INTERVIEW: Jose Garces talks The Next Iron Chef
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INTERVIEW: Jose Garces talks The Next Iron Chef
After the jump, chef Jose Garces touches base with Meal Ticket to talk about his upcoming appearance on The Next Iron Chef (debuting Oct. 4 on Food Network), food TV, his new restaurant project and more. Garces can't say too much about the show just yet ï¿½ the Iron Chef America victor is competing to join Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Michael Symon as a titan of Kitchen Stadium ï¿½ but check out what we got him to share.
It's been unfolding greatly for us. It's been really well-received, and we're excited about it. How could you not be excited about bourbon and burgers? And the Whiskey King, that's a pretty decadent, tasty morsel ... let's go on a per-night basis. For example, on Friday night [Sept. 4], we sold 140 burgers, and of those 140, 40 were Whiskey Kings and 100 were Village Burgers.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
How did your appearance on The Next Iron Chef [TNIC] come about?
Well, as you know, I did compete against Bobby Flay. They had that piece of footage, and I cooked and did pretty well on the show, and I guess [they selected me] based on that. I did interviews for the first season of The Next Iron Chef, but I didn't make the cut for that one. So I'm glad I was able to come back for the second season. I think [the first season] was a pretty stacked lineup.
There's been speculation that you missed this year's James Beard Awards, where you won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, because you were off filming TNIC. Any truth to that?
Yeah, the show was taped during the spring, and it happened to land during the James Beard Awards. It was a really tough decision to make, but I weighed both options. The James Beard Awards has been something I've been working toward most of my career, so I was somewhat disheartened not to be there, but I was well-represented by my wife and my brother and my director of operations.
Plenty of people have asked us if you were approached to do Top Chef Masters.
No, actually. I haven't been asked to do Top Chef Masters.
How many of the other TNIC competitors did you know personally prior to the competition?
I knew of some of the other competitors, but personally, I knew only Roberto Trevino, because we've done some events before in the past.
From the looks of the first episode, it seems that the competition is going to be pretty intense, as Iron Chef is a huge title. What were interactions like off-camera? Were you friendly, or was too much at stake to get really buddy-buddy?
I think that it definitely was really competitive, and especially during the first episode. During that time leading up to the first episode, it was a lot of feeling each other out, people getting to know each other. Obviously, with what was at stake, it was highly competitive, with that energy, that aura, that competitive nature in and around at all times. My focus going into it, my goal, was to go in and win, and be the next Iron Chef. It was good to meet people, but when it came down to it, that ultimate goal was what was in my sights.
You have an insane schedule as it is. If you were to win this competition, how would you fit filming Iron Chef episodes into your itinerary?
I'm a huge fan of the show, and I highly respect the chefs that are Iron Chefs, so I would take it very seriously. I would definitely set some time aside. I'm flexible enough right now in my career and in my company that I can do that. If I did become that person, I would definitely put a lot into it.
Is it difficult to keep a straight face when you hear some of the over-the-top things Iron Chef chairman [actor Mark Dacascos] says? The stuff he says is so campy. What is he like in real life? Is he really intense, or kinda zen?
I think you're pretty accurate on that ï¿½ï¿½the chairman's routine is pretty funny, but when you have such high stakes on the line, you can't help but take it very seriously. You definitely crack a smile and there is some humor to it, but the competitive nature [of the show] kept me pretty serious. Off-camera, he was very nice, very charming and I think he wanted to make all the competitors feel welcome and comfortable more than anything else. I could see myself having a beer with him.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
On shows like this, there's often a lot of strategy and gamesmanship ï¿½ sometimes, people in these types of culinary competitions get eliminated for reasons not exclusively dealing with their cooking. Do you think this devalues the art of cooking in general?
I feel like of all the cooking shows out there, I think Iron Chef definitely has the most credibility compared to the other shows. Starting from the first episode, it was apparent to me that it's definitely more about the cooking than a lot of the other shows, some of which can be kind of gimmicky [or] a little more whimsical. Even on Top Chef Masters, on the first episode, they had these great chefs cooking in a dormitory with toaster ovens. That takes away from who you are as a chef. I'm happy to say that on The Next Iron Chef, I definitely felt like it was about the cooking 100 percent ï¿½ whose food was the best.
In the first episode you identify Seamus Mullen, of New York's Boqueria, as your heaviest competition on the show. Is that because he also does Spanish food?
I think that on the first episode, I felt that his confidence level was very high. Some of the food he did on the first episode was pretty solid, and of all the competitors I felt he had the most confidence.
Were there certain things ï¿½ aspects of personality, maybe ï¿½ that you gauged when sizing up your competitors that you also look for when hiring chefs for your kitchens?
It's a hard read, you know? I've seen people, although they're quiet or introverted, who can cook their tails off. I've also seen chefs who are really confident and talk a huge game about food and their expertise, but when they get into the kitchen, it's a whole different story. Then there's the end results, what happens during the battles, what happens during the presentations ... there's a lot of factors that are involved.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming Garces Trading Company at 1111 Locust Street?
The Trading Company is going great. We already started our commissary. The Trading Company has three functions. The commissary is one, so it's a producer of different products for all the restaurants ï¿½ pastry and bread production, [our] charcuterie production and sausage making, the [meat] grinds for the burgers [at Village Whiskey] ... that's all being done out of that operation. Then we're going into construction in the next couple weeks to set up what will almost be like a market with a wine cellar. We have a partnership with the PLCB, so it'll be a wine, cheese and charcuterie shop, as well as a cafï¿½. We'll launch our Garces Trading Company coffee there. [The cafï¿½] will be eat in for lunch, and [for] dinner we'll convert it into a full-service restaurant. The experience should be you walking into a wine cellar, picking up one of these exclusive bottles of wine only available there ï¿½ we'll have 200 selections ï¿½ and then you can sit in our cafï¿½ and we'll give you some food that matches that wine. [It will open] around November 15.
Finally, we've heard a few rumors that your friend, chef Marc Vetri, recently filmed an episode of Iron Chef America. So?
I cannot confirm or deny that.
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