IVÁN GARCÍA & GERARDO ZABALETA
Restaurateurs, Zona Rosa and Mesa Coyoacan
Jun 14, 2022
Iván García and Gerardo Zabaleta, two lovers who immigrated from Puebla City, Mexico, over 20 years ago, didn’t come at the same time. García moved to New York first and worked entry-level positions in kitchens across the city. When Zabaleta, a teacher, couldn’t stand being apart from García anymore, he left his job behind and made the journey to the U.S. and ultimately to New York.
Here, the pair built names for themselves in the city’s culinary scene: there wasn’t a job they wouldn’t do. Their expertise in every facet of the restaurant business eventually led to García’s elevation to chef positions and Zabaleta’s rise to management.
García says it was his chiles en nogada recipe that made Zabaleta fall in love with him in the first place and, in turn, homegrown dishes like the chiles en nogada have made Brooklyn fall in love with the couple. Chiles en nogada is a seasonal dish in Puebla City, but thanks to international markets, García can buy its ingredients (pomegranate, peaches, apples and walnuts) year- round. Their little slice of Brooklyn is among the few places in the city where you can have chiles en nogada whenever you want.
García and Zabaleta’s journey as young lovers was recently captured in a new movie — a hybrid of documentary and dramatization — by director Heidi Ewing, who is friends with the couple. “I Carry You With Me” depicts their treacherous journey crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. The movie also tells of García’s longing for his son, Ricky, who remains in Mexico with his mother. The chef isn’t able to leave the country for fear that he won’t be allowed to return, and Ricky’s visa to visit was recently denied. Father and son haven’t seen each other in 20 years, but they’re hoping to reunite by 2023.