Savoring a Long Culinary Career

September 6, 2023 | Careers

Savoring a Long Culinary Career

After four decades of experience in the culinary arts, Selu Garcia still simmers with a passion for cooking. He isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Garcia — recently named executive chef at AC Hotel South San Francisco — has been in the Bay Area since 1984 and his resume is packed with world-class experience. Garcia’s career path has taken him through many levels of the professional kitchen, beginning as a sous chef; he joined the OTO Development team in South San Francisco after spending 14 years as executive chef at Le Meridien Hotel.

His love for cooking started much earlier.

“When I was 5 years old, my mom was going to a cooking school,” Garcia recalls. “I would tag along and sit down and watch anytime she was cooking. My grandma loved to cook. Eventually, I began to love to cook for people, too.”

And that is still the case today.

“Cooking is almost like painting,” Garcia says. “It’s an art form. It’s just you and the food. You’re focused and forget about everything else.”

Garcia’s transition to the AC Hotel South San Francisco has been smooth. He is excited about what the future holds and credits the leadership team, headed by Area General Manager Reggie Kumar, for creating a strong environment where team members thrive.

“It has been great since I walked in,” says Garcia. “There is something happening here that’s very positive. Everyone has welcomed me. It’s just the culture that OTO has. In the city you’re always pounding. Here, they say ‘This is yours. We’ll back you up. Enjoy yourself with what you’re doing.’ It makes a big difference.”

With Spanish and Filipino roots, along with the influence of Southern France from working closely with Chef Fred Halpert, Garcia’s cooking is diverse and delicious. The bounty of the Pacific and the exceptional ingredients readily available in the Bay Area are advantages that Garcia is folding into his menu at the AC Hotel’s Waterfront Lounge.

“We’re blessed on this side of the country with the abundance of produce and seafood,” Garcia says. “We can do everything locally and fresh.”

As he continues to build on a storied career, Garcia is dedicated to producing more than quality meals. In his spare time, he practices taekwondo as a third-degree blackbelt. It keeps him settled and humble. Garcia is also driven to leave his mark on other aspiring chefs.

“I laugh when I run into some of my peers who I grew up with in the industry who have already retired,” Garcia says. “I still love it. I love teaching people what I know. I must pass that knowledge on.”

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