Meet three Santa Fe super chefs. Saviors of hunger, each possess an extraordinary talent that makes our culinary world a better place to eat.
Because they think less linearly, people with dyslexia are known to be abstract thinkers and creative problem solvers. And when they are imagining an idea, they have an advanced ability to see, hear, feel and sense what they are creating in their minds. This is why Joseph Wrede, owner and chef of Joseph’s Culinary Pub (428 Agua Fria St., 982-1272), is able to create abstract food pairings in a single bound. The ingredients might be common, but his dishes are visionary. It’s who he is and what he does. But not what he eats. “Oddball pairings attract me in my craft. It’s what I do. But when I’m decompressing, I like to go simple. When I go out, I look for a more traditional dining experience so it doesn’t convolute my work. I stay grounded and get rejuvenated in a place like Rio Chama,” Wrede says. Serving “the finest prime and choice dry-aged steaks, chops and seafood,” in the words of its website, Rio Chama also serves up Wrede’s favorite: an uncomplicated shrimp cocktail. “The old-school flavor profiles are gratifying. The cocktail is simple, but they execute simple properly,” he points out.
“It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact,” summarizes Sherlock Holmes about his intuition. Much like Holmes, Russ Thornton, corporate chef at Rio Chama Steakhouse (414 Old Santa Fe Trail, 955-0765) foresees the future of Santa Fe cuisine. “Personally, I think this year restaurants will be offering more affordable meals to a younger crowd,” Thornton says. “With their distinct preference for local and organic, farm-to-table will become mainstream; less processed foods and more identifiable ingredients will be used. These components will ultimately push what’s on the menu and how chefs use their ingredients,” he contines. When Thornton is not using his intuition for the good of his kitchen and his customers, he’s using it for the good of the “craft beer revolution.” Beer’s place at the table is less codified than that of a bottle of wine. With a little detective work, unassuming American cuisine and Dale’s Pale Ale on tap, Santa Fe Capitol Grill is a great place to unravel the mysteries of beer pairing. “Dale’s is a backpacker’s beer that typically only comes in cans; they have it on tap at Capitol, along with Lagunitas and a ton of other great microbrews,” he says. “I like to pair them with Capitol’s grilled artichoke hearts or one of their burgers. Oh, and beer aside, their butter cake is freaking delicious!”
Chile Man: a super hero name befitting for Edgar Jimenez, chef of Santa Fe Capitol Grill (3462 Zafarano Drive, 471-6800). Like Batman, his abilities are not innate. They were learned through a combination of culture and experience. Jimenez explains, “Mexico, where I’m from, and New Mexico have similar culinary flavors—the chile pepper is one of the basic ingredients in both cuisines. It’s part of the Mexican culture to work with these chiles and to do something creative and different with them.” And so throughout the years, he has: As a saucier, he worked with several varieties to create seven different chile salsas; at Capitol Grill, he works with chiles to create new American cuisine with some local flair; and when he eats chiles, he eats them draped in dark chocolate from CoCopelli Chocolatier. “The chile should give the chocolate just a little kick, otherwise it’s too overwhelming to the point that you’d just rather eat a raw chile itself. The folks at CoCopelli get it right every time. But I have a sweet tooth for more than just chocolate, so I find myself at the Chocolate Maven…a lot.” At the Maven (821 W San Mateo Road, 984-1980), Jimenez can get his chile fix from the comforting chile hot chocolate, the green chile croissant, a chile cheese brioche or the huevos rancheros, which, according to Jimenez, are “traditionally prepared and consistently satisfying.”