Local Hero: Restaurant, Greater New Mexico

An Interview with Kevin Bladergroen, Chef and Co-Owner

Photos by Stephanie Cameron

Kevin and Anja Bladergroen on the patio of Blades’ Bistro.

Kevin Bladergroen began his culinary career forty-seven years ago in the kitchen of Casa Vieja in Corrales. It was a fortuitous start to a great and fruitful journey, made with the sustaining support of his partner in life and in business, Anja, who has supported the dream that is Blades’ Bistro. Several years later, he was working for a chef in Atlanta who encouraged him to apply to La Varenne cooking school in Paris, and the education he received there guides him today. During his first ten years in the culinary arts, Bladergroen was fortunate to work under accomplished European chefs. “Those experiences provided a foundation that has carried me through an exciting and demanding career,” he says. Returning to New Mexico in 2006, he felt as if he were completing a circle with Blades’ Bistro in Placitas.

The phrase “French culinary influences” is sometimes associated with snobbery, but at Blades’ you emphasize “uncomplicated, unpretentious food.” What was your favorite way to eat in Paris, and how did your experience there influence the culture and menu at the bistro?

It turns out that there are many elements within the phrase “French culinary influences.” For me, walking around Paris, hearing, seeing, and smelling the different parts of the city was educational in so many ways. During my time there, I discovered many small, tucked-away bistros serving uncomplicated, unpretentious, fresh food.

One of the most profound French culinary influences on my own cooking is how I make sauces. Another significant element of European cooking is working with plenty of wine. My experiences both in Paris and other parts of Europe inspired the dream to have a bistro of my own. Blades’ Bistro is the American version of my travels.

How does seasonality influence your menu? What are you most easily/consistently able to source locally, and what other considerations inform your decisions about what ingredients to use?

Yes, the seasons do influence our menu. We used to source locally here in Placitas, but COVID made that more difficult—although we are still able to get our microgreens from a Placitas grower. Availability determines what ingredients we can use and these times have made that very unpredictable.

Left: New Mexico New York Strip served with pommes frites and topped with herb butter. Right: Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Among the many soups you’ve served, is there one that customers love best? What makes for an excellent soup?

The Wild Mushroom Bisque is, by far, our customers’ favorite soup. The Watermelon Gazpacho is also a favorite.

Experience makes an excellent soup. Forty-five years of experience in soup making is a great ingredient for a memorable and deeply satisfying soup that contains excellent flavors.

Fish and seafood dishes are prominent on your menu. How do you approach sourcing seafood, and do you have a favorite fish?

Blades’ Bistro sources seafood from Santa Monica Seafood (formerly known as Seattle Fish). We get an amazing combination of fresh seafood in the high-mountain desert, with a great airport in Albuquerque that facilitates getting almost anything. I love to cook with seafood. My favorite is grouper, which I first started cooking with right off the boat years ago in Florida.

The past couple of years have been particularly challenging for the restaurant industry. Has the pandemic and/or its ripple effects changed anything about your approach to running a food business?

Absolutely! The pandemic has had an enormous effect. It impacted everything about our business on a daily basis. It is still an ongoing struggle, although it helps that I have been around the block a couple of times. It must be extremely tough for the younger chefs today dealing with these ongoing problems.

If you were going to center a multicourse meal on a single herb or spice, what would it be?

Wine and more wine!

Describe the perfect meal for a day off.

For a chef who has been cooking for everybody else all week, something as easy as a flavorful breakfast works fine.

Why do you think you won this award?

What a great question! The love, the encouragement, and the motivating appreciation Blades’ Bistro has received during the past two and a half years has been off the charts. The community of Placitas and beyond would not let us disappear; their support has been unwavering the whole time. In the face of such challenging circumstances, we came together as one. At Blades’ Bistro, we are part of a great community, and thank you all for being part of that community. It was and continues to be the team effort from our staff at Blades’ that makes every day possible.

221 Highway 165, Ste L, Placitas, 505-771-0695, bladesbistro.com

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