Q&A with Jose Garces: ‘The Latin Road Home’

Chef Jose Garces is a very busy fellow. He opened his first restaurant, Amada (named after his paternal grandmother), in Philadelphia in 2005, and it has since spawned a booming Latino restaurant empire that now includes 15 restaurants, seven of them and a taco truck based in Philadelphia with the others sprinkled among Atlantic City, Chicago, Palm Springs, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona. This fall he’s opening Volver, a new restaurant in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, as well as a Cuban diner in Philly, and an Argentinian steakhouse in Washington, D.C. is planned for next year. Somehow amidst all that restaurant activity, he managed to win Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef in 2010. This would be an impressive resume for anyone, but it’s particularly noteworthy for the son of Ecuadorian parents who raised him in Chicago. Starting at a young age Garces helped his mother in the kitchen, so it wasn’t surprising when he chose a career in the restaurant business. Like anyone trying to find their way in life, there were a few twists and turns before Garces settled on promoting the Latin American food of his heritage, his wife’s heritage, and his travels. We caught up with the James Beard Award-winning chef as he was wrapping up the next season of Food Network’s Iron Chef to ask him a few questions about his latest cookbook and Latin American food in general. And don’t miss the four recipes he’s sharing with Epicurious.com below. Epicurious: In your first book, Latin Evolution, you are looking ahead to the future of Latin cuisine. In your second book, The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain Cuba, Mexico, and Peru, you take a deeply personal journey into your background. What prompted you to go in this direction? Jose Garces: I knew that I wanted to write something that was a cookbook but also a travelogue and a memoir. The book really traces my journey as a chef more than anything, and its personal nature allows the readers to understand the different cultures and cuisines that shaped the chef I am today and ultimately where the inspiration for each of the dishes in the book is coming from. Epi: There’s a four-year span from the time Latin Evolution came out in 2008 to the publication of The Latin Road Home in 2012. How have things changed for the Latin American food lover since 2008? JG: Everyday and certainly every year there are more expressions of Latin food in America. Guests are more food savvy than ever and adventurous. Epi: Of all the different cuisines you feature in the book and in your restaurants, which is the one you find the most exciting and what is it about the food that so intrigues you? JG: I would have to say Ecuadorian cuisine, because it is the cuisine of my heritage. I grew up spending hours watching my grandmother cook family recipes, and that is how I came to…

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