Last week Garcia's co-owner, Luis Garcia told us about his talented executive chef Claudio Bravo [read the first and second parts of the story here] so we sat down with both gentlemen to talk turkey... uh, tuna.
New Times: Where are you from originally, chef?
Claudio Bravo: I came from Cuba and went to Ecaudor for seven years.
Luis Garcia: He learned a lot of different dishes there. Different ingredients, different spices. He can make magic.
C.B.: Then I came here and somebody told me about the restaurant.
L.G.: He's been with us eight years.
Did you go to culinary school?
C.B.: In Cuba. Spanish hotels had schools in Cuba. In Cuba we prepared a lot of seafood and Spanish cuisine.
C.B.: We prepared a lot of ceviches, mussels, sea bass...
Did you create the menu then?
L.G.: We have this really very basic, simple menu. I do all my talking at the table. I listen to the customer. What they want is what we make. If a customer tells me, 'I'm just here from Boston and I was really craving whatever,' I'll go to him and say, can you concoct something? We use our resources, what's seasonal, what's fresh.
C.B.: We have a lot of communication. When they catch another fish I have to use that.
What's the craziest thing you've had to make here?
C.B.: Sea urchin. [A customer] wanted the roe so I mixed it with onion and sautéed it with cream, white wine, and cognac.
Was urchin on your menu?
C.B.: They brought it in.
L.G.: My dad's policy was 'Why not?' If you call and tell me, 'I'm coming in with 15 urchins,' I'll talk to Claudio. We're gonna make it happen. We have fishing boats pull up here on the river and say, 'We caught 17 dolphin [mahi-mahi]. Can you cook it?' If we're not too busy we'll make it work.
Which fish gets your creative juices flowing?
L.G.: Every now and then [purveyors] will bring us top-of-the-line, Asian market tuna. [Claudio's] eyes are popping out!
What do you do with it?
C.B.: Mango and blackberry salsa with tartare.
L.B.: We have charter boats that catch weird things. One time they brought me pumpkin swordfish.
I remember once [Claudio] shredded pineapples, mango, and papaya and he made some pompano medallions with three different layers of stuffing with crabmeat and made a topping of the shredded fruits. The presentation was so neat!
C.B.: We sold out in two hours.
Let's talk about the Sun Life Stadium setup. Are you working out of the concession kitchen?
L.G.: We are working with a kitchen far from the suite. The trick is to get it quickly to the suite to keep the freshness. We have to go up the stairs and through the corridor.
C.B.: Very far way. It's on the second floor and the suite is on the third floor.
Now you're three games in, right? What have you learned?
L.G.: We've seen what people like and what we need more of. We also know the best time to serve the food. If it's an 8 p.m. game, people get there at 6. Those VIP guys, they aren't tailgating. Once the game starts they're gonna watch the game. We've got to get the food up in that suite before kickoff. Appetizers and entrees out within 45 minutes of each other. At halftime we should be putting the desserts out.
Any ingredient you don't like working with?
C.B.: Curry. With fish, I don't like it. Too much.
What would your last meal be?
C.B.: My favorite is entrecôte prepared with black pepper sauce made with crushed black peppers, shallots, cognac, garlic, red wine, and a little bit of heavy cream.
And a glass of red wine?
C.B.: I'm not a big drinker. I've got two kids.
So even though you work with the freshest seafood most days of your life you'd go for cow?
C.B.: I love meat. I love Cuban food. The pork. When I cook at home Luis always asks to bring me a little.
Speaking of great eats, tie your bib on; tomorrow we'll share their recipe for stuffed lobster with crabmeat, shrimp, and scallops.