unir /ˈyo͞o-neer/ verb
1. to join together · 2. to link · 3. to unite · 4. to mix together · 5. to tie together.
Chef Chauncy Gardener has the ability to recognize how things fit together. Kind of the way a good home decorator instinctively understands how to unite styles and colors, or the way a sommelier knows how to precisely pair wines with specific foods. The difference is, Chauncey doesn’t limit his ability to one particular thing; he sees a connection in everything.
Garner grew up in Reedley, California and, from a young age, showed an interest in the preparation of food and music.
In his early 20s, he lived in Corvallis, Oregon and built a reputation as a solid chef at Block 15 Pub and Brewery and Caves Bier and Kitchen, both known for locally sourced food and fresh craft beer.
“The owners trusted me to scour the local farmers market for fresh produce and interesting items that worked well with our menu,” says Gardner. “I became recognized as ‘The Block 15 guy,’ the local downtown character making my daily hike back from the market pulling a wagon full of veggies.”
After several years in The Beaver State, Chauncey relocated to Sacramento to begin a career at Allora, an award-winning, upscale restaurant specializing in modern Italian cuisine. It was there that his life began to change.
“Chef Deneb Williams took me under his wing and served as a mentor to me,” recalls Garder. “I’m not sure what he saw in me but he definitely encouraged me to grow. I eventually spent several years as sous chef.”
At the same time, Chauncey followed his passion for music, playing multiple instruments, but focusing on drums. He recalls the moment that he made the connection between music and food.
“I was playing music with a fantastic flautist who told me that learning to read music didn’t come naturally to him. He told me that one day, all the pieces fell into place, and everything made sense to him. This happened to me with food.”
He began looking at ingredients the same way a composer looks at notes for music.
“He’s certainly not your typical chef,” says Kris Marshall, executive director of Clovis Culinary Center. “Most people think of chefs as having swollen egos and strong opinions. In contrast, he seems more like a cross between a Tibetan Buddhist monk and a mad scientist.”
In 2018, Gardner returned to the Central Valley with a goal of opening his own restaurant which focuses on the creation of hyper-local, high-end food. He currently serves as the in-house chef at Tipping Point in Fresno as well as utilizing Clovis Culinary Center where he operates Unir, his own company where he serves as a private chef.