Finalists for James Beard Awards Announced

Mark Kiffin’s Compound and Zacatlán’s Eduardo Rodriguez among 2024 James Beard Award finalists

The restaurant world is abuzz today as the James Beard Foundation today announced the finalists for the prestigious 2024 James Beard Award, and numerous New Mexico names made the cut. Though several Santa Fe restaurants and chefs including Alkeme’s Erica Tai and Dolina’s Annamaria Brezna O’Brien made the semifinalist list in January, today’s announcement whittles down New Mexico’s nominees to four.

Among them are chef Mark Kiffin’s Canyon Road fine dining eatery The Compound for Outstanding Restaurant, as well as chef Eduardo Rodriguez of Aztec Street brunch and dinner restaurant Zacatlán and Steve Riley of Albuquerque’s Mesa Provisions for Best Chef: Southwest; and The Burque Bakehouse in Albuquerque for Outstanding Bakery.

“Y’know, I woke up early this morning and it felt like too many good things were happening,” Rodriguez tells SFR, adding that the nomination is technically the second for Zacatlán, but the first for him as a chef. “I don’t know what’s next, I guess I’ll have to get someone to explain to me the rules, but I think the next step is going to Chicago.”

The rules, as it were, amount to a waiting game with this year’s crop of winners slated to be announced at a special ceremony with the James Beard Foundation in Chicago this June. The award announcement isn’t the only recent bit of big news for Rodriguez, who tells SFR he and his brother José just signed the lease to take over the TerraCotta Wine Bistro on Johnson Street.

“We’re working on that together,” he explains, “and it’s going to be a completely different menu from Zacatlán—picture it like more American, more Asian and with French influences, too.”

Rodriguez adds that he and his brother will keep the restaurant’s name.

Kiffin, meanwhile, is no stranger to the Beards, having picked up numerous nominations over the years and a win for Best Chef: Southwest in 2005, five years after he bought and took over The Compound from original owners Will and Barbara Houghton—who opened the restaurant in 1966.

“This is the hardest one, because it’s everyone, so it’s huge and we’re beyond thrilled,” Kiffin says. “This category is…it’s not just about the restaurant—I mean, it’s about being a restaurant, but it’s also how you take care of your staff, what you mean to the community, your service within that community; it’s all the hard work.”

Kiffin tells SFR his service in Santa Fe outside of the kitchen runs deep, from a position on the Christus St. Vincent board of directors, to numerous philanthropic pursuits, including projects with Washington, DC-based org No Kid Hungry, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society (“Because we have a rescue dog,” Kiffin notes) and the Cancer Foundation for New Mexico.

“[The James Beard Foundation] honors us, not just for our food, but our service, our wine, our cocktail program,” Kiffin adds. “I’ve got nearly 25 years in this house. I’m still here every day we’re open—but I want to say we’re grounded by the locals. The tourist business, I mean, it’s so critical to Santa Fe, but we’re a tiny town and the locals are so important to me. It’s important to me, too, that we’re still relevant.”

Santa Fe’s restaurants have a long history with the James Beard Awards, including multiple nominations for Restaurant Martín’s Martín Rios over the years, plus a win for Best Chef: Southwest going to Sazón’s Fernando Olea in 2022.

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