The Guy Behind The Guy

Ruben Garcia was one of the most important people running Jose Andrés’ restaurant empire—now he’s starting his own.

By Stefanie Gans

Rubén García has been a muse, a magician, a maestro—helping build and bring innovation to one of the country’s most recognizable restaurant empires, the José Andrés Group. 

After spending five years with Albert and Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, García met fellow El Bulli alum Andrés and took his career to the United States, working his way up at José Andrés Group (previously known as ThinkFoodGroup).

For more than 16 years, García was the creative director for Andrés’ restaurant collective, training and inspiring chefs in nearly 30 restaurants across New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and in his now-hometown, Washington, D.C. 

Under García’s leadership, the experimental and gastromolecular wonder minibar earned two Michelin stars, while the Andrés brand quickly gained a reputation for bringing whimsy and delight to diners across the country. During this time, García stayed behind the scenes, though he was known as one of the biggest names inside the industry.

He left the company in early 2020, and he turned his focus inward. 

In his childhood, García and his father would go biking in the mountains outside of Barcelona. And while García still maintains the slim body and the stamina of a cyclist, his interest has always been laser-focused on whenever the next meal would be. During his bike rides, they’d pause at masias, Spanish farmhouse-style restaurants, to fuel with fresh sausages, quickly grilled, and paired with grilled vegetables, beans and potatoes.

It’s simple, satisfying food and a near replica of these meals are now served at Brasa, one of the stalls he runs at The Square, the food hall he also runs. 

In the latter half of last year, Garcia debuted Brasa, Jamon Jamon (Spanish sandwiches)  and Junge’s (churros and hot chocolate) inside The Square, as well as Garcia’s jewel: Casa Teresa.  

When García left José Andrés Group, he joined forces with Richie Brandenburg and founded Unfold Hospitality. The close friends and business partners—the two met 14 years ago under Andres’ umbrella—now run The Square, and García’s debut restaurant, Casa Teresa, together. 

Brandenburg is the city’s godfather of food halls, helping to build Union Market into the culinary powerhouse it continues to be since its founding in 2012, and also creating La Cosecha, a food hall focused on the cuisine of Latin America. 

In his 10 years creating and also unpacking the economic and community impacts of food halls, Brandenburg envisioned a new kind of food hall in The Square, one in which the stalls are called “partners” and treated as such. And while Brandenburg builds the business case, he says there is only one human he would trust to cook for this vision, and this is his friend, García. 

Casa Teresa is The Square’s flagship restaurant, an homage to Spanish live-fire cooking and a showpiece for García’s singular talent. 

García walks around The Square and its casio-sized subterranean commissary kitchen with the legacy of his foremothers on his shoulders. Casa Teresa is a testament to his great-grandmother and beloved family matriarch, Teresa Espinosa Moreno. She was a human rights’ activist—standing up for women’s empowerment and improved labor standards at a time in Spain when speaking out against the government could be dangerous. Today, García infuses her spirit and his family’s love of food into the restaurant that bears her name. 

It’s the joy of a halved tomato, a jug of oil, flaky salt and the perfectly toasted slice of bread and his smile widens while he’s joyfully explaining the ritual that is rubbing that red orb along the crevices of bread, illuminating it with oil and then liberally decorating the scene with crunchy salt. 

Casa Teresa’s menu is in parts straightforward, like the pan con tomate and the chicken croquettes, but also contains specialities of his family, like a dish of housemade grilled Catalan sausage adorned with navy beans and allioli. And a Basque cheesecake so exquisite the Washington Post food critic declared: “Casa Teresa serves the best version I’ve encountered.”

Long hidden behind the scenes, at age 45, García finally steps into his birthright. 

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