The VIP Lounge with chef Emilio Garcia

Emilio Garcia (at right) in Barcelona with Connecticut chef Eric Stagl.

By Juliet Pennington Globe correspondent 

Prior to becoming executive chef at Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant in Brookline, Emilio Garcia was at Boston’s Via Matta, a now-closed Italian restaurant, for several years, where he learned the ins and outs of working in a kitchen under Chef Adam Halberg, with whom he later reunited at Barcelona Wine Bar when Halberg took over as the restaurant’s culinary director. Garcia, 32, was also the executive sous chef at Latin fusion restaurant Tico, in Boston, where he immersed himself in the tapas culinary culture before leaving to help open Boston eatery Happy’s Bar & Kitchen (which is now closed). We caught up with Garcia, who hails from Guatemala and lives in Revere with his wife, Sandra, and their three children, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? I love to visit Barcelona [and] experience the culture and the authentic food and drinks. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than [it is in] Boston.


Favorite food or drink while vacationing? When in Barcelona, I have to go for the variety of cheeses and cured meats. Some favorites are jamón, chorizo, and mangalica.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I would love to explore the restaurants and cafes in Italy, to compare them with Spain’s.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? I definitely can’t leave home without my phone and camera. I love to document everything.

Aisle or window? I generally opt for the aisle seat because I don’t mind helping other travelers when putting away their luggage.

Favorite childhood travel memory? I recall at the age of 9 my parents taking me to Antigua, Guatemala — La Antigua — which is where all the tourists tend to visit. Living in Guatemala, it was special to visit La Antigua, as locals didn’t reside there.


Guilty pleasure when traveling? I enjoy taking some time for myself with a nice drink and a good book.

Best travel tip? Pack just what you need rather than stressing about things that you might use. The less things you have, the better the trip will be.

Juliet Pennington