World Chefs: Jose Garces to put on a show at new restaurant

NEW YORK Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:07am EDT

American chef Jose Garces poses on his farm, Luna Farms, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in July 2013 in this handout photo provided by Baltz & Co. REUTERS/Jason Varney/Baltz & Co/Handout via Reuters

American chef Jose Garces poses on his farm, Luna Farms, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in July 2013 in this handout photo provided by Baltz & Co.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Varney/Baltz & Co/Handout via Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jose Garces has been practicing his entertaining skills and refining the menu he will cook before guests at his latest fine-dining venture restaurant Volver, set to open on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Performing and cooking before a live audience has become second nature for Garces after he won the title of "Iron Chef," the popular U.S. television cooking competition in 2009.

Volver, in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, will be the eighth restaurant the Chicago-born chef has opened in Philadelphia.

Garces, whose parents immigrated from Ecuador, also plans to open restaurants later this year in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

At Volver, diners can sample small plates and choose from a huge selection of caviar and champagne in the lounge area, or make reservations in the 34-seat dining room and performing area to sample the multi-course menu.

Garces spoke to Reuters about the restaurant, his evolution as a chef and new ingredients:

Q: Compare Volver with your other restaurants.

A: Volver is a look-back for me on the many dining experiences I have had the pleasure of having over my career. For me, it's looking at those experiences and creating my interpretation of a fine-dining, creative, luxury experience.

Q: What kind of food can diners expect?

A: We'll start with four to five snacks, one-bite offerings. I'll give you an example of some of the dishes inspired by a certain place. In 2009, I visited Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market and I got this box from our fish purveyor there. Every week, there will be sushi grade fish from Tsukiji in our preparation. It will progress like that based on a story.

Q: How have you evolved as a chef?

A: As a chef, my career has spanned through many phases. I have gone from a day-to-day chef de cuisine to opening my own restaurant to ... (being) a business person. Then moving on as chef, looking to explore other inspirations to create other concepts ... Then I was doing competitive cooking on "Iron Chef." That also shaped my chef personality as well as my cooking style.

Q: How do you describe yourself as chef now?

A: I'm more meticulous than I was in the past. My palette has evolved quite a bit. I don't want to necessarily categorize myself as a Latin chef. It's a cuisine I love and it's my roots. It's not necessarily all that I do, which is obvious with all the different concepts we have.

Q: What ingredients are you experimenting at Volver?

A: We've got this Uruguayan Waygu beef. That's a meat we are testing and really enjoying. Monterey Bay squid is another ingredient we've really been having fun with. It's super tender and succulent.

Braised Shredded Beef Stew with Red Beans (Ropa Vieja Con Frijoles Colorados), serves 4

Braised Beef

2 Tbsp & 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 lb boneless beef short ribs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 lb thick-cut bacon, diced small

1 large Spanish onion, diced small

1 red bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

2 Tbsp minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 Tbsp whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 qts beef stock

1/2 lb dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed (2 cups)

Sauce

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced

1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced small

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

White Rice

2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal

To prepare the braised beef, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear it until well browned, three to four minutes per side. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the bacon, onion, bell peppers and raw and roasted garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and vinegar and cook until the mixture is lightly caramelized, about five minutes. Add the stock, seared short ribs, and kidney beans. Close and seal the pressure cooker and cook over medium-high heat for 1 hour.

Prepare an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Transfer the still-sealed pressure cooker to the ice bath and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Lift the pressure cooker out of the ice bath, carefully unseal it, and remove the lid.

Lift the short ribs out of the cooker; the meat should be soft to the touch and fork-tender. While the meat is still hot, shred it with a fork and set aside. Measure out 1 quart (4 cups) of the braising liquid and set aside (return any beans to the pot). To finish the beans, transfer the contents of pressure cooker to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens, 18 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the mixture is caramelized, about five minutes. Add the reserved braising liquid and cook until reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Add the meat and stir to incorporate. Fold in the parsley, cilantro, and tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the Ropa Vieja and beans with rice and garnish with scallions.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Eric Walsh)

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