While many may think all culinary arguments in New Mexico begin and end with “red or green”—as in one’s preferred chile pepper—destinations such as Santa Fe are making waves on the foodie scene with a variety of trendy cuisine options that blend the traditional with contemporary concepts.
One such epicurean adventurer is Anthony Smith—just call him “Chef Tony”—executive chef of Santa Fe’s Eldorado Hotel & Spa. The charismatic London-born chef oversees the kitchen of the award-winning Old House restaurant, AGAVE Lounge and the new CAVA Santa Fe Lounge.
With a flair for blending Modern American cuisine with locally sourced Southwestern ingredients, and informed by frequent food travels abroad, Smith is well-suited to New Mexico, a U.S. state that is the epitome of the cultural melting pot, having had the flags of at least four countries fly above it and boasting the status of oldest capital city in North America.
Smith says he places a very high value on quality in his cuisine offering, but eschews the haughty side of high-end eating.
“I’ve always liked four-diamond, four-star cuisine,” he says of Eldorado’s award-winning effort, but adding that his kitchen has a family flavor. “It’s high-end enough, but not pretentious. I’ve hired all my cooks. It’s like a family, and just to see them grow is great.”
Smith, who says his tenure at the hotel makes him probably the second-longest-serving chef of his type in Santa Fe, previously served as executive chef at The Westin Park Central & Sheraton Park in Dallas, executive chef at The Westin Atlanta North in Atlanta and executive sous chef at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz., so serving groups in a hotel/resort environment is just his speed, and has become his passion.
For meeting groups, Smith has the resources to plate a farm-to-table affair for groups numbering in the hundreds.
“We work with a local farm, and can bring in local produce for groups of 400 to 500,” he says, adding that he sources through Green Tractor Farm, which is located about 15 miles from the property. “ I can do heirloom tomatoes that are locally grown for 300 or 400 people.”
One interesting, highly customized offering he recently undertook was a “Seven Deadly Sins” dinner for up to 300 that paired seven sparkling wines with complimentary courses.
Add to this that Smith’s team can also be hired on to cater at the Santa Fe Convention Center and it seems the sky’s the limit for practically any size of group.
And as far as what still may remain the most important cuisine question in New Mexico—is it red or green?
“I like the green chile, but now I’m a fan of the red chile…the bitter taste of the red chile,” Smith confirms.