Jose Garces is "The Next Iron Chef"

The Philadelphia restaurateur just high-fived his way through Distrito (40th & Chestnut) to thunderous applause moments after being crowned the winner of the Food Network series.

Ribs were the secret ingredient that Garces and New York chef Jehangir Metha, who operates Graffiti, a tiny restaurant in the East Village had to use in each dish of a five-course meal.

Garces, who in addition to Mexican spot Distrito, runs Amada, Tinto, Chifa and Village Whiskey, was the picture of cool, sipping Coronas and mingling with his 450 guests who paid $50 for the viewing party which was of course full of food and drink.

While Distrito raged, Graffiti was closed last night in what could have been taken as a hint of the show's outcome.

We asked Garces about how difficult it is to stay stone faced while judges on the show offer critiques. "Dealing with that is the hardest part of the process," he said. "But you can't think too much about it or you second-guess yourself and your work." Garces, a Chicago native who says it was his "culinary journey" that brought him to Philadelphia, says he plans to work and take a little time off for the holidays.

Garces said he had a great time working on the show but that it was difficult for the workaholic to spend so much time taping the hit series and away from his restaurants. His wife Beatriz, a dentist, who was by contract the only person to whom Garces could reveal the outcome, says everyone, especially her parents, tried to get her to share the results, which of course, she couldn't.

Chef Marc Vetri and fellow Philadelphia restaurateur Mark Bee of Silk City and North Third were among Garces friends and peers who joined him at the party.

Photo: HughE Dillon/