Jose Garces fell in love with Philadelphia when he came to work for restaurateur Stephen Starr after stints in Spain and New York. “I felt immediately that Philly would be a great place to raise my family and build my career,” he says.

And even in the shadow of Starr’s larger-than-life restaurants, Garces’ own operations, ranging from a fish taco spot to a pan-Latin fine-dining venue, shine. Three of his concepts are on Zagat's 50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia.

As notable, the Philadelphia restaurant scene has flourished with talent Garces has mentored. He cites such alums as Kevin Sbraga, Top Chef winner and Garces’ former culinary director, now chef-owner of Philadelphia's Sbraga and The Fat Ham. Tim Spinner and Brian Sirhal, formerly of Distrito, went on to start Feliz Restaurants; and Chad Williams, previously Amada’s chef de cuisine, is about to take over Friday Saturday Sunday, a local icon, says Garces.

The community also is benefitting from the Garces Foundation, a philanthropic program started by Garces and his wife to make a difference in the lives of immigrants—many of whom work in restaurants. His foundation funds medical and dental services, English-language and culinary classes for staff, and educational programs for youth at Garces’ 40-acre Luna Farm.

“I am so proud of so many former employees who have learned and grown with us and then gone on to do wonderful things in the industry to make Philadelphia an even better restaurant scene.”