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Ray Garcia Makes Food With Heart

Ray Garcia sits at a table in front of an abstract floral background with his legs crossed.
Dylan & Jeni for Garcia Hospitality LLC

At B.S. Taqueria in Las Vegas, the celebrated chef will dig even deeper into his heritage

"Big, bright, bold flavors,” is how Ray Garcia describes his food at B.S. Taqueria. “We don’t really pull punches.” The famed eatery, which shuttered in Los Angeles and has now found a new home in Las Vegas, showcases plates that are confident and aggressive — like its chef.

Garcia is a native Angeleno who grew up in a Mexican-American community, but he didn’t start experimenting with the food of his heritage until well into his career. Classically trained, he worked his way through some of the best restaurants in L.A., including the Peninsula Hotel, Cyrus, and Fig, before digging deeper into his culture.

Las Vegas restaurateur James Trees — of Esther’s Kitchen, Al Solito Posto, and Ada’s Food + Wine — has fond memories of working with Garcia when Trees was chef de cuisine at Fig in Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel, where Garcia was executive chef. Trees believes that it was clear where Garcia was going early on. “(Fig) is kind of where the original ethos of Broken Spanish (and B.S. Taqueria) came from — his time not just being raised in L.A. but being at Fig and seeing that people really loved those flavors.”

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Trees has been so inspired by Garcia that he is currently devising a pizza called the Green-Eyed Monster based on his former boss’s green chorizo and rice taco. He says, “I miss that chorizo so much … It was such a cool thing that I had never seen before.”

That’s the type of impact that Garcia’s food will need to have if B.S. Taqueria is to survive — and thrive — in The Sundry, the busy new food hall at Uncommons, featuring a bevy of quick-eat options along with two sit-down restaurants: the Japanese spot, Mizunara, and B.S. Taqueria.

Garcia says he’s up for the challenge. “High tide raises all boats,” he says. “If, collectively, we’re putting up great food in a fun atmosphere and we’re gaining momentum, (then) we become part of an exciting collection of restaurants and operators that people love to visit.”

Amber Lancaster, the corporate culinary director of TableOne Hospitality, the group helming The Sundry, has confidence in Garcia. “We feel The Sundry is a perfect home for a modern taqueria, and we’re excited to take risks with a menu that we wouldn’t normally take on the Strip. And we could not think of anyone we’d rather work with more than Chef Ray.”

Garcia has already gained ground in Las Vegas with Viva! This Resorts World restaurant features his twists on dishes such as camarones a la diabla served over fideo and asada in a pineapple.

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At B.S. Taqueria, Garcia takes his twists even further with memorable items such as heirloom corn tortillas, lamb neck birria, and bone-in carnitas, plates that define where Garcia is now, where he’s been, and likely where he’s going. He says they come from “a special time in my life, a special place, a special member of my family. I felt like I could dig a little bit deeper into those dishes and explore them and also, kind of, change them in my mind. If I could go back to my childhood and make a dish that I didn’t love amazing or use that same amount of heart and soul that my mother or grandmother put into their dishes but with the access to resources that I now have — how could I do that?”

He seems to have figured it out, and now, Las Vegas has another place to enjoy the results.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 3 to reflect that James Trees was chef de cuisine at Fig, and Ray Garcia was executive chef there.