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 five additional restaurants, in both Philadelphia and Chicago; authored a stunning cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, September 2008); won James Beard Foundation's prestigious Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award 2009; and appeared on Food Network's 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' five Philadelphia restaurants form his eponymous Garces Restaurant Group. He is the owner and executive chef of all four, and each is counted among the city's most acclaimed: 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 restaurants of the same name; and Village Whiskey, a classic American bar with over 80 whiskies and bar snacks. 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.
Plans for other Garces Group restaurants are in the works including a gourmet eat-in or carry-out BYOB restaurant in Philadelphia.
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."
For his Iron Chef America debut, Chef Garces defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay in their on-camera duel in Food Network's Kitchen Stadium. 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 my mother Magdalena and my grandmother 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."