Danny Garcia Wins ‘Top Chef’ and Honors His Late Mentor James Kent

America has a new “Top Chef” and it’s Danny Garcia.

The executive chef of Saga Hospitality Group’s forthcoming restaurant on Manhattan’s Park Avenue was crowned the winner of Top Chef Season 21 on Wednesday evening. He beat out the other finalists, Dan Jacobs and Savannah Miller, to go home with the coveted honor.

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“The way I was able to cook food on the show is you put five ingredients on the plate and take off two and be okay with that plate being good with three ingredients or even less,” Garcia told People. “I want to cook food where I just can showcase the fish and you don’t need to put all of the frilly bullshit on top of it to make it delicious because it’s delicious as it is.”

For the final challenge, the chefs were tasked with cooking up a four-course feast, “the best four-course meal of your lives,” as the host Kristen Kish put it. Garcia opted for a menu inspired by his family’s Puerto Rican and Dominican roots: scallop and habanero leche de tigre, smoked mussels with plantains and cabbage, spiny lobster with salsa matcha and squash, and a take on piragua con leche with melon sorbet and avocado yogurt. Garcia became the first Muslim, Puerto Rican, and Dominican Top Chef winner.

Despite the victory, it’s been a bittersweet week for Garcia. Saga Hospitality Group was founded by the late chef James Kent, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack over the weekend. Kent had been busy building New York’s next great restaurant empire, including investment from LeBron James with Garcia slotted to lead a new fine dining concept for SHG. Garcia was a protege of Kent, first working for him at the NoMad and then for at Crown Shy. Garcia’s watch party for last night’s finale also became a tribute to the late chef where luminaries from the culinary world gathered to celebrate both men.

“I dedicate this win to my mentor, the late chef Jamal James Kent, whose steadfast support, leadership, guidance, and friendship have been instrumental in shaping the chef I’ve become today,” Garcia told Deadline.

Garcia is pushing forward to open SHG’s new restaurant 360 Park Avenue this fall. The 140-seat space will be inspired by classic New York haunts like the Grand Central Oyster Bar, Kent told Robb Report back in April. Garcia, meanwhile, told People that the restaurant will be called Time and Tide.

“It’s taking a classic N.Y.C. steakhouse and thinking about it through the lens of a seafood restaurant,” he told the magazine. “Finding global seafood, finding sustainable seafood, finding seafood that’s in season and giving New Yorkers something that they have not seen or tasted before and just being a seafood restaurant of my generation.”

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