Meet the chef: Zachary Perron
Travel + Leisure lists Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort as one of the world’s best destination spas. Among its many attributes, the scenic resort is known for its spring-fed healing waters. The recipient of a 2022 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award, Blue Heron Restaurant is an integral part of the spa’s wellness experience. Managing Chef Zachary Perron said he has “a passion for supporting people in their journey of improving themselves,” which he accomplishes through food. “It is part of the integrated approach I have to my work,” he added. Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort and Chef Zachary seem to be a match made in heaven.
Chef Zachary grew up in a small town in North Eastern New York State on the shores of Lake Champlain, just south of Quebec. He moved to Maryland to attend the rigorous liberal arts program at St. John’s College (yes that St. John’s College, but the Annapolis – not the Santa Fe – campus). His journey into the culinary world began in Maryland, where he worked for a small Italian restaurant under the Chef/Owner Hilary Roggio Raftovich. “Hilary served made-to-order food from scratch. Always doing the right thing, she set an example for me. We didn’t serve a lot of items, but what we served, we did really well.”
Exploring the St. John’s College Alumni network, he traveled to Santa Fe to visit friends in 2005 and never left. “I felt pretty well embraced since arriving in Santa Fe,” he said. He continued his on-the-job training in Santa Fe, spending several years at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he advanced from breakfast cook to institutional cooking to inventory and team leadership and management. Later he served as Chef Manager at Aramark Healthcare. Wellness and food preparation were intertwined for much of Chef Zachary’s career.
Chef Zachary felt fortunate to have had good mentors in the hotel industry as well: Executive Chef Christopher McLean and Chef Tom Kerpon at Bishop’s Lodge and Dave Parker who was then Food and Beverage Director at Heritage Hotels. Chef Zachary elaborated, “With Chris, I was working in a more intricate restaurant. He taught me how to take what I was doing the right way and step up the volume. Tom set an example of a more streamlined executive. From Dave Parker I learned how to take what I was doing correctly, and then from the administrative side translate it into big volume.”
“At Ojo I feel that I’ve come full circle from the early lessons I learned from Hilary. It all starts with good ingredients. If you know that nothing weird was added to the ground where the produce was grown, then the food is more nourishing and people can begin to improve themselves nutritionally.” He also discussed his local produce sourcing. “I am fortunate to have access to the Ojo Farm in Ojo Caliente, but I also enjoy shopping at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. Santa Fe is really a small town and I enjoy the community connections and hearing the stories of the farmers and ranchers.”
“My team had a lot of fun with the Local Harvest Restaurant Celebration. We took a more home-style approach to the menu. It was also nice to see the extra volume of diners.” One of the items on the menu was risotto, which Chef Zachary says is one of his favorite dishes to cook. “In a busy kitchen we sometimes forget how important the process is; a lot can become muscle memory. Risotto is one of the things that you have to stand over. If you neglect the process, it doesn’t come out right. It is also a versatile dish; you can put whatever combination of flavors you want in there.”
In summary, he said, “The main thing is that I really enjoy doing culinary work. I try to help the food be itself and have the ingredients stand on their own integrity and own values. I feel very lucky – my career path was serendipity.”
Q: If you could prepare a meal for a historic figure, who would it be and what would you serve?
A: A cherry pie for George Washington – that would be fun!”