La Boca

Best New Chef Adolfo Garcia – 1997

Adolfo Garcia
emphasizing the Spanish in Creole

Adolfo Garcia describes his cooking as “the sum of all my experiences on a plate.”

It must be a pretty large dish.

Garcia’s cooking experiences in New Orleans, Panama, the Culinary Institute of America, New York and Spain influences his culinary perspective, he explained as he reflected upon the Latin-inspired selections at his new restaurant, Criollo Bistro Latino.

“Criollo” is Spanish for Creole and denotes anything “home grown,” according to Garcia. He emphasizes the state’s Spanish heritage by presenting his “Nueve Latino,” or New Latin, cuisine. “Nueve Latino doesn’t restrict you,” he says, but embraces all Latin cooking styles, including Spanish, Honduran and Panamanian. The style also allows Garcia to draw on his non-Latin culinary experience. As he put it, he is able to do “contemporary American cuisine with a Latin flair.”

“We try to do a nice mix … [of] a familiar local ingredient with a not-so-familiar Latin ingredient or Spanish ingredient or Spanish cooking method.” Diners “may not be familiar with all the ingredients, but they are familiar with the concept.” For example, pork tenderloin is a familiar dish. However, it is unlikely that patrons have eaten pork tenderloin with, say, a Honduran slaw of cabbage, yuca, cilantro and peppers, and served with a guava glaze.

“You get a little bit of Louisiana, you get a little bit of Latin America [or Spain], all mixed in one plate. Something that’s familiar to you that you don’t feel threatened by because it’s totally new … [because] you have a familiar ingredient.”

Garcia’s cooking background is as varied as his cuisine suggests. A New Orleans native with parents from Panama (one grandmother is of Chinese descent), Garcia “grew up in New Orleans eating New Orleans food, to a certain extent eating Latin food at home.” He got a more direct sense of Latin culture and cuisine when he moved to Panama with his family as a teenager.

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