Chefs on StarChefs

121-123 S 13th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(215) 928-9800

1623 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(215) 988-1799

Biography »

Pamela Lewy:: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Jose Garces: My mom was a big inspiration. She used to cook about five meals a day and I usually helped her. My grandma was also a good cook and she influenced me also.

PL: Who are your mentors?

JG: My greatest mentor is Douglas Rodriguez. I worked with him for about four years and we still have a partnership at Alma de Cuba. Another mentor is Waldy Malouf whom I worked with at the Rainbow Room in New York.

PL: What chefs do you most admire?

JG: Right now I would say that Spain’s chefs inspire me. They are doing avant garde cooking and they’re ahead of the curve, giving me inspiration. I also gather inspiration from Rick Bayless and Zarela Martinez.They paved the way for a lot of people.

PL: What cities do you like for culinary travel? Why?

JG: New York is so close, so I try to go as much as possible. I just went to Paris and I was hugely inspired. I also love San Francisco. Mexican food is very big in Chicago.

more >>


El Vez & Alma de Cuba | Philadelphia, PA

Jose Garces does double duty as executive chef of two of Philly's hottest restaurants - Alma de Cuba and El Vez. He elevates the classic dishes of Cuba and Mexico to gourmet status using high quality ingredients, labor-intensive techniques, and a contemporary aesthetic. A protégé of Douglas Rodriguez, “the godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine,” Garces reaches deep into food's romantic roots to create dishes that have bold flavors and a festive contemporary flair.

Duck Confit Flautas with Poblano Avocado Sauce
Chef Jose Garces of El Vez & Alma de Cuba – Philadelphia, PA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 8 Servings


    Duck confit flautas:
  • 5 pounds duck legs
  • 1 cup salt
  • ¼ cup red peppers, chopped
  • ¼ cup crushed red chiles
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 pieces Mexican dried cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seed
  • 8 cloves, whole
  • ¼ cup coriander
  • 2 quarts duck fat
  • 1 cup lard
  • 4 chipotle peppers packed in adobo, chopped
  • Zest of 5 oranges
  • 16 corn tortillas
    Poblano avocado sauce:
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • ½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 quart canola oil
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 red radishes, finely sliced
  • 1 ½ pounds queso fresco, grated


For poblano avocado sauce:
In a large sauté pan, sweat onions, garlic and poblano pepper in extra virgin olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool liquid in ice bath and fold in cilantro, avocado and salt.

For duck confit flautas:
Preheat oven to 250°F. Pack duck legs in a large roasting pan. Add peppers, crushed red chiles, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves and coriander. Add duck fat to pan and roast for 3 hours. Remove meat and allow to cool in duck fat. Once cooled, shred the meat off the bone. Heat lard in a large sauté pan, and add chipotle peppers and duck. Finish with orange zest. Cut corn tortillas to a 3-inch diameter, place duck filling in center, roll and seal with a toothpick. Refrigerate and reserve for 2 hours until service.

To Serve:
In a large saucepan, heat canola oil to 350°F. Fry flautas until crispy, approximately 3-4 minutes and drain on paper towels. Ladle 2 ounces of poblano avocado sauce onto plate. Place 2-3 flautas in center of plate and garnish with shredded lettuce, sliced radishes and grated queso fresco.

Interview Cont'd

PL: What are your favorite food haunts in Philly?

JG: Mark Vetri’s restaurant. I like Morimoto…it’s probably the best in the city for Japanese.

PL: What is your favorite spice? Why?

JG: Coriander. It has a lot of nuttiness, spice, and an earthy tone. It compliments most of my food. I love using cumin too.

PL: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?

JG: I like to ask them what the five mother sauces are? Half of the time they get the answer right.

PL: What advice/tip do you have for culinary students just getting started?

JG: I would say try to cook as many different cuisines as possible and learn about many as possible. Strive to find a cuisine that makes you happiest and then specialize in that cuisine.

PL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?

JG: I’m pretty modest, but I see big things for myself. I have a good foundation. I’d like to eventually open a new restaurant, write a book... build an empire

 Published: May 2004