Brooklyn’s Own: Chef Danny Garcia

TOP CHEF — “Chef’s Test” Episode 2101 — Pictured: (l-r) Kenny Nguyen, Danny Garcia, Kaleena Bliss — (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)

Meet Brooklyn native chef Danny Garcia, who will compete in Season 21 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Garcia will debut as a contestant on the current season of Bravo’s popular cooking competition, which is heading to Wisconsin.

Season 21 of Bravo’s Top Chef premieres on Wednesday, March 20, at 9:00 p.m. EST. This season, new host and season 10 winner Kristen Kish, who replaces longtime host Padma Lakshmi, will join lead judge Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons at the judges’ table as they head to Wisconsin to serve up new flavors and perspectives.  

Brooklyn’s own Danny Garcia will compete as one of the 15 contestants, or “cheftestants,” as the show’s enthusiasts affectionately know them, for the coveted title of Top Chef. The winner takes home the $250,000 grand prize provided by Saratoga® Spring Water, a feature in Food & Wine and an appearance at the 41st annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. 

Garcia brings many accomplishments and accolades to the chef’s table. He secured a scholarship to Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. After graduation, he took a full-time position at the NoMad, where he rose to sous chef. No stranger to competition, in 2016, Danny took first prize at the Ment’or Young Chef competition and represented Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or, a world chef championship in Lyon. Danny moved to Napa the following year to join Thomas Keller’s French Laundry team and rejoined Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or. In 2019, Danny returned to New York to work alongside his longtime mentor, James Kent, in opening Crown Shy and Saga restaurants as Executive Sous Chef. In 2021, he relocated to Hong Kong to help reopen the highly acclaimed Belon as Chef de Cuisine.

TOP CHEF — Pictured: “Top Chef” Key Art — (Photo by: Bravo Media)

Today, Chef Garcia is back in New York, reunited with James Kent’s team at Saga Hospitality Group, and is leading the kitchen at a new restaurant scheduled to open in late 2024. Ahead of tonight’s premiere, Millennium Magazine caught up with the proud Brooklyn native to talk about his background, his journey to Top Chef and what we can expect from this season.

When asked to describe his experience on season 21 of Bravo’s Top Chef in one word, Chef Danny Garcia calls it, “A whirlwind … there was a lot of things happening and it definitely met my expectations of what I thought Top Chef was going to be. As a chef you watch the show and you sit on the couch and you’re like, ‘Why did you do that,’ but to then be in the opposite roles reversed, you understand that this is challenging and this is hard.” 

To prepare for his time on the show, Chef Garcia coordinated his very own Top Chef boot camp. Chef Garcia spent time cooking using available kitchens and “getting my thoughts on the plate,” he said. “I was doing quick-fire challenges and having cooks and sous chefs grab various items that I would potentially have to cook.” Chef Garcia also spent time history-diving on Wisconsin and the food culture to understand what he could expect during his time there. 

From a cutthroat cheese festival featuring some of Wisconsin’s Award-winning cheesemakers to showcasing the versatility of Door County cherries and Wisconsin-grown cranberries, Chef Garcia and the cheftestants will go head-to-head in many challenges honoring Wisconsin’s traditions, local staples, famous landmarks and fresh produce. One challenge even takes the chefs to the home of the Milwaukee Brewers for their Famous Racing Sausages® Race. The cheftestants also battle in a Wisconsin institution – an old-fashioned Door County fish boil, which I had the chance to attend during a visit to the Top Chef set and taste Chef Danny Garcia’s cooking for myself.

Garcia, who comes from a large, tight-knit Dominican and Puerto Rican family where food is the focus of every family gathering, used his culture and influence during the competition. “My wife is Indian-Pakistani, and her culture comes through so much in the way that I cook nowadays because I love the food,” he said. “There’s just so much flavor there. My food is typically global, so being able to pull from this Latino-Indian-Pakistani global pocket of flavors is definitely something that I lean into with my cooking and as a chef.” 

Danny Garcia is the only New York chef on the season 21 cast. When asked about the limited Northeast representation this season, he said, “It just shows that the country is big … and not all the great chefs are coming out of New York or the major cities. It goes to show that there is a lot of talent in a lot of smaller places, and the food and hospitality industries are ever growing, and there is amazing food to be found everywhere now.”

TOP CHEF — “Chef’s Test” Episode 2101 — Pictured: (l-r) Amanda Turner, Valentine Howell Jr, David Murphy, Daniel Jacobs, Danny Garcia, Rasika Venkatesa, Manuel “Manny” Barella Lopez, Kevin D’Andrea, Charly Pierre, Kaleena Bliss, Michelle Wallace, Savannah Miller, Iisha Elenz, Kenny Nguyen, Laura Ozyilmaz — (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)

One can’t go through an experience like Top Chef and not have it impact you in some meaningful way. When asked, “What did you learn about yourself during your time on Top Chef?” Garcia replied, “The biggest takeaway that I will have is being able to dive deeper into myself and see the food that I want to cook and really understand what the voice of Danny Garcia’s food looks like and how I see my food evolving over the next years to come.” 

What’s next for Chef Danny Garcia? He will watch the season 21 premiere surrounded by his family, close friends and business partners. He is excited to see the culmination of the season come together and for people to experience his Top Chef journey with him all over again. Viewers will have “a new interpretation of what the next generation of chefs in America looks like,” he said. Chef Danny Garcia will be opening a new restaurant in the early fall of 2024. His latest restaurant will be a seafood-forward, neighborhood-friendly restaurant in the Flat Iron district of the city that will highlight highly sustainable seafood. 

Season 21 premieres Wednesday, March 20, on Bravo with an entire season of supersized episodes every Wednesday night from 9-10:15 p.m. Episodes will be available the next day on Peacock.