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Quentin Garcia

Executive Chef

At Rainbird, the new five-course, tasting menu restaurant located within the El Capitan Hotel, Executive Chef Quentin Garcia brings a thoughtful and exciting new layer to Merced, CA, both inside and outside of the kitchen. “Having an opportunity to build and define the city’s cuisine excites me, especially with Rainbird’s potential as the first upscale, fine dining restaurant in the area,” Garcia says. Growing up, Garcia and his family navigated hard times, when putting food on the table was difficult. But those times made memories of spending quality time with his brother, preparing and eating food, that much more salient. And his love, knowledge, and appreciation for hospitality grew from these moments. “Food brings people together and creates powerful memories. When I was young, I felt very creative, but hadn’t found my outlet. I wasn’t confident in more traditional creative endeavors like drawing or writing. But once I started cooking, I knew I had found my means of expression. I was able to translate feelings and emotions onto a plate–and I quickly realized I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.” Eager to get into the kitchen, Garcia started working in a restaurant at a young age, learning French culinary skills and the ins and outs of kitchen culture, including discipline, responsibility and maturity. This led to Garcia earning a full-ride college scholarship, which drove him further into the culinary world, and more specifically, to pursuing opportunities abroad. Working in Denmark represented a pivotal turning point in Garcia’s career. Studying under world-famous culinary innovator Claus Henrikson, executive chef at the Michelin-starred Dragsholm Slot, Garcia learned how to source and study ingredients, understand flavors, and how to effectively infuse creativity and passion into his dishes. After his formal culinary training in Europe, Garcia worked in a variety of upscale restaurants, including The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, followed by an executive chef role at Blue Note in Napa at just 23 years old. From these vast experiences, his takeaways were about far more than just cooking. “My time at these award-winning concepts taught me the value in prioritizing self-care and mental health awareness. I treat my team like family members and prioritize time off so they can learn, grow, and have new experiences. At Rainbird we foster an environment of open communication and trust, which makes for an unmatched culture that translates into our dishes and our customer’s experiences,” he explains. Garcia esteems the shared attitude of the people in his kitchen over the difference in cooking experience. With a team entirely made of Merced locals, Garcia has fostered an inspiring, family-like culture in the kitchen, where his employees are excited to work in an industry that has struggled immensely over the past couple of years. “Our goal is to nurture guests through food, and the only way to put forth that nourishment is to work together as a team and infuse positive energy into the best final product and a beautiful plate. ” Garcia’s love for Central California and the unique beauty of Merced drove him to lead the kitchen team at Rainbird and create a true, destination restaurant. “My goal is to marry Merced’s hyperseasonal flavors with global influence to give our customers a truly unmatched experience. I want people to not only eat our food, but also to think about it, play with it, and understand why it is being served.”