Flavor First: Jose Garces

Real food, done well - Jose Garces leads the Latin evolution.


| December/January 2009


Jose Garces has been busy. He added two new restaurants, Tinto and Distrito, to his acclaimed signature restaurant, Amada, in Philadelphia, and another, Mercat a la Planxa, in his hometown of Chicago. He beat out Bobby Flay in an August episode of Iron Chef America, and his cookbook, Latin Evolution, came off press in September 2008. Often hailed as a leader in creating modern interpretations of Latin food, Garces is  as comfortable with a humble chicken taco, freshly prepared, as he is with a 24-course tasting menu.

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The Herb Companion: Your parents are from Ecuador and you were raised in Chicago, a favorite city of foodies. How have these influences shaped your palate and professional career?

Jose Garces: Growing up in an Ecuadorian household was a formative influence on my palate, because I was eating Latin foods for so many years. Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods broadened my horizons, especially with Mexican food. There are taquerías on every corner in Chicago.
 
HC: You’ve said that your first love is Latin cuisine, with a focus on authenticity. How does this love translate for ingredients and preparations?



JG: Sometimes it doesn’t translate, but for the most part, methods and techniques are something I aspire to keep whole. Ingredients are better when they are local and fresh. For example, I’d love to find a farmer in Lancaster who grows fresh huitlacoche (a fungal growth on corn, sometimes called “Mexican truffle”). Sometimes it’s better to substitute a fresh local product than to import an “authentic” product.

HC: Do you have a personal garden? If so, what do you grow?







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