New Mexico Culinary Schools
New Mexico's food traditions are a culmination of its history. The squash, corn and pumpkin flavors were introduced by Pueblo Native American tribes, while fiery chiles, braised meats and sausages were introduced by Spanish settlers more than 400 years ago. Burritos and tostadas are popular, as are atole, thick corn paste, and chicharrones, a deep-fried pork dish. When Lonely Planet compiled a list of every state's most iconic ingredient, green chile was New Mexico's natural pick.
It is precisely this type of cuisine that has helped New Mexico emerge as one of the nation's most distinctive food destinations. Unlike more populated states such as California and New York, which often embrace global flavor profiles and trends, New Mexico made its culinary name by showcasing its own traditional spices and ingredients. It seems to be working: a whopping six New Mexican chefs were nominated James Beard Best Chef Southwest awards in 2015 alone. This rise in foodie status could lead to new career options for students attending New Mexico culinary schools.
Famous New Mexico restaurants
New Mexico's food scene strikes a balance between new trends and old traditions. As Food & Wine put it, New Mexico cuisine is "a return to (an) older, uncompromising impulse" that is "all about the farms." Here are some of the top New Mexico restaurants, new and old, leading the charge.
- El Farol (Santa Fe): Thrillist reports that this circa-1835 restaurant is the oldest in New Mexico, but its emphasis on "totally cool" small plate tapas was at least 175 years ahead of its time. El Ferol still slings classic Spanish cuisine, features flamingo dancing and displays murals painted by local artists.
- La Boca (Santa Fe): La Boca is one of chef Campbell Caruso's newest ventures, but it was an immediate classic. It still draws out-the-door lines and boasts a myriad of local and national awards, including the international Wine and Food Society's "Award of Excellence" and the Santa Fe Reporter's "Restaurant of the Year."
- Coyote Cafe (Santa Fe): Food & Wine credits Coyote for launching New Mexico's first "period of culinary brilliance" when Chef Mark Miller launched it in 1987. Miller's nationally-acclaimed food helped put New Mexico's classic Southwestern cuisine on the map, but current executive chef Eric DiStefano continues the tradition. His signature Fiery Hot and Sweet Mexican White Prawns and Elk Tenderloins remain among Coyote's most popular dishes.
- Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm (Albuquerque): Founded in 1932, Los Poblanos is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and its restaurant, La Merienda, is one of New Mexico's most acclaimed. Executive Chef Jonathan Perno is a multiple James Beard nominee and renown Farm to Table advocate. His menu is fresh, local and seasonal.
- Mary & Tito's Cafe (Albuquerque): When New Mexicans debate what restaurant serves the state's best Mexican cuisine, Mary & Tito's Cafe is invariably a top contender. This 1963 eatery even won a James Beard American Classic award in 2010 for its "timeless appeal," "consistent quality," and "menu reflective of the community's character." The restaurant's carne adovada -- pork braised in a red chile sauce -- is a statewide favorite.
New Mexico culinary schools & career outlook
Prospective students considering New Mexico culinary schools may appreciate the state's rusing culinary prestige, but wonder what it means for their future career prospects. Fortunately, the future appears bright. The National Restaurant Association reported that restaurants accounted for 87,000 jobs in 2015, 11 percent of the statewide workforce, and is projected to grow by another 11.1 percent in the decade to follow. This table highlights key employment, earnings and outlook trends for a number of culinary professionals in New Mexico.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||620||40710|
|Food Service Managers||570||46680|
Graduates of culinary schools in New Mexico -- and everywhere else -- often go where the jobs are, which often means high population centers. Here is a breakdown of employment and earnings information for culinary professionals in two of New Mexico's largest metropolitan areas: Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
|Location||Occupations||Total Employed (2014)||Average Salary (2014)|
|Albuquerque Metro||Food Service Managers||190||$55,980|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||160||$39,740|
|Santa Fe Metro||Food Service Managers||60||$60,560|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||130||$56,600|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
While nothing is guaranteed, annual data from the BLS suggests earnings and employment prospects tend to improve with formal training. That means students attending New Mexico culinary schools may have an edge over lesser-trained competition for top chef and managerial positions, especially in well regarded kitchens. No two schools are alike, but they often feature many of the same types of programs. Among them:
- Culinary arts
- Baking & pastry arts
- Hospitality management, including hotel and restaurant management
- Mixology & wine arts
We encourage readers considering New Mexico culinary schools to research their options carefully before committing to a program. Check out the directory below to begin.
- "New Mexico," ifood.tv, http://ifood.tv/american/new-mexico/about
- "A state-by-state guide to iconic US foods," Lonely Planet, May 2, 2013, Emily Matchar, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/travel-tips-and-articles/77725
- "Santa Fe Restaurants Enter a New Age," Food & Wine, September, 2011, http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/santa-fe-restaurants-enter-a-new-age
- "Eric DiStefano," Best Chefs America, https://www.bestchefsamerica.com/eric-distefano
- "Chef Spotlight: James Campbell Caruso on sharing Spanish food, sherry," NBC Latino, October 17, 2013, Nina Terrero, http://nbclatino.com/2013/10/17/chef-spotlight-james-campbell-caruso-on-sharing-spanish-food-sherry/
- "New Mexico well-represented in James Beard semifinals," Albuquerque Business First, Business Journal, Feb 20, 2014, Damon Scott, http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/blog/morning-edition/2014/02/NM-well-represented-in-Beard-contest.html
- "A Seasoned Albuquerque Chef Gives You the Lowdown on the Southwestern Town," Thrillist, August 9, 2013, Lee Breslouer, http://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/what-to-do-in-albuquerque
- "The Oldest Restaurant in Every State (and DC!)," Thrillist, October 31, 2014, Matt Meltzer, http://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/oldest-restaurant-in-every-state-and-dc
- "May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: New Mexico," Occupational Employment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm
- May 2014 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
- Long-Term Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/
- "New Mexico Restaurant Industry At a Glance," National Restaurant Association, 2015, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2015/NM_Restaurants2015