Meet the chef: Estevan Garcia
On any given Saturday Farmers’ Market at the Railyard, shoppers might spot one of Santa Fe’s outstanding chefs. None is more beloved than Executive Chef Estevan Garcia, a native son and chef-owner of estevan restaurante.
Raised in Santa Fe, Chef Estevan is a graduate of St. Michael’s High School and attended the College of Santa Fe, after a four-year retreat at a monastery in Indiana.
Although he first began to cook with his mother in their family home, he said he “learned by doing, cooking in kitchens under different chefs.” (The restaurants included well-known local establishments such as Bishop’s Lodge and The Bull Ring). He then “fell in love with French cuisine and opened Café San Estevan restaurant in Los Angeles.” Years later he returned to the City Different and created a dining experience that he describes as “New Mexican fusion with a French flare.” His first local venture was the original Guadalupe Café on Guadalupe Street, where he worked alongside his mother recreating some of their favorite New Mexican dishes.
It was near the Guadalupe Café that Estevan first met Antonio Manzanares, owner of Shepherd’s Lamb, a 200-acre ranch in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico.
Antonio was just beginning to promote his lamb around Santa Fe and happened to find a parking spot for his truck and his refrigerated trailer near Guadalupe Café. “Chef Estevan was sitting out in front of his restaurant and came over to see what I was selling out of the back of my trailer,” Manzanares relayed. “I gave him some lamb to try, and he started buying from us – that was nearly 20 years ago. He’s been to our operation to see how we do things and orders consistently. This helps us tremendously, it is something we can count on every week.” Today, Chef Estevan’s menu features Organic Shepherd’s Lamb Rib Chops and Shepherd’s Lamb Shank Stew on estevan restaurante’s dinner menu.
“Chef Estevan is respectful of the farmers and grateful to the vendors, no matter where they are from. He does not ask for special concessions, but rather deals fairly at the market guided by his passion for good vegetables and his understanding of the hard work of farming.” He also gets to know the farmers’ children. ”The kids were always waiting for Estevan to come to the Market each Saturday,” said Nery. Chef Estevan shared, “I was doing all of the shopping and carrying myself, and it was a lot of work. I saw that the farmers brought their kids with them. I started hiring them to help me carry the bags to the car.”
Chef Estevan tells us that he shops at the Market every Saturday and then returns to the restaurant with his selections. He said, “The farmers are VIPS; they give me menu ideas with their produce. I go to the Market knowing my basic needs such as greens and tomatoes, but what salad I offer depends on what I discover: one week it may be Bibb lettuce and the next week it might be Romaine.”
While he sources from farmers across the Market, Chef Estevan said his most important ingredient is the red chile that he buys from Cresencio “Chencho” Ochoa’s El Jardin de Chile de Chimayó. What makes Chencho’s chile so special? Chencho said, “It’s the soil; it’s a gift from God. Over the course of history, every pueblo had its own chile, and the soil made the difference between the varieties. All Chimayo chile is medium hot, and that is determined by the soil.” A first generation farmer from Colombia, Chencho has been farming in Chimayó for twenty years. Chencho is grateful for Chef Estevan’s loyalty, as “it makes it possible to start the farm each year.”
Chef Estevan Garcia’s holistic approach to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market community is deeply appreciated by the vendors. In an extraordinary show of gratitude to the farmers, Chef Estevan is reciprocating with gift certificates for dinner for two for all of the 2021 and 2022 Farmer All Stars. “I want the farmers to experience the restaurant and see how we incorporate their produce into our farm to table menu at estevan restaurante.” Chencho Ochoa said that he “feels proud that his product is chosen by Chef Estevan.” Antonio Manzanares added, “He cares for us, and we care for him.”
We are pleased to profile Chef Estevan Garcia in our first Chef Shout Out. Please learn more here and plan your visit to estevan restaurante: cultivar la tierra located on the second floor of Hotel Chimayo, 125 Washington Street, Santa Fe.