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.
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.
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.
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.
We shared the Apple Tart, a wonderfully flaky puff pastry crust with caramelized apples also served with Chantilly cream.
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 Collard Green Wraps with Summer Vegetables and Romesco Sauce
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.
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.