2016-17 Featured Students
Kevin Garcia (March 2017)
Kevin Garcia, sophomore studying business and hospitality management, is seeking unique ways to nourish people in his pursuit of owning a farm to table restaurant.
After graduating high school in Los Angeles, Garcia followed in his sister’s footsteps to attend Iowa State University. At the time, he wanted to become an athletic trainer. Garcia soon realized that his true passion was in cooking.
“I had been cooking for most of my life,” Garcia said. It was this realization that led him to study culinary arts at the Art Institute back home in Los Angeles.
After finishing culinary school, Garcia (featured center in photo) got a job as a line cook for Nobu, a Japanese restaurant with more than 30 restaurants worldwide. When Nobu first opened in 1995, it won "Best New Restaurant" from the James Beard Awards, known as the "Oscars of food." Since its beginning, Nobu has continued its award winning performance. It was this position that inspired Garcia to want to open a farm to table restaurant.
“Working with the fresh ingredients while working at Nobu, I realized, it’s just different,” Garcia said. He noted the “differences” that he experienced were in the colors, flavors and textures of the fresh, organic and locally-grown foods.
Capturing these unique qualities of working with fresh ingredients is an important part of the way farm to table restaurants nourish their customers in a unique way. For Garcia, the farm to table restaurant that he plans to open would be designed to enhance the natural flavors of the ingredients he would serve.
“There’s just something about fresh, natural ingredients that really intrigued me,” he said. “The idea of trying to extract natural flavors rather than adding a lot of seasoning.”
The idea of food being farm to table dates back to our earliest roots. In fact, before refrigeration made longer preservation possible, nearly all foods came straight from a farm to your table. Today, farm to table dining means the food is fresh, seasonal and local.
After discovering this passion for serving natural, local ingredients, Garcia decided to come back to Iowa State to study business and hospitality management in hopes of combining his culinary and business experience to open a farm to table restaurant after graduation.
Garcia would like to move closer to home and open his farm to table restaurant in Southern California. He plans to work with the locally caught fish and fresh fruits and vegetables that can be found year round.
"My signature dish would be a a fresh sea urchin pasta with caviar," said Garcia. "It would have homemade linguine pasta with a sea urchin sauce and garnished with caviar, whole sea urchin and parmigiano- reggiano."
Sharing fresh and nourishing food with others is what fuels Garcia's passion.
“There’s something about seeing people’s face after taking their first bite or how they thank you after their meal that gives you energy," he said.
To share farm to table dining with more people, he would like to use his knowledge from business courses to make farm to table dining more affordable.
“Farm to table is becoming a very big trend right now,” Garcia said. “I would try to find a way to drive down the prices so anyone could [enjoy it].”
Outside of dining at farm to table restaurants or owning a farm to table restaurant, there are many ways individuals and restaurants can become more sustainable.
Part of sustainable dining at home or at restaurants is fully nourishing your body with foods that are in season and able to be grown and harvested in sync with local growing seasons, rather than requiring all the extra resources needed for something out of season.
Garcia said, “when working at Nobu, for example, when we knew certain fish were out of season, we wouldn’t serve them.”
Considering food waste is also important for people when dining out or in their own home. When we are mindful of only selecting the ingredients we will use and not letting foods go to waste, we are not only nourishing our bodies with food, but we are also tending to the needs of the Earth.
“Every restaurant operates differently, but overproducing is something all restaurants should think of,” Garcia said.
In his experience working in dining and in his education, Garcia has seen many restaurants that are optimistic about their forecasts and purchase more food than they need. He said it is difficult to balance optimism with being realistic about numbers to avoid food waste.
Similarly, at home, Garcia shops for one or two days at a time to ensure he does not waste any food and that his food is fresh.
Garcia encourages everyone to step out of their comfort zone and try eating at a farm to table restaurant.
“Go for the experience,” Garcia said. “Enjoy the plating and the flavors of the dishes. Go in with an open mind.”