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Luce’s Chef Rogelio Garcia is Inspired, Focused, and Aiming for a Michelin Star

Cover Image for Luce’s Chef Rogelio Garcia is Inspired, Focused, and Aiming for a Michelin Star
By Sophie Brochu
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Categories:Interviews

Last year, after a temporary closure, Rogelio Garcia took over as executive chef of Luce, the fine dining restaurant in the InterContinental SF Hotel. Garcia has been busy churning out globally-inspired tasting menus, making trips to the local farmers markets, writing a cookbook, and this year, he’s striving for a Michelin star. We caught up with Garcia to chat about his background, inspiration, and what’s next.

All in the Family

“I was born in Mexico City. My mother brought us to the states when I was two years old. She’s an amazing cook. My grandmother was a chef in her own right, too. In Mexico, she cooked at a kids’ school and would have a different menu every day. So, that was as close of a chef as we got, or a professional chef.”

California Diversity

“Our kitchen is very diverse. I’m from Mexico, I have a sous chef from Costa Rica. I have somebody from South Korea. There are two cooks from China. So, we get a lot of inspiration from each other and we plan the menus together as a team. And to be honest, this is what California is all about.”

Photo by Nader Khouri.

The Best Ingredients

“We have heirloom tomatoes that are coming from our farm in Napa Valley. We’ve got 150 chickens, so we’re incorporating fresh eggs in our pasta dishes and throughout the menu. We’re working with black truffles, squash blossoms, different kinds of shellfish, like scallops and King crab, which is one of my favorites. They come in live, moving in the box, like something out of a movie.”

 

A Stint on Top Chef Season 15

Top Chef changed my life, for sure. It was incredible. You walk into a house where you don’t know the other 15 competitors and you come out of there as best friends.”

At the farmers market. Photo by Nader Khouri.

A Day in the Life

“I live the life of a chef, right? I go to the markets. The first time that a chef introduced me to a farmers market, I remember taking a bite of an apricot; it was just amazing. I always make a point to go and get inspiration. I get to the restaurant about 8— 8:30 or 9, depending on the traffic—then get started with the morning crew. When the night crew arrives, we plan the menus. And my day doesn’t end until probably midnight, 1:00. We have to wind down after service, get ready for the next day, make prep lists, and place orders. But to be honest, I love this industry. I don’t see myself doing anything else, and I can see myself doing this until my legs give out.”

 

On Raising Teenagers

“I have two amazing boys, 17 and 16. A lot of people ask if I’m their inspiration. Like, “‘Oh my God, your kids see you, and you’re their inspiration.’” But to be honest, they’re my inspiration. They have inspired me since I held them in my arms.”

Photo by Nader Khouri.

Advice for Young Cooks

“Stay focused. Really hone in on what you want to do and who you want to be. Right now, there are a lot of options as a chef. You can go into being a restaurant owner. You can build an empire, if that’s the goal, in multiple cities. You can do the TV celebrity chef thing. You can be a private chef, or work at a hotel. There are so many options. Figure out who you want to be, find out who’s doing it at the highest level, and try to work with them—or try to learn from them.”

 

What’s Next

“The goal for all of us is to be considered for a Michelin star this year. Some chefs may say, “I don’t want it,” or things like that, but if you’re not going to do it at the highest level, why do it at all? I’m also working on a cookbook. It’s modern Mexican. The goal is to have people pulling it off the shelf on a Sunday to cook with their families. It will be released September 16th, 2023—on Mexican Independence Day.”

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