Chef Carlos Garcia has traded in his kitchen tools to launch his own chef apparel company, Lost Car.
At 19 years old, Garcia was hired as a server at Olive Garden in Whittierand unintentionally started his culinary career. Newly married and expectinghis first child, Garcia transitioned into working in the kitchen to financiallysupport his new wife through college. Although Garcia enjoyed cooking, hisgoal was to attend the Art Institute and major in Graphic Design.
“I loved cooking”, Garcia said, “but my goal was to get my ex throughWhittier College with a teaching degree and as soon as she was done, itwould be my turn.”
Through the next couple of years, Garcia and his wife raised theirdaughter together, but grew apart and split up. Feeling stuck and short ontime, he decided to completely change his perspective and his future careergoals. Garcia knew that he was doing well as a cook so he made the switchfrom casual dining spots to fine dining establishments.
Garcia’s fine dining career began under Chef Eddie Garcia, at theinfamous Del Rae in Pico Rivera. Although he was forced to start at thebottom of the barrel peeling thyme leaves, Carlos Garcia knew that ChefEddie Garcia was a salt of the earth chef and had a lot of respect for him.After two years at Del Rae, Chef Eddie had an opportunity to start at a newrestaurant and nightclub in Whittier called Ibiza Restaurant and Bar Loungeand asked Carlos Garcia to join him.
Carlos’s expectations of becoming Sous Chef at the new establishmentwere dashed as Chef Eddie had other plans. Carlos quotes Eddie’s exactwords: “You will start with me as my one and only line cook. Don’t you callyourself a Sous Chef until I give you that title.”
Hesitant to follow Eddie Garcia to a brand new restaurant with only thetitle of line cook, Carlos knew that he would continue to learn a lot under hismentor and took the opportunity to join in.
The nightclub environment weighed heavily on Garcia’s emotional andphysical well-being.
“We would work at nine in the morning, open up the restaurant around 1p.m. and then we would work until three in the morning. Eddie was ruthless,he would be back at eight in the morning to pick me up and do it all again.”
The long nights and missing his daughter like crazy finally paid off twomonths later when Chef Eddie Garcia quit Ibiza. Chef Carlos Garcia gotpromoted from the line with not even the coveted title of Sous, but to theExecutive Chef position at just 23 years old.
Worried that he was not ready for his newly attained title, Carlos soughtadvice and heard some amazing words from his first fine-dining mentor, ChefEddie Garcia.
“You are actually better than me now, you can dothis.”
After a while, the nightclub life was too fast forhim and he needed a change, so Garcia worked hisway around Southern California restaurants such asthe Anaheim Angels Stadium, Habana and theStarwood Hotel Group. After ten years, Garciaopened the downtown Los Angeles Restaurant LosAngeles Brewing Company and from there, he gotpicked up by Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel.
After spending most of his life in the industry,Garcia knew it was time for a change.”Twenty years in cooking is like a prison sentence.You don’t see your family. So many times I missedmy daughters sporting events, birthdays andholidays. I served my time.”
Garcia remembers the exact day that he knew hewas finished in the kitchen. After receiving a heartwrenchingphone call from his mother about herattending a friend’s funeral last February, Garciarealized there is more to life than just cooking.
“In that moment, I realized as I was driving towork, that one day people are going to come to myfuneral. Are the people that come to my funeralgoing to be the bosses that I worked for 16 hours a
day thanking me for my hard work and effort? Or ismy family going to be there wishing that they hadmore time with me?”
Garcia had been thinking about starting a chefapparel company for about five years prior to thatphone call, but had never actually put the pen topaper to get it started. That day, knowing that hecould not get any of that missed time back from hisfamily, he called his wife, Lacy, and told her he wasgoing to pursue the apparel company.Not wanting to waste any time, Garcia left therestaurant industry just two months later. Despitemany doubts from his family and coworkers, he knewit was time for change.
Lost Car Chef Apparel launched in July 2014 andhas been a major success. Garcia claims the comfortof his coats and the fact that each coat is made with3 to 4 percent stretch is what sets him apart from hiscompetitors.
“The fact that our coats move with you, they canbe a little more tailored. So they don’t have to feel sobaggy and ugly.”
Although there are companies out there that arealso starting to come out with fitted chef coats, LostCar Chef Apparel has gained major respect from bignamed chefs all over the country.
“How many other chef apparel companies do youknow that have chefs get so excited about gettingtheir product that they post a selfie, or what we calla chefie about it on Instagram? We get that all thetime.”
Garcia and his partner and sister Jennifer travelthe country promoting their coats and have garneredquite a large fan base that helps to promote the LostCar brand. One chef in Myrtle Beach, South Carolinais even hosting a ten course dinner and invitingothers who love the Lost Car apparel to come to hishome to enjoy the meal.
Lost Car Chef Apparel will deliver coats and apronsstraight to any local location within 1-2 hours usuallyin one of the two apparel trucks on the road today.State-of-the-art embroidering equipment with 52stock thread colors is on both trucks for on-the-spotlogos and names and it only takes approximately 20minutes. If you have your logo digitized and ready togo, they can embroider that but if not, you can getyour name and title immediately and your logo addedlater. Lost Car can get your logo digitized inapproximately 10 hours. Traditional chef apparelfrom other known brands is also available on thetruck for the chef with a more traditional style.
9 styles of chef coats are available from the truck,the online store and now, you can find Lost Car ChefApparel at Surfas in Culver City and Costa Mesa.Styled in different colors and different sleevelengths, these comfortable jackets are fitted for bothmen and women. Two trucks are on the road so theycan deliver straight to their customers. They alsohave an online store and soon to come, an appequipped with a location finder so you know if theyhave a truck in your neighborhood as well as orderingaccess.
Carlos is very happy to have made his dream cometrue and though the work is hard, is excited to bebuilding his legacy for and with his family. It’s afamily business that Carlos, his wife, Lacy, and hissister Jennifer work hard to offer the very bestin stylish chef apparel. Garcia offers adviceto anyone that wants to start a smallbusiness.
“If you are going to startsomething, do not stop. Do notlook back. If you stop and lookback at where you once were, itwill ruin it.”
by Heather Myers