Nov./Dec. 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Portrait by Tony Pinto/Pinto Productions
Chef strives to honor hometown ingredients
More online: Recipes
Ventura County chef Gabe Garcia says he doesn't have a specialty: "I just like cooking."
Gabe Garcia, a third-generation Oxnard resident and executive chef at one of the city's best restaurants, wants to help put his hometown on the culinary map.
"I want to make Oxnard a place to eat, a destination," said the energetic 32-year-old, acknowledging that although local farmers provide a year-round bounty of produce for people across the U.S., "it seems like for the longest time, Oxnard was just a drive-by city. I'd like to be part of making Oxnard a food destination and teaching my cooks to be part of that."
Garcia speaks with affection for and confidence in his 12-member team at Tierra Sur, a kosher restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars. He regards his suppliers—specifically, "three farmers who are a text message away"—with equal respect.
In April, Garcia began hosting farmers markets with the trio so visitors can "Shop Like a Chef"—the theme of the near-monthly gatherings.
"The thing is, I want my customer base to understand where my food is coming from and where their food is coming from," he said.
The chef also takes his team to the farms so they can see firsthand the steps involved in growing the ingredients they use. "You think our job is hard, but I want to honor that plate," Garcia tells them.
"I don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the love and the passion the farmers put into their product. I want to honor it and I want to showcase it," he explained. "I honestly, truly believe that you can feel and taste emotion. You know when someone cares and you know when someone doesn't."
Mixed eggplant baba ganoush with pepper jam
Escarole, frisee, acorn squash and spaghetti squash salad with pepita and coriander dressing
Rib-eye with grilled grape sauce and garlic herb shoestring potatoes
Balsamic, fig and pistachio frozen custard
Spiced almond shortbread cookies
Sweet potato, apple and ginger soup with sage gremolata