Everyone's been asked the typical job interview question: "What's your five-year plan?" Most folks hope to be able to realize a few simple life goals. Nothing too ridiculous.
If we were giving over-achieving powerhouse chef Jose Garces a similar interview when he opened Spanish tapas bar Amada in 2005, we imagine his response may have gone something like this:
"Well, I'd like to have seven restaurants open in Philadelphia and one in Chicago. I'd like to compete on 'Iron Chef' and win, and then I'd like to be given the title of 'Iron Chef' myself. I would also like to win a Beard Award; preferably the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic title. Oh, and I really think those food trucks are cool. I'd like one of those. Oh, and a cookbook. Yeah, that's my five-year plan." (Add to that a favorable comparison to Chef's Chef, Thomas Keller and you have quite a cocksure candidate.)
But that's exactly what Jose Garces has accomplished in the past half decade. He has dominated Philadelphia.
Garces' latest venture, JG Domestic, opening on October 11, is poised to become the chef's first national destination restaurant. This will be Garces' first foray into more refined food and away from his trademark tapas menus, but not quite French white-tablecloth. Taking root in the Cira Center at 30th Street Station, which used to house Daniel Stern's Rae, Garces' 145-seat eatery will feature an "All-Domestic" menu and bar. We asked Chef Garces' what that means.
"I don't want to say farm-to-table, because people get this idea about local farms growing and raising all of the ingredients. This is really about sourcing the absolute best ingredients wherever possible. If that means it's coming from the producers around here, all the better. I am getting my lamb from Elysian Fields right here in Pennsylvania. It's about the best ingredients coming from where they show the best. Wherever that may be," says Garces.
Garces also mentioned that they will offer an entire animal to order a la carte that will change daily. "Some days it will be lamb, some days it will be pig. But our plan is to offer that each and every night we're open," says Garces. The Iron Chef also mentioned that they have their own farm in Bucks County.
"Oh yeah, you didn't know that? We're starting with our own vegetables, and I love cheese, so I'm thinking maybe a creamery will be the next thing we go to. Livestock not just yet, but we're going to see how well it does," says Garces.
There will be a traditional a la carte menu as well as a $60, five-course prix-fixe tasting that changes daily. There will be wine pairings, of course, but here, all the bottles will be from the U.S. They are noodling with the idea of doing a beer pairing menu as well, with all of JG Domestic's suds coming from our shores. Our favorite little detail is the addition of a cheese cart that will be brought tableside during the tasting, to pair with the food and beverages on the evening menu.
For those who need to caffeinate, there will be a Garces Coffee kiosk featuring the chef's very own roasted beans and cups of coffee and espresso made fresh all day.
As for seating, there will be a full bar, booths along the wall, floating hightops, and two communal tables that will have trees and foliage growing through spaces in the woodwork to create a "green" environment. Planters lined along every wall and doorway round out the natural aesthetic designed by Jun Aizaki, who has worked on all of Garces' restaurants.
It looks as though JG Domestic could become our very own destination restaurant, just as LaBan has envisioned. It's been a long journey bringing Philadelphia into the culinary limelight, and Chef Garces has been on the forefront of making that happen since 2005. Rome wasn't built in a day after all, it just took about five years.
Collin Flatt is the Philadelphia food editor of TheFeast.com, a new lifestyle franchise being launched by NBC Philadelphia later this year.