The line cook who was mistaken for a gang member and killed near Hog & Rocks, where he worked, was buried by his family last week in the Mexican hometown he left four years ago. Only now, in the process of mourning his death, have details come out about the 22-year-old co-workers nicknamed Tío.
Hog & Rocks staff liked Gaspar Puch-tzek because he was well-organized and hardworking, a line cook who never let the chaos of a busy kitchen get to him.
“When tickets come in, a lot of people get stressed, but you’d never notice with him,” Hog & Rocks chef Joe Gentempo said. “Tickets would pile up, other people panicked and he’d be laughing at them.”
Puch-tzek, 22, had been working as a line cook at Hog & Rocks for approximately nine months when he was mistaken for a gang member and killed.
After his shift on Aug. 30, he walked out of the restaurant with two co-workers to smoke a cigarette, as he often did after work. While the three were standing outside, two men walked up to them and asked Puch-tzek what gang he claimed. Although Puch-tzek responded that he didn’t belong to a gang, one of the suspects shot him.
Puch-tzek first came to the United States with his twin brother, Francisco. He had been living in San Francisco for approximately four years.
Last Friday, his family buried him in his hometown of Xul-Oxkutzcab, in the Yucatan region of Mexico.
“He was incredibly helpful,” said Gentempo.
Every Monday, Puch-tzek would come in early and clean all the oysters. “It wasn’t even his job,” Gentempo said.
To Puch-tzek, his co-workers at the restaurant were family — two were actually his cousins.
He would often buy groceries to cook family meals at the restaurant.
“Sometimes he’d bring his own masa and make his own tortillas. I told him I would reimburse him, but he didn’t care,” Gentempo said.
When asked to train others in the kitchen, he would work both stations to make sure that service wasn’t interrupted.
“He would take the dishwasher spot and show them how to cook. He would do dishes on his own cook shift,” Gentempo said.
After work at Hog & Rocks, he would return to a small apartment in the Tenderloin where he lived with some of his co-workers, sleep a couple of hours and then head to his second job at a downtown bakery. His brother also worked there.
“That night I told him I loved him and gave him a hug,” said Gentempo, referring to the night of Aug. 30, when his friend was killed. “It was the one night I left early. I left at 12, not 12:30 like I usually do.”
“It’s very difficult to not see him back there,” Gentempo said, referring to the restaurant’s kitchen.
“He was the guy I could count on to get stuff across to other guys in the kitchen.”
Hog & Rocks is holding a silent auction until Friday afternoon to help raise funds to cover the funeral costs. The results of the auction will be announced on Hog & Rocks’s Facebook page at 3 p.m. on Friday.
If you’d like to donate, stop by Hog & Rocks at 3431 19th Street, or go to a Wells Fargo branch and ask to make a donation to account number 3114477635, under the name of Francisco Puch-Tzek.