Local Hero: Chef, Santa Fe

An Interview with the Executive Chef at Arroyo Vino

Photos by Douglas Merriam

After earning a BA in literature from Trinity University in San Antonio, Chef Allison Jenkins left her home state of Texas to attend the Culinary Institute of America. She worked across the country, from Massachusetts to the Southwest, primarily in farm-to-table restaurants and hotels. When asked to describe her typical style of cooking, she says, “It’s rooted in classical techniques with Mediterranean flavors, although I have an international palate and strive to use seasonal and local ingredients where available.”

Your work as a chef began at Coyote Cafe in 2002 and then took you around the country to places like The Little Nell hotel in Aspen and Hotel Saint George in Marfa, before you landed back in New Mexico. How have these varied experiences shaped your culinary approach?

I’m fortunate to have worked at and opened some high-end properties that have culminated in the style of food and service we have at Arroyo Vino. My first interests are reflected on the menu—seafood, fresh pasta, and Italian regional cooking. Working at the five-star Little Nell [helped me develop] a high level of hospitality and guest recognition. And since my first job on Martha’s Vineyard, I’ve been lucky to know and work with many local farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, and other artisans to represent regional bounty at each place.

Is there a menu item or special that you’ve created recently at Arroyo Vino that you’ve been particularly excited about?

Currently, my favorite dish is the Ligurian-style braised rabbit with buckwheat polenta, roasted carrots, and olives. It’s really rustic and comforting.

What is the current status of the garden at Arroyo Vino?

The garden is fallow this year due to the drought. Hopefully, we will be up and running next season. I miss having ultra-fresh salad greens just out the back door.

You work extensively with local farmers to shape the menu at Arroyo Vino. What have you learned about the local farm scene through this experience?

Last year’s experience running mostly takeout food has taught me to be extremely flexible with the menu. And so now I can change dishes at the drop of a hat. Seasons here are fleeting for some of the best ingredients, so I try to highlight them in every way possible and preserve what I can for later in the year. Most of the farmers I met this year were so excited to be featured at Arroyo Vino, and I look forward to deepening those relationships next season. There’s an incredible bounty at the market, lots of pristine, fun ingredients to include. I especially enjoy the many stone-fruit varieties.

Describe a perfect day off.

Sleep in, cook something new, spend time outside in my garden. Bake some bread. And in the winter, build a fire and catch up on reading.

Is there a local food issue that is particularly important to you?

Sustainability of the supply chain. As chefs, we’ve got to do a better job using products from close by if we want to remain viable in restaurants.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?

Thanks for recognizing what we do!

218 Camino La Tierra, Santa Fe, 505-983-2100, arroyovino.com