In New Orleans, diversity is delicious. Young Adolfo Garcia grew up in the city, the son of Panamanian parents. Years later, as Chef Adolfo, he fuses the tastes of local seafood and Creole dishes with the flavors of the Latin American food he ate at the family dinner table. The result, New Orleans agrees, is a mouth-watering success.
Garcia is both a culinary traditionalist and pioneer, willing to try new recipes yet remaining faithful to the classic food of his hometown. His restaurant, LaBoca, is a mecca for those who enjoy Latin spice in their dining. But on Freret Street, Garcia’s High Hat, is a classic New Orleans café featuring Southern fare -- fried catfish and oyster po-boys -- but look for menu surprises like the Cuban sandwich. Next door, his pizzeria, Ancora, offers authentic Neapolitan pies.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Chef Adolfo sharpened his cooking skills and knowledge in London, Madrid and New York City before returning to his Crescent City home in the late 1990s. In 2000 Garcia and business partner Nick Bazan opened RioMar (now closed), followed by LaBoca, billed as an Argentine steakhouse in 2006.
Still on a roll three years later, he opened a Mano (Spanish for "by hand") and lived up to the name, fashioning culinary specialties just that way. Accolades include a Mano (now closed) as the 2010 James Beard "Best New Restaurant" semifinalist and Garcia as a "Best Chef for the South" semifinalist. New Orleans magazine named him "Chef of the Year" for RioMar and LaBoca and The Times-Picayune included RioMar in its Top Ten Best Restaurants in the city.
New Orleans can only expect more from one of its most flavorful, expressive chef.