Dining at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy

There’s a bonus in living in a place with a school that trains professional chefs. The nascent Santa Fe Culinary Academy (SFCA), opened in late 2012,  now has its first professional chefs’ class. The group of five, from around the country, arrived in September for the one year program. The bonus: because the students need a live audience to test their skills on, schools open restaurants.

Tanya Story, a student and Rocky Durham, courtesy SFCA.jpg

Chefs Tanya Story left and Rocky Durham right with a student photo/courtesy SFCA.jpg

We lived New York’s Hudson Valley, a foodie’s paradise, for many years. The area, home to   the prestigious CIA (Culinary Institute of America) located in Hyde Park, had a lot of interning chefs, graduates working in established kitchens and some, who wanted to stay in the area opened their own restaurants. The school, which has turned out a who’s who of American chefs over the years, had a few student restaurants including the Escoffier Restaurant (now closed and transformed into the Bocuse Restaurant), the American Bounty and a casual diner. Reservations for the first two had to be made months in advance. The meals were always an adventure.

Welcome to The Guesthouse

We were excited to learn that our SFCA recently opened The Guesthouse, a student run “workshop and showcase”. Here students work with the school’s resident chefs as well as guest chefs from around the world to learn and create. Diners can enjoy the fruits of their labors at The Guesthouse. The restaurant’s dining concept will be constantly evolving because of the changing roster of guest chefs and what they will be teaching.

A culinary student preparing the puff pastry swan at Santa Fe Culinary Academy, photo/Steve Collins

A culinary student preparing the puff pastry swan at Santa Fe Culinary Academy, photo/Steve Collins

We were invited to lunch at the school last Thursday. The dining rooms, on the top floor of the Mercado Building at 112 West San Francisco Street, are bright and airy. The terrace, closed at this time of year, affords great views. The second of the two dining rooms is adjacent to the kitchen. Taking advantage of the view into the kitchen through a windowed wall, are a few high tables offer a kitchen view where you can see the chefs at work. As well as learning to cook, the students provide the table service. Our server Brian, who hails from Newark, NJ, discovered the school when he met co-founding chef, Rocky Durham, at a culinary event in Albuquerque. Pastry Chef Tanya Story and local entrepreneur, Erica Peters are also co-founders the school. Peters was greeting diners and Storey was overseeing the front of the house when we were there while Durham manned the kitchen.

Salade Nicoise at The Guesthouse at Santa Fe Culinary Academy, photo/Steve Collins

Salade Nicoise at The Guesthouse at Santa Fe Culinary Academy, photo/Steve Collins

The small, but interesting menu changes every two weeks. I ordered the vegan Quinoa Rolls with Romesco sauce and enjoyed them so much I asked Story, who created the recipe, if she’d share it with our readers (it’s below). Steve enjoyed their version of Salad Nicoise with seared tuna, diced cornichons and traditional French mustard dressing. For desert, there were two gorgeous looking options. The Swan was a swan-shaped puff pastry with a Chantilly cream with a raspberry coulis.

Puff pastry swan, photo Steve Collins

Puff pastry swan, photo Steve Collins

We shared the Apple Tart, a wonderfully flaky puff pastry crust with caramelized apples also served with Chantilly cream.

Apple tart with chantilly cream, photo Steve Collins

Apple tart with chantilly cream, photo Steve Collins

The Guesthouse is open for on a limited basis.  Currently they are serving lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 to 1pm and will continue through March 13th. Reservations are recommended. Dinner service will begin in April. Check their website where you can join their email list to find out what’s going on at the school. SPCA also offers pop-up dinners on the first Thursday of the month as well as special culinary events and classes.

Quinoa wrapped in collard green leaf with roasted red pepper coulis, photo Steve Collins

Quinoa wrapped in collard green leaf with Romesco sauce, photo Steve Collins

Quinoa Collard Green Wraps with Summer Vegetables and Romesco Sauce

Serves 4


2 Cups Quinoa
2 ¼ Cups water
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup of almond butter
1 tsp Curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse Quinoa and rub gently between palms, drain into strainer.
Put Quinoa into pot and add water and salt, cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling turn down flame and simmer Quinoa keep pot covered.
Quinoa will only take about 15 min and it is done when all water is evaporated. Fluff with fork.
Add quinoa to a bowl, add almond butter, curry powder, salt and pepper, mix until well combined.
Season to your taste.

Romesco sauce:

1 Cup Blanched almonds or almond sliver
10-12 Roasted hazelnuts
1 head garlic
1 slice stale bread
2 ripe medium size tomatoes, or 1 large tomato
2 large roasted red peppers, well-drained
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine or sherry vinegar (approximately)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or small hot pepper (optional

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor to a smooth consistency.

26 Responses to “Dining at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy”

  1. Jeff Beeman
    February 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    thanks for posting this recipe! i’t’s now printed and on my kitchen counter to make in the next few days. thanks again!

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      Our pleasure, Jeff. Let us know how it turns out. It sure was good at the school! We’re going to try it at home, too.

  2. Suzanne Fluhr
    February 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    I’d leave out the red pepper flakes (of course), but other than that, this sounds like something I’d like. Philly has a Restaurant School run restaurant as well. It’s in my Steve’s old apartment in University City—literally.

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      The beauty is, you can leave out the red pepper flakes (and the black pepper) and it will still be great. The roasted red peppers rock and the almond butter makes the quinoa fab. I loved this and I’m a big carnivore.

  3. Suzanne (Travelbunny)
    February 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    How convenient to have this delightful place with such fabulous food close by! Maybe I’ll save this recipe for the summer – it’s a bit chilly in the UK right now 🙂

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      We have wonderful food in Santa Fe- one of the reasons we love it here. This would work fine in winter- it’s not cold-cold, just not warm. I don’t see why you couldn’t heat the sauce. It should work.

  4. Patti Morrow
    February 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    I’ve never had a bad dining experience in Santa Fe, and the addition of the school will certainly guarantee that will continue. I’ll take the Quinoa rolls and apple tart, please!

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      We have-lol. but there sure are a lot of great places. Those are the ones we write about- there are so many it will keep us busy for years!

  5. Nancie
    February 24, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Love the presentation! I’m not sure I would have been able to pass on the swan 🙂 I’ve never heard of romesco sauce. I actually think that I can get all the ingredients here in Korea. I’m going to give it a try!

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

      I would have loved to have eaten the swan, but I’m not eating milk or cream. I ate the part of the tart that was bare. If I was eating dairy we might have ordered both. The tart was amazing- the pastry perfectly flaky and the apples had caramelized brown sugar on them and caramel decorating the plate.

  6. Marilyn Jones
    February 24, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    What a fun article and great photos!!

  7. Neva Fels @ Retire for the Fun of it
    February 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    For my daughter’s bridal shower, I made swans using a crème puff recipe. How fun to see this swan as one of the deserts. I love finding more healthy recipes using quinoa and almond butter. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

    • Billie Frank
      February 24, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

      You are way more talented in the kitchen than I am, Neva!

  8. Karen
    February 25, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    I’ve been plotting to get into The Guesthouse for a meal since they opened. Now more motivation than ever! Thanks for writing, Billie!

    • Billie Frank
      February 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Our pleasure, Karen. Hurry up- it’s a short window.

  9. Irene S Levine
    February 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    It’s so great to have student chefs in a town; they infuse creativity in the kitchens of the restaurants they enter!

    • Billie Frank
      February 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      I totally agree. I love that the SFCA opened in town.

  10. Agness
    February 25, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Wow, the way the food is presented is just stunning. I would dig into this plate right away!

    • Billie Frank
      February 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

      And we did -at least right after Steve got the photos. Sometimes we forget the photos and remember after the food is half gone-lol.

  11. Nancy Thompson
    February 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I love taking cooking classes when we travel. This class looks like very tasty fun. Your great photos make me feel like I’m right there with you. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Billie Frank
      August 4, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      We didn’t take a class- just ate student food. While they do “casual” classes, they are also training professional chefs in a year-long (I think) program.

  12. Deborah Stephens
    March 5, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    Today, I made the quinoa with cashew butter rolled in collard greens with Romesco Sauce recipe you printed awhile ago. The flavors! It is wonderful!

    • Billie Frank
      March 11, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      Glad it turned out. Thanks for letting us know.

  13. Leigh
    March 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    I’ve only ever taken advantage of a restaurant school once and that was in Burlington, Vermont. We ended up with a very good meal at an excellent price.
    Your meal looks excellent and it sounds very healthy. The presentation is excellent.

    • Billie Frank
      March 11, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      I love to discover these places. It’s always an interesting culinary experience.

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