Ask a Chef: JBF Award Winner Jose Garces and the Garces Group Tell All
Hilary DeutschHilary Deutsch
December 02, 2015
JBF Award winner Jose Garces oversees close to 20 restaurants across the country. At his upcoming Beard House dinner, we’ll be getting a taste of his Rural Society concept, a contemporary, Argentine-inspired steakhouse with locations in Chicago and Washington, D.C. In anticipation of the upcoming dinner, we spoke with Garces and two of his chefs, Louis Goral and Cory Morris, about the inspiration behind the menu, their guilty-pleasure foods, and the best places to chow down in our nation’s capital.
What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?
Jose Garces: I’m really excited to highlight Rural Society, our Argentine parrilla. We've partnered with Loews Hotels in Washington, D.C. and Chicago to share the best of Argentina's grilling culture. My first encounter with Argentine cuisine was at Bolivar, a restaurant in New York City where I was executive chef in the late 1990s. It was an Argentine steakhouse and Peruvian ceviche concept. After leaving Bolivar, I always had the urge to explore Argentine cuisine more deeply, particularly the parrilla (grilling) aspect. It’s taken me this long to really come back around to those ideas, and in January 2014, my culinary team and I visited Argentina and Uruguay for a crash course in the culture and cuisine.
Louis Goral: Jose Garces’s Argentine influences.
Cory Morris: Traditional Argentinean cooking techniques and seasonal produce.
What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why?
LG: Pulpo Carpaccio. It’s sliced blanched octopus with a sundried tomato escabèche and Malbec chips. I really like this dish because it illustrates how we do more than just wood-fired steaks, we do elegant charcuterie as well.
What’s your guilty-pleasure food?
JG: I grew up in Chicago, so whenever I’m there, I have to get deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s.
LG: Potato chips.
CM: Pork rinds.
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
JG: I ate at Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia twice in one week because it was so good. Chef and owner Greg Vernick is turning out beautiful plates with bold flavors and flawless technique. Standout dishes included an Arctic char crudo with crispy skin and dill that was insanely fresh and flavorful; and steamed mussels with couscous, corn, and a tarragon aïoli. I never thought I liked mussels that much!
LG: My last great meal was when I was cooking with my family in Iowa. We used great local ingredients (like beef, corn, and beets) and made a fresh and amazing meal. I really enjoy getting a chance to cook and drink with my loved ones. That kind of environment makes the food better.
CM: The Purple Pig. The food was spot-on as usual and it was the first date I went on with my girlfriend.
Who's been your biggest inspiration, and what dish would you cook to thank them?
JG: I’d cook pernil asado for my mom, Maggie. It’s a crispy confit pork shank paired with white beans, arugula, and orange that we serve at Amada in Philadelphia. I spent a good deal of time working on getting that ideal combination of crispy skin with interior fat and shank meat. To me, it’s a perfect bite, and I’d want to cook something that I consider perfect for my first cooking teacher!
LG: My grandmother is my culinary inspiration. I would grill her ribeye steaks with roasted potatoes and asparagus, which are some of her favorite ingredients.
CM: My father. I would cook him some brown trout to remind him of a fishing trip we went on in Montana.
What are the best places to eat in your city these days?
JG: Husband-and-wife team Thuy and Chad Kubanoff recently opened Same Same in the Northern Liberties neighborhood in Philadelphia and they’re serving really solid Vietnamese street food. Anything that involves caramelized pork is a smart choice.
LG: I love Rasika in Chinatown for fantastic fine dining Indian food. Toki Underground offers some of the best ramen in the city. The Pig is a great whiskey bar that shamelessly celebrates every part of the pig.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
JG: Richard Branson didn’t tell me this directly, but this quote from him has always resonated deeply with me: “Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”
LG: “Always be learning: learn from those above you and those below you. If you're not learning, you're dying." — chef Marsey Gibson, my mentor