November 23rd, 2009
05:06 PM ET
He was born in Chicago and built his foodie empire in Philadelphia, but now chef Jose Garces will be an Iron Chef for all of America. Garces was crowned the Food Network’s latest member of the Iron Chef America team on Sunday night’s episode, beating out New York chef Jehangir Mehta, and capping off a season that began with 10 contestants.
“We had a viewing party with about 400 people at one of my restaurants, Distrito, last night,” Garces said. “So the celebrating has been done and overdone. Now it is time to get down to business.”
Garces was up against nine very strong contenders, but he said he ultimately wasn’t surprised to win the title. In the final competition where each chef was given 60 minutes to make a five-course feast that represented America's melting pot. The secret ingredient was ribs and racks of all sorts, including buffalo, pork and beef.
“I went into the competition feeling like I was gonna win. I just had a natural confidence and I know what I can do under those pressure situations,” Garces said.
As an Iron Chef, Garces joins a roster of celebrated kings and queens of the kitchen including, Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Simon.
Garces seemed to be the front-runner on the show from the start of this fall’s season when he won the first challenge by creating a comfort food dish. Garces, the son of Ecuadorian immigrants crafted an Ecuadorian stew of annatto chicken broth and queso fresco.
The newest addition to the Iron Chef family has a lot of projects in the works. In addition to overseeing three restaurants in Philadelphia, the Mexican Distrito, the Peruvian-Cantonese Chifa and the tiny burger and whiskey bar, Village Whiskey, Garces is opening a prepared- foods café in the City of Brotherly Love called Garces Trading Company. He is also looking at developing a larger restaurant focusing on the farm-to-table concept and organic foods as well as a small beer and brats house.
“We want to make around 12-15 artisanal sausages, put them on a homemade bun and pair them with American local craft brews,” Garces said.
He may be branching out these days, but Garces wants to encourage up-and coming-chefs to try to keep their focus narrow in the beginning in order to really master what they love.
“I would tell a young chef to get as much experience as you can and try to find a specialty and cuisine to focus on. I think it’s good to be well-rounded but what worked for me is that at a certain point in my career I decided Latin food was going to be my thing,” Garces said.
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