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 chefs and restaurateurs. His eponymous Garces Group operates restaurants in Philadelphia, Pa.; Chicago, Ill.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and Atlantic City, N.J. In addition to his duties as chef-owner, Chef Garces is the author of a stunning cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, September 2008), with a second, The Latin Road Home, to be published by Lake Isle in fall 2012. He is a 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” award and one of only eight chefs in the country to hold the prestigious title of Iron Chef. He regularly appears on the Food Network hit Iron Chef America, a role he earned after besting nine other competitors on The Next Iron Chef. In addition, Chef Garces is the owner of 40-acre Luna Farm in Bucks County, Pa., where he and his team grow much of the produce for his Philadelphia restaurants. He is also the proprietor of one of the nation’s best-loved food trucks, Guapos Tacos, which is available for private events and can often be found on the streets of his adopted hometown of Philadelphia.
“Since opening Amada, my life and career have taken off in directions I could never have anticipated, and it has been an amazing ride,” says Chef Garces. “Each new opportunity has brought a fresh set of challenges, and it has been exhilarating to overcome them and continue to evolve and grow — as a chef, as a hospitality professional and as a person.”
Chef Garces’ Philadelphia ventures are each counted among the city’s best bars and restaurants: 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; Garces Trading Company, a European-style cafe and gourmet market; and JG Domestic, an ingredient-focused restaurant serving artisanal American food and drink. Also based in Philadelphia are: Guapos Tacos, his mobile truck serving modern Mexican street food; and Garces Catering, a full-service event planning division that designs and executes gatherings ranging from casual business luncheons to dramatic black-tie weddings and everything in between.
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.”
In the past 12 months, Chef Garces has expanded into a variety of new markets. Most recently, he partnered with Revel, a new beachfront resort in Atlantic City, N.J., to open: Amada, Village Whiskey and Distrito Cantina, a festive margarita bar with a selection of 100 tequilas and Mexican street food from the adjoining Guapos Tacos food truck. Earlier, Chef Garces brought his hospitality and cuisine to the Southwest, opening restaurants in cooperation with Joie de Vivre and The Sydell Group at their new Saguaro hotels in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Palm Springs, Calif. At the Saguaro Scottsdale, Chef Garces operates Distrito; Old Town Whiskey, a bar evocative of frontier drink parlors of old, serving a collection of domestic spirits and artfully crafted cocktails alongside classic American dishes; and Garces Trading Coffee Kiosk, a takeout counter serving his custom-roasted GTC coffees and house-baked goods. At the Saguaro Palm Springs, Chef Garces oversees room service and poolside eats and manages two restaurants: El Jefe, a modern Mexican restaurant and margarita bar with a look and feel inspired by the Wild West, and Tinto.
This year, Garces Catering will partner with the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia (Broad and Spruce Streets, www.kimmelcenter.org). Chef Garces will create and execute menus for all special events and concessions for the Kimmel Center, Academy of Music and Merriam Theater, and will also open a full-service restaurant inside the Kimmel Center.
Always on the lookout for a new way to bring his food to his guests, Chef Garces authored his first cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press, Fall 2008). The strikingly photographed tome focuses on modern recipes through which Chef Garces provides authoritative, much-needed context for the now-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. His second cookbook, The Latin Road Home, will take readers on a tour of a variety of Latin cultures through food, and will be published in October 2012, also by Lake Isle.
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, Jose spent years perfecting different cuisines in top-rated professional kitchens, graduating from Chicago’s Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and going on to work in New York City before moving on to Philadelphia, where he has built an impressive stable of restaurants and resides today with his wife and two children. Known for his wide smile and educational approach to food, Chef Garces has been featured on top TV shows and in prestigious publications including the Today show; Nightline; The New York Times; Travel & Leisure; Bon Appetit; Food & Wine; and The Wall Street Journal.