Chef Jose Garces Goes for the Gold…the PPRA Gold Medal Award

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Pictured Left to Right: Bonnie Grant, President, Philadelphia Public Relations Association; Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia; Chef Jose Garces, Gold Medal Winner; Jack Ferguson, President, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. (Photo Credit: Christina Cassidy)

On September 25 in the Kimmel Center’s Hamilton Garden, PPRA honored nationally renowned Chef Jose Garces with the prestigious Gold Medal Award. Chef Garces was given this award for his lasting impact on our community and for bringing national recognition to Philadelphia since opening his first restaurant, Amada, in 2005.

An American born to Ecuadorian parents and raised in Chicago, Garces’ culinary training started early in life, in the kitchen of his paternal grandmother, Mamita Amada, where he learned to prepare family recipes and came to love food and cooking. After graduating from Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts, Garces worked in top-rated professional kitchens from Spain to New York City before moving to Philadelphia in 2001 to make it his home where he lives today.

In 2012, Chef Garces and his wife Dr. Beatriz Garces founded the Garces Foundation, an IRS registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is committed to ensuring that Philadelphia’s underserved immigrant community has access to medical, educational and nutritional services.

In addition to his booming career as a chef, restaurateur and humanitarian, Garces has also become the “Patron Saint of the Philadelphia airport,” as noted by a friend and speaker, Steve Smolinsky, president of Benari.   This new position was earned through Garces’ ever-increasing presence in airport literature, but ultimately sealed by a massive billboard of the smiling chef welcoming travelers into airport parking.

This was one of many amusing accounts witnessed by attendees at the luncheon, as it became very clear that Garces has not only made an incredible impact on the city’s dining and community wellness, but has also made many wonderful friends and acquaintances along the way.

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Attendees gathered to honor Chef Jose Garces at the Kimmel Center’s Hamilton Garden.

Mayor Nutter even stopped by, perhaps partly to poke fun at our event emcee, Michael Klein, editor of Philly.com/Food and writer of the Inquirer’s Table Talk column, but mostly to give Garces a City Proclamation, thanking him for his incredible impact on the community. “Chef Garces has not only helped transform Philadelphia’s dining scene into a culinary destination, but he has also shown a passion and commitment to our underserved communities through the Garces Family Foundation,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “He is an inspiration to people across the country, and I’m proud of all that he has done for Philadelphia.”

Jack Ferguson of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau also spoke of Garces’ successes in Philadelphia. Witnessing first-hand the increase of Philadelphia’s tourism industry in recent years, Ferguson seemed to think there was nobody more appropriate to be a contributor to Philadelphia’s improved dining scene than the talented Chef Garces.

The final speaker was a colleague of Garces’, David Maser, board Secretary of the Garces Foundation.  He spoke first-hand of the Garces accomplishments, which are so frequent, he oftentimes has trouble getting press coverage for the efforts of the Foundation, as Garces is always opening another restaurant.

Anyone at the luncheon knows this can’t be too bad, because the tapas-inspired menu hand-picked by the Chef himself was absolutely delicious.

Many thanks to Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, chair of the 2013 Gold Medal committee, and all of the hard working committee members whose efforts to arrange and publicize this event made it the great success that it was.  If you missed the event and would like to view pictures, you can visit the PPRA Facebook page.

This post was written by PPRA Gold Medal committee member Veronica Montefusco.

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