Ray Garcia is a guy with heart. As chef and owner of Santa Monica’s bistro-style FIG restaurant, in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, he puts his heart (and soul) into his deliciously inventive food.
Garcia combs the farmer’s market weekly for the freshest organic ingredients. His seasonal menus include notes on what has “just arrived,” “in peak season,” and “coming soon.” He’s developed close relationships with organic farmers, and works with them on his renowned FIGFARM dinners, featured four to six times each year. “I see the world from the eyes of a very spoiled California chef,” Garcia says. “Lavender grows here like wildfire and fruit is falling off the trees.”
But the world didn’t always look that way. A native of East LA, Garcia’s access to healthy food was limited until he tasted what his UCLA roommate—son of a sushi chef—was cooking. Garcia gave up dreams of law school, enrolled in a culinary program and went to work in the restaurant business.
His success has inspired him to look beyond his acclaimed kitchen to Olympic High School in Santa Monica, where he teaches students to plant tomatoes and make their own fresh mozzarella cheese. Part of Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity, the program is designed to connect chefs with schools, and give students exposure and access to healthy—and delicious—food.
“I could save money by ordering tomatoes from Chile and buying hormone-injected meat,” he says. “But I’m going to do it right. People are trusting us with things they are putting in their bodies. This is not like selling a pair of shoes.” www.figsantamonica.com