With more than three decades’ experience as a chef and accolades as one of the best in the south by the James Beard Foundation, it’s hard to imagine Adolfo Garcia as an attorney. But that’s precisely where the Panamanian-born, New Orleans-bred thought he was headed; specifically, to UT-Austin. Fortunately for foodies everywhere, fate intervened when a high school gig as a bus boy revealed a passion for cuisine. He traded UT-A for the CIA in New York City, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Returning to his roots in NoLA as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he held posts at Lucky Cheng’s and Criollo before opening his first restaurant, RioMar in 2000. Six years later, he opened Argentine steakhouse La Boca followed by Mano in 2009, serving traditional central and southern Italian fare. With the Theatres at Canal Place renovation in 2010, he unveiled Gusto Cafe & Bar, offering in-seat dining and a café.
He’s received nods from Hispanic Magazine, landing on their list of the “Top 8 Latin Chefs in the Country” and New Orleans Magazine, which named him Chef of the Year.
In recent years he closed Mano and sold RioMar, remaining with La Boca and continuing as a partner at Gusto and focusing on two new venues: The High Hat Cafe in Uptown featuring a menu that infuses the delta and the Bayou, and Ancora, a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria.
These days, trading his chef whites for the role of restaurateur has enabled him to devote more time to family and being a mentor for others in both the culinary and Latino communities. As a supporter of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and volunteer of the Azucar Ball, he has been recognized for his distinguished service in the hospitality industry by the Chamber of Commerce. He recently participated in a symposium panel at the Culinary Institute of America campus in San Antonio teaching corporate chefs about incorporating Latin foods into their menus.
The book New Orleans con Sabor Latino by Zella Palmer Cuadra and Natalie Root released in September offers a glimpse into the early years of Garcia’s career and some background about his wife, Dominican-born Margarita Sanchez Garcia. The couple’s recipes and anecdotes will take you back in time from the birth of their son in New York to their decision to move to Louisiana, intertwining charming stories about the romantic way they end their nights with a dance and who’s the boss of the family’s kitchen.
Next, take a trip to Spain with Adolfo Garcia...