Gator brings flavors of the bayou to Petaluma
In his never ending effort to bring the North Bay the best the bayou has to offer, Chef Glenn “Gator” Thompson has not only updated his restaurant menu but has changed the name to better reflect what is being created in the kitchen of his latest restaurant.
Although he has dropped the word “burger” from the restaurant’s name, rebranding himself as “Chef Gator’s Bayou & His Creole Friends,” his excellent burgers are still available, alongside classics like his chicken and waffles, jambalaya, shrimp and grits and the best crawfish etouffee I have ever tasted.
However, Chef Gator has ramped things up by adding over half a dozen new menu items, including two new salads, a handful of excellent dinner menu items, and a couple of game-changing desserts.
I first met Chef Gator right after he joined the kitchen at Fenix in San Rafael. Like many in the restaurant industry, he talked a big game about his future plans, however, Gator actually had the restaurant pedigree to back up his gusto.
“Gator” is a name he picked up while in the Army after accepting a dare to wrestle an alligator. However, well before that, Gator spent his formative years in Bayou Pigeon, where he learned to cook alongside his mother, aunts, and grandmothers. “The first meal I ever cooked on my own was spaghetti and fried chicken,” Gator says with a chuckle.
Gator continued to follow his passion for food after leaving the Army. He started out with the Holiday Inn Corp, then the Beverly on Wilshire, before moving back to the Bay Area where he would train at Café la Salle in Sacramento and then under Chez Panisse’s former chef, Paul Bertolli, at Oliveto in Oakland.
Gator’s popularity grew and eventually he opened the highly acclaimed Alcatraces in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. Serving California Cajun with Southern hospitality and a Mardi Gras atmosphere, the restaurant was well liked by food critics.
Gator went on to open several other restaurants, including Gator’s Neo Soul Café in San Mateo and Bayonne Southern Dining in San Jose. However, the crash of 2008 would see these restaurants close, but Gator remained in the restaurant industry working as a chef/consultant for restaurants like San Francisco’s Farmerbrown, before landing at Fenix in San Rafael.
He discovered Petaluma while looking for a place for his family to live while he worked at Fenix, and took to it immediately.
His first big plan to relaunch himself post-recession was to open a high-quality burger food truck, including a bun and burger recipe he had perfected over the prior decade. He accomplished this with ease in 2017, launching Gator’s Burgers with the award money he place first on two separate occasions while competing on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games,” hosted by local culinary legend Guy Fieri. He would go on place in the top four when invited back for a third go, on Guy’s Grocery Games Masters.
Gator parlayed the success of his burger truck into a brick-and-mortar location in 2018, where he is still cooking up Louisiana favorites today. Located at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, Chef Gator pays special attention his new locale, which means Creole and Cajun flavors with a bit of California thrown in. In large part, this means he has smoothed out some of the heat that Southerners are more accustom to.