Jose Garces - Hawaii Food & Wine Festival

TENTH ANNUAL - SAVE THE DATE – OCTOBER 2-25, 2020

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Jose Garces

The Garces Group - Philadelphia, PA

Renowned Latin-American chef Jose Garces translates his rich cultural traditions and culinary vision into personal dining experiences through Garces, a Philadelphia-based hospitality group.

Taking a heartfelt and creative approach to time-honored recipes and dishes, Garces, in partnership with idEATion Hospitality (New Orleans-based Ballard Brands; David Maser, a Philadelphia attorney and investor; and Ronnie Artigues, Ballard Brands’ general counsel), operates numerous restaurants including Amada, Distrito, Tinto, Village Whiskey, JG Domestic, Volvér, The Olde Bar, Buena Onda, Ortzi at the LUMA Hotel Times Square, Okatshe, Olón and Bar Olón at Tropicana Atlantic City, and Amada and Distrito Cantina in the Ocean Resort Casino.

The group also operates Garces Events, a full-service catering and event division; the Garces Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to Philadelphia’s underserved immigrant community; and Luna Farm, Chef Garces’ 40-acre farm in Bucks County, PA. For more information, visit GarcesGroup.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.



WHY DID YOU BECOME A CHEF?
Cooking has been an ongoing love affair throughout my life. It began when I was very young and continues today.  Some of my earliest memories are of being in the kitchen with my mother and Mamita Amada, my grandmother, who came to visit us in Chicago from Ecuador for a month at a time.  Looking back, it seems as though most of the time she spent with us was in the kitchen!  Preparing empanadas and other traditional dishes by her side, I saw, even then, how food literally brought people together around a table, and it stayed with me.  After high school, I found myself feeling directionless; I enrolled in college, but my courses weren’t really speaking to me.  That summer, I was working as a lifeguard in Chicago and took a stroll during a break over to the campus of Kendall College, a local school known for their culinary arts program.  There was something about the discipline of cooking, along with the promise of doing something I’d loved since I was a child as a living, that captured my imagination.  I enrolled as quickly as I could, and I haven’t looked back since.

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COOKING IN THREE WORDS?
Layered, textured, nuanced.

WHAT’S THE BEST HONOR YOU’VE RECEIVED AS A CHEF?
It’s a tie between winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and being crowned an Iron Chef, which both happened in 2009.

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO MEAL AFTER A BUSY DAY?
Breakfast is a bigger deal in my house, since I’m often in the restaurants during the evening hours.  Arepas with a rotating cast of toppings, pan de bono, and egg sandwiches with melty cheese are big hits.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN THE KITCHEN?
I’m a big golfer as it relaxes me. I also love biking and hiking on the trails near my house in Wissahickon Valley Park.  It’s right outside Philadelphia, but it feels like it’s worlds away from the city.

WHAT THE ONE LOCAL INGREDIENT YOU’RE EXCITED TO COOK WITH DURING HFWF19?
All of the local products I’ve encountered in my experiences at HFWF have been top notch proteins, produce, dairy, and, of course, anything from the ocean. In terms of incorporating local ingredients into the theme of an Iberian Feast, I’m thinking Kula onions or some of the supremely fresh local fish could be beautifully prepared with Spanish techniques and flavors.

WHAT KEEPS YOU RETURNING BACK TO THE ISLANDS?
I loved the islands. Everything from the natural beauty of the surroundings to the hospitality to the warmth and pride of the local chefs is just incredible.

I’ve visited the North Shore in O’ahu, which is renowned as a secluded surf and beach zone.  A close friend of mine from high school in Chicago lives in Maui now, and it was great to get a good hang with him and his family and local crew.  Highlights included golfing at the Maui Country Club, sailing on a 58′ yacht named the KaNoa, which means “The Free One” in Hawaiian, and cooking dinner one night with the freshest bonito tuna and local seafood from a fish market in Kahalui, Maui.

IF YOU WERE NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I would be a pro golfer.  When I play golf, I’m constantly challenging myself and my game, and I believe the same could be said about the way I approach the kitchen, so it’s really not that far off.

I also love the ocean and am fascinated by the science behind its interconnectedness, so I would also explore the possibility of being a marine biologist.  I could watch Blue Planet or any of Jacques Cousteau’s old series for hours and hours. If I went this route, I would combine this with being a surfer living on the North Shore in Hawai’i.  It still could happen!