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Taste of the Highland Lakes: Rafa’s Kitchen offers creative catered experience

Chef Rafael Garcia with his spicy ahi tuna poke

One of Chef Rafael Garcia’s signature dishes is his spicy ahi tuna poke. He infuses the traditional Hawaiian dish with Mexican flavors for a Rafa’s Kitchen favorite. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

CHEF: Rafael Garcia

SIGNATURE DISH: Ahi tuna poke

Chef Rafael Garcia lost what he thought was his dream job as a family’s personal chef about 4½ years ago. The good new is, it pushed him into a dream job he didn’t even know was an option.

“I didn’t want to go back into the restaurant business,” said the culinary school graduate. “So, that’s how Rafa’s Kitchen came into fruition.” 

His new business is a combination of event catering and creating personal chef experiences for small groups. As the COVID-19 pandemic put events on hold, Garcia has focused on hosting small dinners at his culinary arts studio in Tobyville, a community between Marble Falls and Granite Shoals. He also makes house calls. 

Innovation, both as a culinary artist and a business owner, is just part of being a chef, said Garcia, who is known for spending all day cooking a pig on a spit or putting personal touches on his fabulous paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish with shrimp, shellfish, garlic, and saffron.

Chef Rafael Garcia's tomahawk pork chop
Chef Rafael Garcia creates wonderful meals, even from utilitarian ingredients. His tomahawk pork chop covered with a cherry and port sauce served with candied sweet potatoes and asparagus tastes as good as it looks. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

He never knows what clients will ask for, but he’s ready to whip it up.

“I have a menu, but sometimes they’ll call and ask me for something that’s not on my menu,” he said. “And I’ll make it. That’s what I love about my job: It’s never the same.”

One of his favorite creations is a Southwestern crepe. He wraps a traditional French crepe around braised duck topped with a green mole sauce for a fusion of French and Southwestern flavors.

His signature dish is a Mexican-inspired Maui ahi tuna poke. Pokes are bowls of diced raw fish, vegetables, rice, and spices popular in Hawaii and Japan. While on a trip to Mexico with his mother and grandmother, he tasted a tuna poke from a street vendor. He convinced the chef to share her recipe with him.

Garcia’s ahi tuna poke features Mexican and Southwestern spices and flavors but includes the traditional Hawaiian mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese chili sauce. 

“We make it all the time,” he said. “People just love it.”


For more information on Garcia’s cuisine, catering, and personal chef options, visit or call 830-637-9299.

Highland Lakes Eat & Drink Guide

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