Fava bean and English pea tamales, vegan refried lentils, and clam and lardo tacos: these reinvented takes on Mexican favorites epitomize the cooking of Ray Garcia, the chef behind Los Angeles restaurants Broken Spanish and BS Taqueria.
A Los Angeles native, Chef Ray's adoration for cuisine was cultivated at his grandmother's house where he and his family would gather for Sunday dinners, rehashing the week's events over homemade dishes. He originally planned to pursue a legal career but, as he explains, "Food chose me, I didn't choose it. The tastes, sounds and smells—all kept drawing me back in."
He deferred enrollment to law school and began studying at the California School of Culinary Arts, where he truly began his epicurean journey. Ray has spent years perfecting his craft, learning from a variety of renowned chefs at distinguished Los Angeles institutions before launching acclaimed Santa Monica bistro FIG, then moving on to open BS Taqueria and Broken Spanish.
Like the seasonal food he made famous at FIG, the menu at Broken Spanish also highlights seasonality and farmers' markets, as well as refined cooking techniques. But this time, the focus is on a cuisine that's uniquely Angeleno. As he explains it, "It reflects a different style of cooking to me that's warm and familiar. It's the food you remember your grandmother making, only better executed."
Q: What's your food philosophy?
A: My food philosophy is taking food more seriously than you take yourself. When a dish of mine lands in front of you, it may not be something that you've eaten before, but the dishes are warm and inviting. I like to say that food should be three things: comfortable, recognizable, and craveable.
Q: What's one piece of advice you have for home cooks?
A: Go with your instinct. Things can cook beyond the recipe. If you want to make something spicier, make it spicier. Go beyond what's on that piece of paper, and figure out the best way to make that dish shine.
Q: Who inspired you to start cooking?
A: It started with a love of eating. My grandparents were big influences, and a lot of my tastes come from simple recipes for afternoon snacks or Sunday evening dinners. I reflect on those times often in my cooking now.
Q: What's one item you wish more people made from scratch?
A: Simple, fresh cheeses; they're incredibly easy to do. At Broken Spanish, we made our own requesón, which is similar to a ricotta: it's milk, salt, sugar, and little bit of vinegar, and an hour later, you have this fresh, milky curd.