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California Questionnaire: Gabe Garcia

The acclaimed chef and Oxnard native shares some of his California favorites

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“For me, cooking is an expression of the relationship that I have with the growers, with my team, and with the people who enjoy our food,” says Gabe Garcia, head chef at Oxnard hotspot Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars. “I want to honor all of the hard work that it takes to grow and produce these ingredients. I want to reflect that care and dedication in the effort that my team and I put into each dish.”

Garcia’s culinary vision is evident in inventive dishes like Lamb Chorizo con Huevo and a farfalle served with beef neck ragu, grilled broccolini, and toasted pine nuts. And because Tierra Sur is located within the West Coast’s largest kosher winery, you can pair your food with some wonderful wines, including a variety of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley.

Where do you live? My home is in Oxnard.

Why there? I am a third-generation Oxnard resident—I was born and raised here. Also, our weather is the best on the West Coast.

Who or what is your greatest California love? As a chef, I would have to say our agriculture is my greatest California love. Avocados, citrus, strawberries, and grapes are incredible here, and they’re all right in our backyard and locally sourced for our menu.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? I’d say that the biggest misperception is that we all know how to surf and use the word “dude” all the time. (Some of us do, though.)

What is the stereotype that most holds true? We have amazing Mexican food.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? It used to be In-N-Out Burger but now it would have to be Tito’s Tacos in Los Angeles.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? Even though we are only one hour north of Los Angeles, I like taking road trips to San Francisco on the 101, stopping in Los Alamos or Paso Robles for a bite to eat. If I want to stay close to the ocean, though, I stop in Pismo Beach or Cambria. Also, Napa isn’t too far. We have a lot of incredible destinations right at our fingertips.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I would say the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Or, of course, Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars here in Oxnard.

Best California song? Let’s start with Sublime’s “Badfish,” then The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” and last would be Tupac’s “California Love.”

How would your California dream day unfold? In my perfect dream day, I’d wake up in a beach hotel with an ocean view. I’d have a pastry from Porto’s Bakery and hit the road in some kind of convertible. Hopefully, I’d be heading to a live funk concert or a car show that has short rib burritos from Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ Taco Truck. Then, I’d watch the sunset on a hill or mountaintop with my wife and daughter, finishing the night by a campfire with some friends and family. Completely California dreaming.

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