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El Vez & Alma de Cuba | Philadelphia, PA


As Executive Chef of two successful Philadelphia restaurants - Alma de Cuba and El Vez - Jose Garces is changing people's perceptions of Latin food with his gourmet Cuban and Mexican cuisine.

American born and raised in Chicago, Garces’ parents are both natives of Ecuador. He credits his interest in cooking to his mother, whom he vividly remembers helping out in the kitchen after school when he was young. After graduating from Kendall College’s Culinary School, Garces went on to apprentice at La Taberna del Alabardero in Marbella, Spain. Garces later moved to New York City and worked in well known New York kitchens, such as the Rainbow Room, Four Seasons, 57/57, and Bolivar. Garces emerged as a true talent under the tutelage of Douglas Rodriguez, often cited as “the godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine.” While working with Rodriguez at his two popular restaurants, Pipa and Chicama, Garces earned an impressive reputation around town.

In 2000, Garces was invited to Philadelphia to serve as executive chef first at Cuban-influenced Alma de Cuba and later at El Vez, a contemporary Mexican-inspired eatery. At El Vez, Garces proves that there is more to Mexican food than fast-food burritos. He educates diners in the various tastes and styles of Mexican cuisine. Named for the Mexican Elvis impersonator, El Vez is a perfect venue for Garces to build upon the labor-intensive traditions and recipes of authentic Mexican cooking by elevating the quality of ingredients and skillfully reinterpreting classic combinations with a contemporary vision and polish.

In January 2004, Garces was recognized as one of “Philly’s New Star Chefs” by Philadelphia Magazine, and just one month later, Restaurant Hospitality honored him with an award of the same nature. At the age of 31, Garces is confirming his talents and opening Philadelphia’s eyes to a festive and bold approach to Latin cuisine.



 Published: May 2004