Iron Chef and Celeb Restaurateur Jose Garces Dishes on Food, Wine and His New Healthy Pizzeria

On Saturday, April 9th, Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City hosted their Inaugural Klink! Signature Wine Tasting event. Participants got to  travel “around the globe in 40 sips” as they sampled 40 different wines paired with delicious tapas-style offerings. The other major highlight was the featured celebrity guest: Iron Chef and famous restaurant owner, Jose Garces…and we got to sit down with him for an exclusive interview before the event!

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About Chef Jose Garces

Garces won the second season of The Next Iron Chef and you also might remember him for defeating Bobby Flay in the melon competition on Iron Chef America. Also the 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” award, Garces owns restaurants in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago,  Arizona, California….and now he is opening up his restaurant, Amada, in New York City this month! This Andalusian-inspired tapas restaurant is already a hit restaurant in Philadelphia known for their small plates as well as lamb chops cooked on a plancha, lobster paella, and a whole suckling pig.

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At the Klink! event, he prepared a trio of Ecuadorian essentials – pan de bono (yuca bread with queso fresco), ceviche de langosta (lobster ceviche), and aguado de gallina (chicken and rice soup with achiote) – for a live audience while also answering their questions.

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Our Exclusive Interview with Chef Garces

What’s your take on the philosophy that you should always pair regional dishes with wines from the same region?

Chef Jose Garces: My philosophy is really that anything goes when it comes to wine. I think there are always certain styles and flavor profiles and that’s what I look towards rather than pairing up regionalities…I have an Argentinian steakhouse in D.C. and Chicago called Royal Society and Malbecs go great with our steaks, however a good Priorat from Spain will equally do the trick.

Warm weather is on everyone’s mind, so what are your favorite dishes for the spring and summer months? 

Chef Jose Garces: Usually for the warmer weather I look towards ingredients. For spring, I look for morels, ramps, English peas, and those types of spring ingredients to drive some of the menu. In the summer, I really love corn, tomatoes, and peppers. Peppers always taste better in the summer. My philosophy is that you should let the seasons drive the menu and let it drive what you’re making.

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Your farm, Luna Farm, sounds amazing. Tell us more about what you have growing there this season.

Chef Jose Garces: The (40 acre) farm is in Bucks County, right between Philadelphia and D.C. where we have most of our restaurants. We grew organic vegetables, micro-grains and lettuces for four years. Basically I grew everything I could and we had two farmers who did an amazing job. All the produce went back into the restaurants. Whatever was left over we converted into some CSA shares for  friends and family. Last year, we did a soil regeneration and this year we are going to pick up again with micro-greens, lettuces and I think we are going to look towards some perennials like blueberries.

Speaking of fresh produce, what are your favorite healthy dishes?

Chef Jose Garces: Healthy cooking is really popular right now and on trend and I really care about my health and I’m starting to watch out for my own intake. I’m really fascinated with super foods like asparagus and walnuts. There are different ingredients that before I used them for flavor and texture, but now I’m approaching it more from how can this improve your health. I am really doing a deep dive into that world and opening a healthy American pizzeria restaurant called “24” (on 2401 Walnut Street in Philadelphia) with a focus on healthy cooking.  55% of the menu is vegetables with healthy dressings as well as seasonal and local ingredients. Then the pizza part is that you can get whole wheat or gluten conscious dough (or regular dough if you like). We are also serving Kombucha and fresh juices.

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We will be sure to travel to Philadelphia to check out this new healthy spot. In the meantime, stay tuned for details about the opening of Amada in New York City! @NYCAmada on Twitter

Follow Chef Garces: @chefjosegarces and his restaurant group: @garcesgroup  and GarcesGroup.com

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