Chef Chat: Jose Garces on Volver, Yuboka and More
We were at Distrito in West Philly last night to check out a bunch of new happy hour food and drink items (more on that soon) and Jose Garces himself was working the room. We had the opportunity for a brief chat with the Iron Chef. He let spill some details on Volver, the Kimmel Center restaurant where Garces will be seen behind the line later this year, and told us about new operations in both Atlantic City and West Philly.
Zagat: Will you really be personally cooking at Volver?
Jose Garces: Absolutely. Volver means “to return,” and I’m really excited to get behind the line. This is something I’ve been working towards for years, to cook exactly the food I want to cook, and be creative.
Zagat: How often will you be there, since you do have 15 other restaurants?
JG: 10 nights per month, October through May. Guests will buy tickets in advance so they’ll be able to tell if it’s a night I’m there or not.
Zagat: So... Volver will open this October?
Zagat: And who will be cooking when you aren’t around?
JG: I’m bringing Natalie Maronski over to the Kimmel Center from Chifa. Natalie is fantastic.
Zagat: Will there be one seating per evening?
JG: Actually, we’re going to do two separate evening meals. The way it’s laid out, the first room is a caviar and champagne bar. Very dark and sultry decor. Then there’s the main dining room, a show kitchen with 16 seats. We’ll do an early, pre-theater service there, for the orchestra crowd. Then, once each night, we’ll do the main dinner, the real Volver experience up close with the chef.
Zagat: We hear there are more windows coming to the Spruce Street side of the Kimmel, where the restaurant will be.
JG: Yes, we’re doing a lot of renovations where the gift shop used to be. There are these window that arc out over the street - it’s an architectural element of the design. It’s going to look great. There have also been upgrades and changes on the Kimmel Center roof garden, and we’re doing a lot of catering up there.
Zagat: You’re a busy guy. What else is new?
JG: We just launched Yuboka, a noodle bar at Revel in Atlantic City.
Zagat: What does Yuboka mean, and what will guests find there?
JG: It’s a made-up word, actually. We knew we were doing a noodle bar, and we came up with a lot of great names, but all of them were taken or trademarked. We thought “Yuboka” captured the Asian-Latin fusion idea. The food there is mostly Chinese-inspired, noodles, dumplings, dim sum. It’s a quick stop for the guests, but that cusine actually takes a lot of effort to prepare well.
Zagat: You have your hands full! How do you keep up with all these different menus?
JG: Last year we formed a small culinary brain trust - me, Garces Group culinary director Michael Fiorello, a couple of my best chefs - and we’ve been brainstorming and testing out new items for all the restaurants. We’re building out a test kitchen for this, in the Cira Centre, below JG Domestic. It’s going great.