When chef Jose Garces announced the return of Volvér — his sleek and chic on-site eatery at the Kimmel Cultural Campus — back in October, the reopening came with some updates in the form of recognizable names helming the menu, and the kitchen.
Garces’ Chefs in Residency Program has featured a rotation of different local culinary talents showcasing their own style and culture of cooking. The program, which is aimed to spotlight the region’s top rising stars and emerging chefs, will hyper-focus on minority chefs that were affected by the pandemic.
Already, Volvér has showcased cuisines courtesy of Chef Kiki Aranita from Poi Dog Philly and Chef Phila Lorn from Terrain Glen Mills in multi-week increments — next up is Chef Jezabel Careaga from Jezabel’s.
On working with Careaga, Garces said in a statement: “I’ve known Jezabel for many years. I have many fond memories of eating her empanadas and enjoying a cafe con leche at her initial iteration of Jezabel’s Cafe in Fitler Square. I’ve continued to watch her grow as a chef and restaurateur and I’m so happy to be supporting her and getting the word out about her Latin-inspired cuisine and amazing talents.”
Careaga is well known throughout the city. Hailing as an entrepreneur, chef, woodworker, designer and community leader from Palpalá, Jujuy, in northwestern Argentina, her impact is shown in Philly’s culinary community and beyond.
In addition to her degree in tourism and hotel management focusing on international languages and business, she also gained an education in social topics encompassing climate change, sustainability and mental health — issues that she cares about deeply still today. Those who head to her residency will even get the chance to donate to some of those efforts after enjoying her menu of Argentinian delicacies.
In 2010, she opened Jezabel’s in Fitler Square, and in 2018, Jezabel’s relocated to West Philadelphia with expanded offerings including cooking classes and special events. Her latest venture is L’Atelier where her furniture designs and handiwork are showcased among a selection of artisan home goods.
“I’m thrilled, excited and humbled — all in one — by this opportunity to work alongside Chef Jose Garces and his stellar team,” said Careaga in a statement. “It was an honor to collaborate in bringing these dishes from Northwest Argentina to life. I can’t wait for opening night and all nights thereafter to greet you and for you to enjoy this NW Argentine experience in this iconic Philadelphia landmark.”
When at Volvér under Careaga’s residency, patrons can indulge in her picada (featuring mortadella, giardineira, goats milk feta, iberico chorizo and toasted sourdough), empanadas (made with braised beef, chimichurri and salsa criolla), estofada (a wild mushroom ragu with creamy polenta, parmesan and toasted pine nuts), vacio con papas estrelladas (a butcher’s steak with crispy salted potatoes, celery aioli and chimichurri), panqueque con dulce de leche (crepes with caramelized milk and sweet cream flan), and more.
The food is truly like eating out — with the benefits of a home-cooked meal. It’s flavorful, and that’s obvious looking at Careaga’s resume. What’s not so obvious is the care and time it took to craft each dish, and the intent that was behind each decision she made.
Careaga went a bit more into why she chose specific meals: “The dishes I picked are traditional in the flavors I grew up eating. However, also an evolution of my culinary journey as a cook, cooking is what we did as a family, eating healthy, organic and fresh food was the norm. On my Volver menu we were able to translate those time intensive cooking traditions and it’s reflected on the depth of flavor, soul of the dishes you will enjoy. The highlights: locro is one of my favorite dishes, because it’s that special occasion winter dishes that we spent hours cooking with my grandma as a kid; and also the polenta, now in a vegetarian version this creamy polenta is peasant food that brings comfort and it was a staple for lunch on winter days.”
As mentioned before, patrons will be able to donate funds to support projects for each participating resident chef when the check is presented. For Careaga, she will use funds to support the initiatives of Fuerza for Humans, a non-profit focusing on mental health for the restaurant community. The Garces Foundation will match up to the first $5,000, giving each resident chef the opportunity to raise at least $10,000
“We are thrilled to support these talented chefs and to be a partner in the chefs in residency project,” said Garces Foundation Executive Director Robin Morris in a statement. “Philly’s food scene is the best in the country because of the dynamic energy and work ethic of our immigrant food workers and the diversity of chefs and cuisines.”
Careaga’s residency runs from Jan. 26th to March 13. The program will continue in 2022 with Chef Jennifer Zavala of Juana Tamale, Chef Alex Yoon of Little Fish, and Chef Dane DeMarco of Sonny’s Cocktail Bar, Burger Time and Wine Dive.
For more information, visit Volvér (300 S. Broad St.) online at philadelphia.volverrestaurant.com.