Shaun Garcia, Chef de Cuisine, Soby's

Originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina, Shaun’s interest in food began early; he practically grew up in the kitchen of his grandmother’s restaurant. The family-owned establishment was famous for its fried chicken and peach cobbler, and Shaun spent his early years learning about the techniques that made these beloved dishes community favorites. Today as chef de cuisine at Soby’s, Shaun takes that heartfelt flavor of authentic Southern cooking and adds fresh style for an unexpected dining experience. In 2010, he is taking his commitment to heirloom ingredients to the next level with Soby’s Farm at Dark Hollow, an ambitious project that will raise produce from the Slow Foods Ark of Taste list for use in the restaurant. The Ark of Taste, a collection of food items in danger of extinction, promotes and protects the vibrant flavors of American ingredients, and by growing these items for Soby’s, Shaun is assuring that the restaurant will be able to offer dishes that honor culinary history.

Shaun honed his culinary skills at such restaurants as Ellis, An American Bistro in South Carolina and Wild Saffron Café in North Carolina. He joined Table 301 Restaurant Group in August of 2003 as a line cook, and his innate talent for Southern cooking secured him a promotion to Chef de Cuisine in January of 2007. He is a featured chef in the annual Euphoria festival, a first-class culinary celebration that raises significant funds for charities while promoting tourism and enhancing the reputation of Greenville, S.C. as a premiere culinary and performing arts destination. Shaun has also worked with such industry leaders as author, TV producer, editor and food stylist Virginia Willis, James Beard Nominated Chef Chris Hastings, Pastry Chef David Guas, and award-winning dairy, Split Creek Farms, on Soby’s special events.

One of Shaun’s primary goals in dish development is to use seasonal ingredients and local products whenever possible in order to support local food producers and provide the best flavor for his guests. He draws on his profound experience with Southern food traditions to bring time-honored recipes with modern flair to the table. In addition to taking inspiration from his family heritage of Southern cuisine, he uses techniques like a French slow braise to bring out the potential in lesser cuts of meat and uses traditionally African ingredients like okra and yams that have historically brought wonderful flavor to Southern food.

One of Shaun’s favorite responsibilities is the development of the features that are offered each night to compliment the Soby’s dinner menu – a task that allows him to really exercise his culinary creativity. He also enjoys working with bourbon, a spirit that he says lends itself well to the hearty, earthy flavors of Southern cuisine and matches his recipes in heritage and history. Shaun’s cuisine is a study in culinary history, updated for the modern palate. He is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Seed Savers and Slow Foods.