Since opening his first restaurant, Amada, in 2005, Chef Jose Garces has emerged as an enormous talent and one of the nation’s most gifted young chefs. He has opened six additional restaurants, in both Philadelphia and Chicago; authored a stunning cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, September 2008); won the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” award 2009; appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America; and won the most recent season of The Next Iron Chef, making him one of just six chefs in the country to hold the prestigious title of Iron Chef America.
“These past few years have been an amazing time in my life,” says Chef Garces. “I have experienced a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth, and I feel incredibly lucky that I’m able to make a career out of doing the things that I love.”
Garces’ Philadelphia restaurants form his eponymous Garces Restaurant Group. He is owner and executive chef of each, and they are all counted among the city’s best: Amada, an authentic Andalusian tapas bar; Tinto, a wine bar and restaurant inspired by the Basque region of Northern Spain and Southern France; Distrito, a spirited celebration of the vibrant culture and cuisine of Mexico City; Chifa, a Latin-Asian restaurant named after the Peruvian eateries of the same name; Village Whiskey, a classic American bar with more than 80 whiskies and world-class bar snacks; and Garces Trading Company, a gourmet market and cafe. Other Philadelphia projects in the works for 2010 include: JG Domestic, a restaurant in the Cira Center serving artisanal American food and drink; Frohman’s Wursthaus, a fun beers-and-bratwursts joint; and Guapos Tacos, a Mexican food truck.
Chef Garces is also the executive chef at Chicago’s much-praised Catalan restaurant Mercat a la Planxa, where he works in collaboration with Sage Restaurant Group. Both Distrito and Mercat were named to Esquire magazine’s list of “20 Best New Restaurants, 2008.”
“Growing from chef to chef-owner to restaurateur has been an incredible thrill,” says Chef Garces, “but once I’ve completed these upcoming projects, it will be time to relax and enjoy everything that I have worked so hard to build.”
In addition to his successful restaurant ventures, Chef Garces found time to write his first cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, September 2008). The book contains modern recipes through which Chef Garces provides authoritative, much-needed context for the newly ubiquitous flavors and cooking styles of Spain, Mexico and much of South America, exploring the history of these cuisines even as he shapes their future.
“As a chef,” he writes in the introduction, “my constant challenge is to find the possibilities that new ingredients and techniques offer, while honoring what has come before. My mantra is simple: ‘authentic’ and ‘innovative’ are not contradictory. This recipe collection is a highly personal mix of my family history, culinary training and personal creativity. That’s how my cuisine evolved.”
Chef Garces won the most recent season of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef, a fierce competition between 10 top chefs, and is now appearing on the 2010 season of Iron Chef America. As in his other television appearances, he was relaxed and amicable, able to easily explain his method while executing top-notch culinary marvels. His photogenic presence and ease onscreen make him a natural choice for such roles, and a compelling voice for America’s thriving Latin food movement.
An American chef born to Ecuadorian parents and raised in Chicago, Chef Garces began his culinary training in the kitchen of his paternal grandmother. In developing his personal cooking style, something he says is an ongoing pursuit, Garces spent years perfecting different cuisines in top-rated professional kitchens.
“I’ve been privileged to work with some of the finest chefs in America and Spain,” says Chef Garces, “but my passion for cooking comes from my early memories of preparing meals for my family with Mamita Amada. Even when I was a child, I was drawn to the joy of cooking a great meal. I have always loved the way that food can transform a person’s whole outlook and really make their day.”
Today, that young man from Chicago is known for his wide smile and educational approach to food. Garces has been featured on top TV shows and in prestigious publications such as: Today Show, Nightline, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Wall Street Journal.