World Fucking Champion

jose-garces-next-iron-chef

Congratulations to our very own Jose Garces for single-handedly changing the culinary landscape of Philadelphia, culminating in a huge victory on the cooking world’s biggest stage.

Collin Flatt gushes and weeps after the jump.

josememullensmall

Collin Flatt, Iron Chef Jose Garces, and Chef Seamus Mullen
[Photo Credit: Philly ChitChat]

“‘Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Don’t stop belivin’
Hold on to that feelin’”

The refrain from Steve Perry’s greatest work sung by the cast of Fox’s Glee pierced through the cheering crowd as The Chairman made the announcement. Philly Boy Jose G. had done it right, and my cell phone let those within earshot in on one of my guiltiest pleasures. But I wasn’t embarrassed. It was a harmonious moment for the crowd, for The Man, and for all of Philadelphia. A Foodie Superbowl, The World Series Of Saute, and every other marketing hyperbole aside, there were tears of joy at Distrito last night. Don’t stop believin’.

Jose Garces is a hell of a chef. Around every turn, he’s always been forward-thinking, technically superior, and supremely creative. But more than that, Jose is a good guy. As the first chef who ever gave me an interview, I have so much to thank Jose for on a professional level, but ultimately his food has touched me on a personal level. Before I had ever talked business with the man, we discussed cured meats and ceviche for an hour. It mattered to him. It mattered to me.

‘Reservoir Dogs’ was the first non-Hollywood flick I ever watched, and it opened my eyes to a whole other world of film. Jose’s cooking at El Vez did the same thing for me. This was Mexican food? Stunning flavors and beautiful presentation. A laser beam of acidity replaced sickeningly sweet and muddled flavors. Bitter huitalacoche was in stead of pinto beans floating in water. Left turns and texture pairings I didn’t know existed were in every dish. I became psychotic about my food because of Jose. My first trip to El Vez had me seated at those oversized circular red velvet bench booths in the back of the restaurant. I always felt like I was in a Junior Mafia video when I was there. It was only appropriate that on this night when Garces was announced the winner, he came out of his karaoke room to the sweet sounds of ‘Hypnotize’ by Biggie. Never one to gloat, Jose is more humble than anyone you’ll meet. He just seemed relieved and proud of his clutch work for all of us Garcesians as the food world watched.

When Amada opened, Chef Garces shook the pillars of the Philly Restaurateur Pantheon and let everyone know it was his turn. It wasn’t a ‘Starr‘ or a ‘Stein‘ or a ‘Perrier‘. Jose was a new breed. Affable, approachable, and daring. His Spanish tapas concept was a hit almost overnight. His Old City eatery quickly became our best restaurant, making him bankable like Tom Cruise, only less Scientological.

With each restaurant opening, he saw continued success and more fans. Tinto followed, then Mercat in Chicago. Distrito, his monolithic MaxiMexi playground opened to rave reviews, and then Chifa was the ceviche Mecca I had always dreamed about. Finally, post Iron Chef taping, Village Whiskey moved in next door to Tinto and has statiated even the most fickle whiskey fan.

Garces, though, moreso than the place, is about the environment. For his employees. He gets great work out of his staff because they want to work for him. He is hands-on when he needs to be, and believes in his people. The story always goes something like this: ‘I was going to leave ________. But Jose sat me down and asked what he could do to keep me on. I never expected that, and it’s why I stayed.’

Shit man, most places I tossed drinks at or slung hash for, the extent of the walkout usually involved returning the keys/t-shirt/bottle/money I took from the drawer the night before. And that was that. Maybe I would have hung around the industry longer if Garces was running places back then.

Philadelphia has been exploding on the U.S. food scene in many ways. Restaurants getting national attention, a beer scene that’s killing it, and chefs like Mike Solo, Marc Vetri, Johnny Mac, and Bryan Sikora routinely getting media praise on TV and in magazines. But moreso than anyone else in the industry, Jose has brought Philly to the ranks of New York, Las Vegas, and San Fran with this Iron Chef victory. Don’t be surprised to find reservations harder to snag, but we’ll definitely see more big name chefs choosing the 215 as an outpost for their eateries. Eric Ripert touched on this with his 10 Arts, but don’t be surprised to see the snowball effect with his comtemporaries showing up here shortly. And let us not forget Morimoto has a restaurant here as well.

As I wrap up this post of Jose fellation, I had to ask him on the way out if he would be heading to greener pastures now that he is The Fucking Man.

‘No way, man. No way. I love it here. I’m not going anywhere’. Thanks, Jose. Thanks for everything.

– Collin Flatt

  • Willie

    What’s up with the pose?

    “Sometimes, when I get nervous, I stick my hands under my armpits and than I smell them like this!”

  • daytime drinker

    willie its the double thumbs up!
    He has four of the best restaurants in my Philly top 10
    I haven’t been to village yet
    Such a cool laid back chef
    All the chefs with attitudes need to learn from this guy

  • LarryGUNZ

    Great article Brotha!


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