Like most exceptional chefs, Ray Garcia, the man behind Downtown LA hotspot Broken Spanish, is disciplined and respectful. In life and in the kitchen, he wastes no ingredient, no word, no energy. Even Garciaâ€™s stride is efficient. Chin down, eyes fixed on his destination, he passes from his restaurantâ€™s dining room and bar to its sala, a private space used for special events and extended seating, with one hand neatly tucked behind his back and the other pulled taut to his side.
Those whoâ€™ve worked in restaurants will recognize Garciaâ€™s efficiency. Where the untrained eye perceives chaos, the chef perceives a symphony, and conducts every instrument, from dishwasher to barman to GM, with a quiet decisiveness. Lauded by food critics â€“ he was recently named Esquireâ€™s "Chef of the Year 2015" â€“ and beloved by Los Angeles diners who appreciate his farm-to-table ethos, Garcia is the penultimate conductor, and his two LA outposts, Broken Spanish and its more casual little sister, B.S. Taqueria, are changing the way Angelenos view traditional Mexican food.
Garcia imports heirloom masa from Oaxaca to press tortillas fresh daily; his chile relleno, stuffed with poblano peppers, potato, kale, lemon, and sauce soubise, is baked instead of fried; and his green bean entrada bursts with flavor and texture thanks to poached egg, spicy sofrito, and finely ground chapulines (grasshoppers) that cut the delicate green beans with a bit of crunch.
The coup de grÃ¢ce is a duck cooked Ã la minute, smothered in black mole, and topped with roasted persimmons, sesame seeds, and micro green onion sprouts for a hint of bitterness. Itâ€™s an otherwise semi-sweet dish whose presentation â€“ it looks like it could feed a family of four â€“ makes it the menuâ€™s most popular item.
If that doesnâ€™t sell you on Garcia and his culinary talents, consider this: he is beloved by those who work with and for him.
â€œThe staff is like a family,â€ his night manager says, adding that Garcia is also a devoted Dad and husband with a "hilarious wife."
We sat down for a chat with Garcia and asked him about food, music, gangs (yes, gangs) and the X Files. Hereâ€™s what he had to say.