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Chef of Gato takes over restaurant full-time

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Zoey Phillips

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Nicholas Stinson's restaurant Gato is located in the heart of the Candler Park neighborhood.

Nicholas Stinson's restaurant Gato is located in the heart of the Candler Park neighborhood.

Zoey Phillips

Zoey Phillips

Nicholas Stinson's restaurant Gato is located in the heart of the Candler Park neighborhood.

Gato is a small restaurant in Candler Park run by Nicholas Stinson. Over the past few years, the place has flourished into a well-known eatery in the area. Stinson runs the breakfast and lunch service. For dinner, he hosts other chefs to share their style of food with the people of Atlanta.

At first, food was just a way for Stinson to pay the bills. As a teenager, he played music and food helped to fund his dream. Soon he realized that food was his dream.

“I fell in love with food as more than just a way to pay bills, as something I was passionate about,” said Stinson.”

Eventually Stinson bought the Gato Bizco Cafe, shortening its name to just Gato. He had known the previous owner, and they both thought that the small, funky location would be the perfect place for him. He had a picture of what he wanted Gato to be in his head, and his goal was to make it come true.

“I came to this spot because I always loved it,” said Stinson. “I really like the vibe of the space.”

Because he had never been to culinary school, he hosted pop-up restaurants in Gato. The chefs that he invited to his restaurant each had their own style of food that had not yet been Americanized, and Stinson’s plan was to learn from them.

At first, the pop-ups were part of a limited series. Over about a year, a dozen chefs came and shared their craft with the people of Atlanta. Even chefs like Ivan Orkin, who had his own episode on the Chef’s Table series, came to work at Gato.

“Those went for a year and really opened my eyes to like food as a serious, both commercially and artistically satisfying, thing to do,” said Stinson.

Chef Parnass Lim Savang is working at Gato now, and comes from a very pure place, which fits perfectly into Stinson’s picture. He grew up cooking in his family’s restaurant located in Lawrenceville. It’s been there for 20 years.

“I was looking to work for myself and do Thai food because there weren’t a lot of people doing it the way I wanted it in Atlanta. The foundation of my food is Thai technique but I use Georgian ingredients as much as possible,” said Chef Savang. “My friend Jarrett Spinster who was part of a previous pop up at Gato offered me the spot.”

Stinson didn’t want Gato to be like every other restaurant in Atlanta. He had a specific vision for the space. The chefs who worked with him for the dinner service also had to fit into the picture.

He especially liked the location because restaurants in cities have more creative room and more outgoing customers. This allowed him to have well-known chefs come and cook with high end ingredients.

“Nick has been doing this for a long time, giving people chances and letting them explore their cuisine,” said Savang. “Candler Park is a good place to do it because it fits all the categories of people who have money who want to eat out and try new things, and they are supportive of the community. You know if you make good food, people will come.”

This isn’t the only benefit to the location of Gato.

“Restaurants in the city can have much higher ticket averages which makes more ambitious food possible,” said Stinson.

As soon as Chef Parass leaves, Stinson is taking over the dinner service. He believes that he is finally ready to take on the challenge. The plan is to cook focused regional Mexican food because no other chef in the city is making it.

Stinson is very excited because after only cooking lunch and breakfast, where people want comfort food, he can finally branch out. Gato is on its way towards becoming the perfect picture that Nicholas Stinson had in mind.

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Zoey Phillips, Writer

Zoey loves dancing and has been doing it for 11 years now, and also plays the violin. But what she really enjoy is writing.

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