I’m an elite chocolatier and an ok ultrarunner -Gonzo Jimenez
Gonzo Jimenez commits himself fully to everything he does in life. Nine months after his first trail run he completed the grueling Leadville 100 Mile footrace in Leadville, CO. After being ousted from his house for being a “troublemaker” at the age of seventeen, he worked his way up the culinary scene in Argentina and founded his own pastry and bean-to-bar chocolate company, Miette et Chocolat, based in Denver, CO.
Jimenez describes his spirit animal as the “donkey,” for the way he relentlessly and stubbornly pursues his passions for running, chocolate and everything he does. In both the chocolate and ultrarunning worlds, Jimenez lives this attitude to the fullest and inspires others to chase perfection in their craft and to take time to enjoy life’s sweets along the way.
The Dumbest Sport On Earth
Jimenez has only been trail running for four years, yet he has already completed several 50-mile and 50-kilometer races, three one hundred mile races and one 200-mile race. He never expected he would be a trail runner. “I became a trail runner four years ago. A friend of mine took me out to the trails here in Colorado and at first I thought it was the dumbest sport on earth. I thought, ‘why would someone ever want to run uphill? Then I started running downhill and I felt like a twelve year old kid. It was an incredible experience! With my all-or-nothing mentality, I started trail running and nine months later I was running a 100 mile race.”
Jimenez’s first 100-mile race was the 2018 Leadville Trail 100, one of the most historic 100-mile trail races in the country that features over 14,000 feet of elevation gain at altitudes above 9,000 feet for the entire race. Jimenez finished the race in just under the 30-hour race cutoff, though he admits it was a struggle. Reflecting on the experience now, he realizes just how little he knew he was doing. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I did a 50k and 50-miler leading up to the race, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at Leadville. At the highpoint of the course, Hope Pass, I could not stop throwing up and I was extremely dehydrated.”
Luckily for Jimenez, another more-experienced racer came along and told him exactly what he needed to eat and drink to rebalance his electrolytes and get him on his way up and down the pass.
After completing his first 100-mile race, Jimenez was already ready for more. He signed up for his first 200-plus mile race, the 2019 Tahoe 200, at Lake Tahoe, CA. This time he wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing and hired accomplished Team USA mountain runner, Addie Bracy, as his coach. Jimenez describes how Bracy has improved his skills and confidence as a runner, “Addie has been a great coach for the past three years and most importantly she knows what my goals are. As a chocolatier, I’m never going to be a competitive runner compared to elite runners. I make chocolate for a living, I’m not a professional runner. She knows I have certain goals, which might be just to finish a 100-mile race. She understands me and my goals and that’s the most important thing and what you always look for in a coach.”
Gonzo completed his first 200 -plus mile race and enjoyed the experience so much that he signed up for another one the following year, The Moab 240. Unfortunately, Jimenez was pulled from the race at mile 102 due to respiratory issues. Jimenez embraced his inner stubborn “donkey” and bounced back to race again in the summer of 2021 at the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Race and several other challenging local Colorado-based events.
Although Jimenez is undoubtedly an accomplished ultrarunner and part of the small club of 200-plus mile runners, he remains humble and insists that trail running is not an exclusive sport for the “superhuman” elite runners. “Trail running is for everybody. Whoever can put on sneakers and do a run everyday, that’s incredible. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, who you are, or what races you’ve done. I’m just a regular guy passionate about running trails and going on crazy adventures.”
“Chocolate is Chocolate and Everyone is Going to Love It”
Gonzo Jimenez has been involved in the culinary world since the age of seventeen when he was kicked out of his home in Northern Argentina by his father for being a “troublemaker.” Jiminez worked his way up in the food industry from a dishwasher, cook, chef and eventually enrolled in culinary school as a pastry chef in Buenos Aires. During his time in culinary school, Jiminez fell in love with chocolate, “Chocolate was a common ingredient in the pastry world I was a part of and I started practicing with it in culinary school. I enjoyed understanding the chemistry behind it and realized there’s so much artistic expression that can go through chocolate creations. One thing led to another and I found myself a chocolatier.”
Jimenez’s chocolate career took off instantly. From 2009 to 2013 Jiminez worked for several large hotels in the United States including the St. Julien in Boulder, CO and the Hyatt Corporation in New Orleans and New York and launched his own personal line of chocolates and high end confections sold to these hotels. In 2013, he moved back to South America and accepted the prestigious position with Barry Callebaut as a Corporate Chef for the South American Region and Director of the Chocolate Academy in Chile.
In 2016, Jimenez launched his own chocolate and confections business, Miette et Chocolat, in Denver, CO. Jimenez describes his work, “Here at Miette et Chocolat, I am both a chocolatier and a chocolate maker. A chocolatier is someone who melts down and tempers chocolate to make chocolate-based confections. This involves buying wholesale chocolate and flavoring it. A chocolate-maker is someone who actually makes chocolate from scratch. Chocolate makers buy their own beans and conch their own chocolate, which is a complex process that can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. Chocolate making involves going a step back in the process and you need to know what you’re doing. What we do here is both flavoring chocolate confections as well as making chocolate. I am also still a pastry chef and we make pastries and sweets such as our famous chocolate chip cookies as well.”
Jimenez’s chocolate business has become a staple in the Denver area and his confections are sold wholesale to many hotels, markets and businesses. His approach to high end chocolate confections and pastries is elegant and practical. “A big part of what I do in the chocolate world is recreating American classics. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. The Snickers bar is the number one sold candy bar in the world for a reason. In my chocolate classes, I try to encourage young chocolate makers and chocolatiers to focus on making homemade versions of classic recipes with quality ingredients. There’s no need to make ‘bougie’ chocolate that is overpriced and too high end. I try to keep things more approachable for everyone. There’s better and worse chocolate, but at the end of the day chocolate is chocolate and everyone is going to love it.”
The success of Jimenez’s chocolate career led to several unique opportunities including instructing chocolate making classes world wide and even a lead acting role on the hit Netflix show Bake Squad. Jimenez shares how his travels and acting affect his running training, “Working in the television world, it can be difficult to find time to train. Filming in Los Angeles for The Netflix Bakesquad 30 to 35 days a year, it is hard to keep my training on track. It can be long days on set from 7AM to 10PM. Sometimes I jump on a treadmill or a Peloton bike in a gym hotel or I hit the trails at any random time, maybe at 2AM in the morning after a long day filming on set. I’ve learned to embrace the attitude of putting in the miles and getting the training done however I can.”
Jimenez also looks forward to discovering new trail running locations anytime he travels. In the next six months, Jiminez will be teaching chocolate classes in Hawaii, Barcelona, Columbia, and Mexico.
Trail Running Fueled By Chocolate
Although Jimenez is surrounded everyday with chocolate, he says his taste for it never gets old. “Some people wonder if I ever get sick of chocolate but the truth is that I love it and eat it all the time. I bring my own chocolate snacks and bars with me on runs and I truly fuel myself with chocolate. There’s sugar, fat, and good calories so why not? Chocolate makes you happy and when you hit low points in ultramarathons you may need a little bit of chocolate to pick you up.”
Aside from eating chocolate on trails, Jimenez notices many other ways his chocolate and trail running passions merge and allow him to excel further in both. “I’m a strong believer in both my running and chocolate making that perfect practice makes perfect. It’s not just practice makes perfect. You need to practice and create a habit that you will do your activity right every time. When I make chocolate, every step of the process needs to be done correctly and perfectly. That applies to trail running too. We learn from our mistakes and fix them. When you’re training, make sure you’re doing the right thing every time and that will lead to success.”
Both the trail running and chocolate/culinary communities are inspired by Jimenez’s relentless pursuit of his passions. Jimenez is the real-life “Willy Wonka” who brings joy to communities around the world with his chocolate creations. He is an equally positive role model in trail running who is brave enough to explore his body’s limits and show the running community that the toughest of races aren’t just for superhuman elites, but can be completed by anyone with a “can-do” attitude, a little bit of stubbornness and determination, and plenty of chocolate to make the journey sweeter along the way.