Jonathan Garcia, El Gaucho Seattle’s Executive Chef

“When I was a little boy, I loved Sundays because it was the day I would go with my dad to work. I’d watch him make pizza and I got to help,” Jonathan Garcia explains. “Now I love to cook because I like to see people happy when they eat my food.”

Jonathan was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico, but grew up in Bellevue, WA. He joined the El Gaucho team seven years ago, by way of the Renton Technical College Apprenticeship program. The Apprenticeship program requires 6,000 hands-on hours and mastery of ten stations around the kitchen, such as prep, pantry, sauté, grill, baking, scullery, sauces, soups, and yes, even dishwashing. It typically takes three years to complete, and in addition to the hands-on time in the restaurant, classroom training includes 4 hours a week, with additional homework and testing. It’s a huge commitment from both the chef and apprentice.

Jonathan worked his way through every station at El Gaucho Seattle under Executive Chef Matt Brandsey, starting with sauté, moving to lead line cook, and becoming sous chef. The future looks bright for this 28-year-old: after a brief stint as El Gaucho Events Executive Chef last year, he was recently promoted to Executive Chef at El Gaucho Seattle.

“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Jonathan says of his promotion. “I’ve been walking around on Cloud 9 (since being promoted). I’m still getting comfortable with my new title,” he smiles.

It’s one of the favorite things Jonathan likes about working for El Gaucho – the opportunities that are given to employees. “We are like family here,” he explains. “We have family meals and lunches, where the entire team eats together and talks about everything. It’s great to work in this environment, and I’m always greeted with a smile or a joke. People sing here. It’s a happy feeling,” he says.

Jonathan certainly adds to that atmosphere, as his smile and easy-going attitude are what he’s most known for. “I’m always smiling and do my best to have a positive attitude,” Jonathan explains. “Life is a roller coaster, so I do my best to stay happy.”

In his free time, Jonathan likes to spend time with his wife and family, play soccer and football. His biggest personal accomplishment is marrying his high school sweetheart, “the girl of my dreams,” They have two dogs, two hedgehogs, one bunny, and a canary.

Jonathan likes to cook at home as well, and admits he has a bit of a sweet tooth. His favorite dish to make at home for family and friends is lamb shanks (“it takes a long time, but it’s worth it” he explains) and tiramisu, with which he likes to experiment using different liquors (bourbon is his favorite). To keep up on new food trends, he watches cooking videos, reads food magazines, and talks to other chefs about new techniques.

“I have always been told to follow my dreams and they will one day come true,” he says. “So far everything is looking great for me. I like to live life to the fullest, keep it simple, and live in the moment.”

Visit Jonathan and the El Gaucho Seattle team every night, beginning at 4pm.

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