Chef Jose Garces has built a mini empire of 15 restaurants in five cities, including Mercat in Chicago, El Jefe in Palm Springs, Calif., and Amada, Chifa, Tinto, and Distrito in Philadelphia. The chef travels extensively for inspiration and recently released The Latin Road Home. Part cookbook, part travelogue, part memoir, the book covers the foods of Ecuador, Spain, Peru, Mexico, and Cuba. Garces, whose parents are Ecuadorian, says Ecuador may not have international culinary acclaim, but its food traditions have strongly influenced his cooking style. Here, he shares his favorite places to stay, eat, and shop in Ecuador. 

Santa Clara Market
“Santa Clara is the primary produce market in Quito, and the selection is out of this world.  There are also inexpensive food stalls where I love to stop for a snack while picking up ingredients for dinner. They say you should never food shop on an empty stomach, and it’s advice I take to heart!” Corner of Dávalos and Versalles 

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Hacienda Zuleta
“Just north of my family’s ancestral home in Quito is the Hacienda Zuleta. They bill themselves as a ‘17th-century luxury eco-farm,’ but there is so much more to this unbelievable place. It’s a working farm, and every meal prepared here features house-grown and raised vegetables, trout, and dairy. They also encourage visitors to explore the surrounding countryside, high up in the Andes, with horseback rides, mountain bikes, a horse-drawn carriage, and walks around the sprawling grounds. It is one of my all-time favorite places to stay, period. We stayed there while researching The Latin Road Home, and a picture of the front gates is actually on the cover of the book.” Tamayo N24-607 y Colon, 59/(3) 62-66-21-82, zuleta.com 

Olon Beach – Beach Cabana Restaurants
“Surrounded by rock formations and indigenous plant life, this little beach on the Pacific is the gem of the small fishing village it borders. It’s one of the largest beaches on the entire coast of Ecuador, which means it also boasts a boardwalk with tiny food stalls serving local goodies just pulled from the water. For a snack and a dip, it doesn’t get much better than this.” Coast of Santa Elena

Photos by Jason Varney.