Briant Garcia built a successful culinary career from scratch

written and photographed by Ben McBee

Cooking was never a huge part of Briant Garcia’s family life, and for a long time working in a kitchen was just a steady job. Today, however, he is the executive chef at Stone Cliff Inn, the log cabin destination restaurant in the sleepy timber town of Carver, outside of Clackamas, Oregon.

Briant Garcia
Briant Garcia, executive chef Stone Cliff Inn.

Authority wasn’t something he sought. But when his daughter was born, Garcia’s life changed. His interest in food developed into a passion, and he began to pay more attention under a variety of mentors. “They were always willing to teach me because I was always willing to learn,” Garcia said. “I would stay after work an hour and a half just talking to them about stuff, almost every day.”

In 2005, he found himself in an idyllic place to train. Perched high above the Clackamas River on the site of an old quarry, Stone Cliff’s beautiful Douglas fir façade sits in an outdoor paradise. The lodge’s owners saw potential in him early. Garcia turned down initial opportunities to climb the ladder from sous chef to his current position, where he remains humble and appreciative of his journey.

For holidays, anniversaries or simply a hankering for the delectable bread pudding, people come from near and far to enjoy Garcia and his tightly knit crew’s delicious Pacific Northwest-inspired and locally sourced American cuisine. 

“It’s amazing how many smiles you can put on people’s faces,” he said. “That’s what it is for me—it’s not all about the money, it’s about how people feel.”

Fourteen years later, Garcia would be happy to finish his career where it really took off, continually improving his craft and tutoring others. “I started as a dishwasher a long time ago,” he said. “You have to put the time in to achieve what you want.”  

“It’s amazing how many smiles you can put on people’s faces. That’s what it is for me …
it’s about how people feel.”

—Briant Garcia