sizzling garlic bath, cherry pepper, dry sherry, and lemon), and of course our 28 oz Prime Beef Ribeye (with aged balsamic, mushrooms, and sauce vert). On top of that, I would add any of the Chef’s creations for the day.
For drinks, let’s start with any of our craft cocktails. You can never go wrong with this fantastic wine. The 2016 Pym-Rae Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with the ribeye. Lastly, we’ll finish with Dark Ricotta Beignets paired with the 20-year Tawny Port.
5. When you get to travel far and away, what is your favorite spot to visit? Is there someplace in the world that’s on your bucket list?
JG- A few favorites are at the top of my list to visit – I absolutely fell in love with Spain, specifically Figueres (Salvador Dali’s hometown) and Bilbao. Kha Kao, Thailand is a beautiful mountain town located in the North. It is super quaint with spectacular food stalls on the side of random roads. I had some of the best food in my life made by some older Thai woman making congee in a single pot over a fire in a tiny roadside stall! Bali! I lived in Bali for about nine months in 2019. The only reason I did not return to Bali was due to the world-changing pandemic. Japan (Tokyo) – one of my favorite cities in the world. One of the most welcoming cultures, some of the best food and drinking cultures, and just such a beautiful city.
As for my bucket list, there are too many to list! I want to see everything! At the top of the list is Bazaruto Island off the coast of Mozambique, and then Nepal, Croatia, Prague, and Moscow. I have traveled much of SouthEast Asia but have not seen a lot of Europe yet.
Photo Credit: Matt Kisiday