about chef jose

Chef Jose opened Girasoles on April 15, 2004.

Girasoles (pronounced here-ah-SO-lays), a small Mexican-Mediterranean fusion restaurant in Watkinsville, GA, about 10 miles

outside of Athens, is serving up innovative meals with high-quality ingredients. Owner Chef Jose Zambrano finds ways to

ingrain his restaurant firmly in this small community of 2,000 people, drawing in loyal customers with not only his

delicious menu, but also an overwhelming sense of hospitality.


Chef Zambrano’s education in food was entirely hands on, at the sides of some of the best chefs in California.

Schooled primarily in the French tradition, which was some of the most popular cuisine of the times, Chef Zambrano’s

talents led him to work for the Hilton Hotel chain, first in Newport Beach, and later in Beverly Hills.

From there, he moved to Georgia to open his first restaurant.


Girasoles opened in 2005, following on the heels of two of his past successes in Athens, La Estrella and Zambrano’s.

The current trend toward fusion cooking has helped customers open up to Chef Zambrano’s way of looking at food. “People now are open to trying new tastes, new flavor combinations,” said Chef Zambrano. The cuisine at Girasoles is described as a creative mix of flavors, a combination of Mexican and Mediterranean, the joining of which comes quite naturally, Chef Zambrano says.

“It’s like a marriage between two different cultures,” said Chef Zambrano. “These traditions marry well, because they are both

strongly flavored, but ultimately are very light. They complement each other.”


Chef Zambrano’s firm belief in using only the freshest possible ingredients also aligns his restaurant with a current trend toward using the best of what is local and in season. “Everything here is fresh. We don’t even have a microwave in this restaurant.

We never use processed vegetables or ingredients.”


For Chef Zambrano, extending so much hospitality to his guests is more than a business trend; it is a basic philosophy and a way of keeping his business footing in the community, even as the economy tightens belts for both the restaurateur and the consumer.


By Jaymi Curley (September 2008)