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Jose Garces Catering – When we crossed paths with José Garces in 2004, he was working for restaurant impresario Stephen Starr. We knew then that the child was going somewhere. A year after we named him a “Rising Star,” Garces opened his first restaurant, Amada, and never looked back. Today, 10 years later, he has created an empire called the Garces Group, which operates restaurants in Philadelphia, Chicago, Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Washington. He also owns the 40-acre Luna Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where his team grows produce for many of his restaurants. He also operates Distrito Taco Truck and a full-service event planning company called Garces Catering. He is the author of two cookbooks and one of the few to receive the coveted Iron Chef title. Jose Garces is no ordinary man.
1. High-quality salt. A good salt such as Maldon, Himalayan or Hawaiian smoked salt is absolutely essential. This allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to really come through.
Jose Garces Catering
2. Big green egg. At my Argentine steakhouse, Rural Society (in Chicago and DC), we cook over charcoal and quebracho (Argentine hardwood) on a parrilla (grill). At home, I get a similar effect with my Big Green Egg, which also uses solid fuel. The results are killer steaks, kebabs and even pizza.
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3. Seven Fires: Argentinian grilling. This is a cookbook by Francis Mallman, an Argentine chef who is an expert in cooking over fire. The book played an indispensable role in helping us understand all the traditional grilling techniques used in Argentina.
4. Melissa Scully. She’s our vice president. culinary development at Garces Group. She has been with me since my first Amada restaurant. Melissa is organized, thorough and makes opening a restaurant a breeze.
5. Empanadas de verde. One of my favorite recipes is green plantain empanada. My favorite version comes from my Ecuadorian grandmother, Mamita Amada. Even now, well into her 90s, she still makes the best empanadas de verde. It was a great joy for me when I finally mastered the technique of forming starch dough into boiled bananas. Scott Campanella, chief operating officer of Garces Group, talks about the challenges of expanding Buena Onda taqueria’s virtual concept nationally in a competitive market.
The Garces Group—the hospitality brainchild of chef Jose Garces—announced Sept. 24 that their Philadelphia-based eatery Buena Onda is expanding nationally through a network of both virtual and brick-and-mortar stores, starting with a second location in a ghost kitchen that just opened in Washington, DC.
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Going forward, Garces Group will add more virtual locations in the Florida, New York and Massachusetts markets; and they will seek to build brick and mortar stores in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. In addition, Garces Group plans to expand its other virtual concepts: Livy’s (a plant-based brand named after Garces’ daughter) and Wow Wings (World of Wings). ) to new markets.
Adopting an expansion strategy that includes both virtual and traditional concepts — sometimes under one roof — makes sense for Garces Group, the company’s chief operating officer Scott Campanella told Restaurant Hospitality.
“We found that every time we opened Buena Onda for indoor dining (in addition to delivery and takeout during the pandemic), there was incremental improvement without cannibalization, and so we found that revenue essentially doubled,” Campanella said. “During COVID, we developed a power playbook that showed the resilient nature of the business and how well it interfaces with off-premise solutions.”
Buena Onda, with both a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Philadelphia and a ghost kitchen in Washington, D.C., offers a menu consisting of guacamole, nachos and several types of classic tacos. Campanella is well aware that owning and operating virtual wings and taco concepts—two of the most popular food categories for ghost kitchens—will be a challenge, especially with so much competition.
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“There are red and blue water opportunities; when there is blood in the water, it is red, and when it is blue, you are clean and open,” he said. “Operating the virtual wing concept is definitely red water: there’s a lot of traffic jams. But if you open a concept that delivers breakfast in the middle of the night, for example, you can sit down and claim a spot in those markets.”
Before 2020, Campanella said he had no idea what a ghost kitchen was, and now, with the hospitality industry overhauled during the pandemic, he’s coming up with entirely new strategies to beat the competition. Tacos may be closer to a red water situation with a lot of competition, but they can stay one step ahead of the competition by making sure that the quality of Buena Onda food is not lost in transit to the customer’s home. They specially made double containers to hold the tacos in so they don’t fall apart.
Another important aspect of their success is the brand equity of Jose Garces, who people know and trust to deliver memorable meals. But surprisingly, mastering Google’s algorithms is becoming increasingly important to master, which is why Buena Onda tacos or Wow Wings appear when a user tries to Google what they want for dinner.
“Last year I sat in front of 20 managers and said, ‘Look, think about it, because we’re not a food and beverage company anymore; Now we are an IT company,” Campanella said.
Speaking, Appearances & Events — Jose Garces
The more people who find their website and app, the more Garces Group concepts will appear in Google search results.
In addition to improving their digital space (and Google SEO), Campanella said they are working on expanding their virtual brands through physical spaces. The goal, he said, is to partner with independent restaurants that can act as kitchen shops and put their concepts in the back of house. In return, small businesses that have struggled during the pandemic are seeing an increase in revenue. For this version of Buena Onda in Washington, for example, they will be partnering with local catering and event management company SuperFd.
“The thing is, we don’t know where this is going to go,” Campanella said. “I think it’s really a matter of how quickly our country recovers. The problem is that as we recover, will people want to go out and celebrate in person, and will ghosting become less relevant? Or he will take some new position in the industry.” Garces Events will put the exclamation point on your celebration with our passion and experience in creating memorable events.
We are a Philadelphia catering provider offering a wide variety of venues from exclusive venues, restaurants, preferred venues to catering at the location of your choice.
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Garces Events is led by James Beard Award-winning Chef Jose Garces, and our menus feature his modern take on traditional recipes.
Throwing a baby shower? Planning a retirement party? Celebrating a significant anniversary? Whatever’s on your social calendar, Garces Events is the caterer that can help!
Visit the Hamilton Gardens overlooking the Avenue of the Arts, the iconic Academy of Music Ballroom, or the Cira Center’s modern atrium with breathtaking views of the city. If you’re looking for an intimate wedding, our Old Town gem, Olde Bar, located in a beloved historic landmark, is perfect for you and your closest friends and family.
Garces events are hosted by James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Garces, and our menus feature his modern take on traditional recipes. Serve your favorite Garces dishes or create a custom menu with our passionate culinary team.
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I booked my reception for my wedding in January 2020, due to COVID our big reception was moved to 2022. The team of Kimmel and Garces was incredible. They were patient and supportive throughout. My family moved from the area and they were always willing to help us make arrangements when I came to visit. They made my dream come true, they listen and truly understand what we were trying to create. They were creative and truly created WOW moments for my husband, me and guests! You couldn’t ask for a better team!
I would like to thank you and all the staff for a wonderful experience at AMADA. In particular, the waiters were attentive, communicative and overall very helpful. Several diners approached me during or after the meal, commenting on how great the food and staff were throughout the evening. Thank you for partnering with us and making the evening truly unforgettable! If we move back to Philadelphia again, AMADA will be at the top of our list.
Whether you’re looking for a special event with skyline views and full service or chef catering delivered to you, we’ve got you covered! We offer a wide selection of exclusive establishments and restaurants to suit every taste. Get Billy Penn’s newsletter in your inbox 6 days a week for the top news and insight on everything happening in Philadelphia.
José Garcés is relieved to see the end of 2015. It’s been a challenging 18 months for his restaurant business after a decade of rapid growth.
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In September 2014, the Atlantic Ocean collapsed.
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