Facing Off: Santa Fe’s Chef Showdown

Chefs from 20 Santa Fe restaurants took place in round one of the first-ever Chef Showdown at the Santa Fe Harvest Festival on Saturday, November 5th. The event, part of the three week event,continuing until November 23rd, was held at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.

The communal pantry was where chefs came for ingredients to add to the mystery ingredients which each received in an unmarked brown bag.

David Sundberg

Chef David Sundberg of Blue Corn Brewery at the communal pantry, photo/Steve Collins

There was only one woman chef at the Showdown. Cafe Cafe’s Kirstin Griffin.

Cafe Cafe's Donalee Goodbrod

Kirstin Griffin of Cafe Cafe busy prepping her dish, photo/Steve Collins

There were three heats. The entrants were sequestered in a “Green Room” waiting their turn. Each round ended with the plates on trays ready to be delivered to to the Judges, Rob DeWalt of the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Santa Fe Reporter’s Zane Fischer. It was a blind tasting. Each chef drew a number at the start of their round.

first flight entries

Entries ready for judging, photo/Steve Collins

When cooking under pressure, a cool head and good knife skills are essential.

Plaza Cafe Southside's Jose Rodriguez

Plaza Cafe Southside's Chef Jose Rodriguez juliennes veggies, photo/Steve Collins

Joseph Wrede, Executive Chef at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon, was one of the participants. The newly reopened spot has been through a number of incarnations. The bar was a legendary Santa Fe watering hole for years. A lot of politicians and businessmen smoked a lot of cigars here over the years. Now, like every other dining room and bar in Santa Fe, it’s smoke-free.

Joseph Wrede of The Palace

Chef Joseph Wrede of The Palace scrutinizes the ingredients, photo/Steve Collins

Mark Connell, Executive Chef at both Max’s and Tomme brought an assistant along.

Santa Fe Restaurants Chef Mark Connell of Max's and Tomme at the Chef Showdown at the Santa Fe Harvest Festival

Mark Connell Executive Chef at Max's and Tomme, photo Steve Collins

Chef Johnny Vee, a local culinary personalty kept the proceedings moving with a running commentary. He interviewed entrants when they weren’t cooking and sometimes when they were.

Jose Rodriguez, Cristian Pontiggia and Johnny Vee

Emcee Chef Johnny Vee interviews Chef Cristian Pontiggia of Osteria d'Assisi while Jose Rodriguez of Plaza Southside looks on

Occasionally, there was some flaming action…

Santa Fe Community College Chef/instructor Rocky Durham

Santa Fe Community College's Rocky Durham applies the flame, photo Steve Collins

and even flambée.

Wings Media's Lucien photographing Chef Steve Lemmon

Wings Media's Lucien gets a perfect shot of O Eating House's Chef Steve Lemmon as he flambees artichokes, photo/Steve Collins

Every chef could bring their own equipment. Fuego’s Chef Eric Hall looked like he was on a wilderness trek. He wore a backpack and had pots and pans dangling from it. Luminaria’s Matt Ostrander also came well prepared.

La Posada's Eric Hall and Inn and Spa at Loretto's Matt Ostrander getting ready for their competition

Chefs Eric Hall of La Posada's Fuego and Matt Ostrander of Luminaria at Inn and Spa at Loretto are fully prepared Photo/Steve Collins

And the winners:

1st round finalists

The 12 round one finalists in the Chef Showdown (see below for names), photo/courtesy of Wings Media

Round two will be at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, tomorrow (Thursday) from 1 to 4pm. Come cheer for your favorite entrant. The challenge for round two: each chef must prepare their dish in a single cooking vessel. They each get an identical mystery “basket” of ingredients. They all must use the single protein it contains. They earn extra points for including other of the mystery foods.  The more mystery ingredients used, the more points the chef’s are awarded. A common pantry will supply vegetables, starches and spices.

The four winners from round two advance to the finals, Sunday, November 13th. They will be held during a gala dinner at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa. The culinary celebrity chef judges are: Sarah Moulton, John Sedlar and Bradley Ogden. Come support the Santa Fe Harvest Festival and the non-profit, Cooking with Kids, who benefit from a portion of the proceeds from the festival.

Caption for the photo of the twelve first round finalists moving on to round two: Kirstin Griffin of Cafe Cafe, Ahmed Obo of Jambo Cafe, Rocky Durham of SFCC, Matt Ostrander of Luminaria, Eric Hall of Fuego, Seamus Collins of Buffalo Thunder, Jose Rodriguez of Plaza Cafe Southside, Joseph Wrede of The Palace, Michael Meisel of Red Sage, Xavier Grenet of Ristra and Azur, Christian Ponteggia of Osteria d’Assisi, and Steve Lemon of O Eating House.

Author’s note: As former hotel concierges, owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business and in Santa Fe, the writers may have at some time been guests of business or services mentioned in this post. These experiences have not influenced this post in any way.





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