Jose Garces

An American chef born to Ecuadorian parents, Garces is the winner of the prestigious 2009 James Beard award for "Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic". He is also one of only eight chefs in the country to hold the title of Iron Chef -- after winning Food Network's 'The Next Iron Chef'. His Garces Group owns everything from a farm (Luna Farm) to food trucks (Guapos Tacos) to beloved eateries scattered throughout the country such as Amada in Atlantic City, Distrito in Scottsdale, and Garces Trading Company in his adopted hometown of Philly (to name a few). Here are his favorite bites around the U.S.:

Picca Peru - Los Angeles, CA - "Whenever I'm in Los Angeles, I make time for a stop at Picca Peru, a terrific Peruvian cantina that serves dishes in my favorite format: shareable small plates. It's a great place to introduce first-timers to the magic of Peruvian cuisine and it combines influences from all over the world into one distinctive culinary culture."

Pok Pok Phat Thai - New York, NY - "I was very excited when Andy Ricker brought a version of his Portland Thai restaurant, Pok Pok, to New York City, because it's so much closer to my home in Philadelphia. But when I'm out West, I'll happily detour to the original, for just that -- original, authentic Thai cooking from a passionate young chef who doesn't pull any punches."

Barbuto - New York, NY - "Jonathan Waxman's ever-popular Barbuto in New York City's West Village is a classic neighborhood gem that gets everything right: windows flung wide open to the street all summer long, a bustling crowd of devoted regulars and visitors alike and a menu of seasonal Italian favorites done absolutely simply and perfectly."

La Carreta - Miami, FL - "Miami is a haven for Cuban food in America, and nowhere does it quite as well as La Carreta, a family-owned and operated restaurant that has stayed true to its roots despite expanding to nine locations and counting. No one prepares Cuban food quite like my wife, but this spot hits all the right notes. When we're traveling through the Miami airport (La Carreta is located in Terminal D), I love knowing I can get a quality meal while on the road."

FnB - Scottsdale, AZ - "An all-Arizona wine list sounds like a stretch -- until you visit Scottsdale's FnB, where only two bottles hail from out of state and the rest complement the ambitious Southwestern-inflected, farm-to-table fare perfectly. Their braised leeks with mozzarella and fried egg landed on Food + Wine's "Top 10 Dishes" list for a reason: it's emblematic of their ingredient-driven cooking and manages to be at once homey and refined."