Chef Andrew Cooper is a new face on the Santa Fe dining scene. The Executive Chef at Terra at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado north of Santa Fe, is passionate about food and cooking. His face lights up with excitement when he talks about his job and the creative possibilities it holds. Prior to his arrival at the resort in the fall of 2012, he was the Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Hualalai in Hawaii. Terra is his first Executive Chef position and he loves it.
Some people are born to cook. Cooper, a graduate of the prestigious CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, New York developed a love of fire when he was a boy. Next came home economics classes in junior high school where, much to the teachers’ dismay, he got creative with the recipes. By high school, he was working in commercial kitchens. “When it came time for college,” Cooper says, “the chef I was working asked what I wanted to do when I graduated. I told him, ‘I think about food for more than eight hours a day, I want to get paid for it.’” Not only did he graduate from the CIA, he has a Bachelor’s Degree in hotel restaurant management and a Masters in Food Service Management. This Generation Xer has already achieved one of his major aspirations: to become an Executive Chef.
Cooper, who describes his style as “contemporary regional,” is right in step with the current trend to fresh, local and sustainable. He says his biggest influence was David Bouley of Bouley Restaurant in NYC. Cooper did an externship there while at the CIA. “He really made me understand local ingredients,” Cooper says. How he got the externship is a great story, eat at his chef’s table in his immaculate kitchen and ask him. If you do dine at his chef’s table, be warned; he’ll have you wearing an apron and doing some of the cooking. His guests love it.
The energetic Cooper has a lot of interesting culinary innovations planned for Terra:
He’ll be offering “Culinary Adventure Tours,” where he’ll escort guests to the Santa Fe Farmers Market, or even to the farms themselves. After shopping, the group will either return to the hotel kitchen or head to a local winery and cook up the bounty creating a memorable food and wine lunch. He offers cooking classes and plans to expand them. He’s planting his own garden at the resort and will use the produce from there into farm to table cooking classes.
He’s started a local beef program. They buy a half a steer once a week and age it on property for 21-48 days. The entire animal will be used in his kitchen. He’s also buying whole pigs from a local farmer for Terra’s new Charcuterie Program
This enterprising chef is working with a local bee keeper who will put some hives on the resort’s property. “The bees will be able to pollinate off of all the amazing lavender we have around the property,” Chef Cooper says, “and then we can use the honey for our restaurant, bar and even in our Spa.”
In the wings: private dinners in the vegetable garden serving from two to eight people. A private chef will create the meal right in front of the diners.
Cooper and his wife, Ruby are a Four Seasons family. They met when they were both working at the Four Seasons in NYC, got married at the Westlake Four Seasons, where she was the Room Service and Banquet Manager and had their sons while they were both working at the Hawaii property. She’s currently staying at home with their two young sons.
Cooper keeps himself jazzed about cooking. He says that every day, “something new happens.” What’s next for this creative chef? You’ll have to wait and see. “This is such an exciting industry, Cooper says. “ I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.” We can’t either.
Chef Cooper share his grilled scallop recipe with our readers.
Popcorn Crusted Scallop with a Huckleberry Gastrique (Serves 4)
For the carrot puree:
3 each large carrots (Peeled and cut into smaller pieces)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup (vegetable or Chicken) Broth(enough to cover the carrots)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
Simmer carrots, garlic, broth, and salt in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, covered, until carrots are very tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Purée mixture with cream and butter in a food processor until smooth.
For the popcorn:
Pop your own popcorn or use your favorite microwavable popcorn
For the Scallops:
8 each U-10 Scallops (cleaned)
Season scallops with salt and pepper
In a hot pan with 2T. of blended oil, Sear the scallops on both sides and finish in the oven.
For the baby Vegetables:
5 baby Carrots (blanched and sliced in half lengthwise)
5 asparagus tips (blanched and sliced in half lengthwise)
4 cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
Micro Green Salad
For the Huckleberry Gastrique
1 cup Sugar
½ cup raspberry vinegar
½ cup huckleberries (Fresh Raspberries can be substituted)
In a medium saucepan combine the raspberry vinegar and sugar. On high heat, reduce by half. Add huckleberries and allow to sit in hot mixture for 30 minutes. Turn heat back on and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool, then puree in a blender until smooth. Place the mixture back in the saucepan and cook until reduced by half again. This should be a semi-thick liquid, not runny.
Spoon carrot puree in the center of the plate, then press the spoon into the puree and gently drag the spoon to the bottom of the plate creating a “schmear” on the plate
Place two seared scallops on top of the puree, then spoon some of the freshly made popcorn over the scallops. Garnish with the baby vegetables around the scallops. Spoon the gastrique around and finish with micro greens and a fresh herb salad
Authors note: We were guests of Terra for dinner. Their generous hospitality has not influenced this post in any way.