While Santa Fe diners wait for Joseph Wrede to reinvigorate the Palace Restaurant, Wrede sat down with SFR in that restaurant’s glamorous yet dusty dining room to talk food and cooking.
Do you cook at home?
Not really. In the past 16 years, I’ve probably cooked 10 percent of the time at home. Cooking at home when you are hungry and you have a family is like being a competitor on Iron Chef. You have to fire everything at once, and you add to the dish only if you have time. At the end of my day, I need to have my lover cook for me. I need to be coddled.
Any kitchen nightmares?
One night, back in 1996 when I was still a smoker, I took a break in the middle of service. I flicked a butt into the trash and put the rest of the cig into the pocket of my chef’s coat. Right after, I cooked a steak au poivre with Madeira mushroom sauce and sent it out to the dining room. Later, that same table complained that there was a cigarette butt in the sauce. They ate the whole thing and I didn’t understand that. I went through the trash and never found the butt. I am still embarrassed by that situation.
So you can’t be sure if your butt dropped into the food?
Dried porcinis do look a lot like Camel filters.
If you absolutely had to eat one of your pets, which would you choose and how would you prepare it?
[Laughs] I have spent time thinking about how I would cook my own hand. The meat around the thumb looks like it would be tasty. And I really want to eat a bear claw. I guess there is something for me about hands and paws.
What is it like for you to shop at Albertsons or Whole Foods?
I feel self-conscious in the grocery stores. I do go, but I go early and late. I love to teach, but I don’t necessarily like answering the procedural questions that people will ask if they recognize me in the aisles. When I shop during the day, I’m usually on a mission. I go because I’m in a bind and I need to get the food back to the eight or nine cooks at the restaurant who need it. Also, if I’m in a retail store, I’m paying a lot more than I want, so I’m not usually in a good headspace to answer questions.
Describe your creative process in developing a recipe and building a menu.
As a chef-owner, you can become too conservative because you don’t want to waste the product through experimentation. I’m a full believer in evolution. The classic tuna-mango-avocado fix is changing for me. Now, I fry the avocado to play with the texture. I added kiwi to sour the mango. I added red chile [and] radish to the tuna to add spiciness, which I admit is not rocket science�or “rocket surgery,” as they say in Taos. It satisfies the craving we have for raw tuna. You ingest 35-mile-per-hour ocean battery power when you eat that fish.
The opening date for The Palace is a moving target. Sometime by Sept. 14, Wrede and his staff will unveil his fresh and inventive menu offered in the newly polished grande dame of Palace Avenue.
142 W Palace Ave.
Opening Sept. 14
Karla Helland is a former pastry chef and author of the blog FILC: Food I Like to Cook on SFReporter.com.