An Interview with Jonathan Perno, Executive Chef
Local Hero: Best Restaurant, Albuquerque
Executive Chef Jonathan Perno in the exhibition kitchen at Campo. Photo by Alicia Lucia Photography.
Los Poblanos is located on an organic farm in the heart of New Mexico’s Rio Grande valley. A model of preservation and sustainability, the farm’s vision helps shape the daily menu at Los Poblanos’ restaurant, Campo, and the handcrafted line of artisanal products sold at the Los Poblanos Farm Shop. The restaurant’s Rio Grande cuisine is rooted in seasonal organic ingredients from its own harvest as well as provisions sourced from long-standing relationships with local farmers and herdsmen. Campo’s cuisine wanders the line between refined and rugged, borrowing from both haute cuisine and the foods indigenous to our watershed.
How did you get to where you are now? What’s the backstory, and what was the moment that brought you to your current work?
I am a native New Mexican. I moved to San Francisco in 1989 to go to culinary school, and I used the city as a hub to go to work in other states and countries to learn my craft. In 2003, I moved back to New Mexico to settle down a bit and invest in my home state, intent on being an advocate for local producers and their products. After some time at Scalo, I was introduced to [Los Poblanos Executive Director] Matt Rembe by a mutual friend. I accepted the [executive] chef position in 2007 and I have not looked back.
How does the Los Poblanos property inspire you?
Los Poblanos inspires me every day in one way or another. This place is very special, it has an energy about it. I believe that is because there has been so much creative influence on the property and it keeps evolving. I am part of that evolution of this space, as well as the evolution of my team. As one of my cooks has said, we are now part of the history of Los Poblanos.
What is a local food issue that is important to you? Why?
More local restaurants supporting local producers. We can create a sustainable food economy when we support one another.
Why did you decide to have an open kitchen at Campo?
At Los Poblanos we are all about process, and the open kitchen allows us to share that with our guests. Often our servers will invite diners to walk through the kitchen, which gives them a behind-the-scenes look and creates a memorable dining experience.
Campo offers a Chef’s Table. Will you tell us a bit about this dining experience and what inspired it?
It gives guests a fully immersive experience—they dine at a communal style table that overlooks the active kitchen. The chefs interact with the guests and tell stories from the kitchen’s perspective, which is often a different view than the servers provide. Both narratives are great, but most cooks don’t get the opportunity to share the kitchen perspective directly with guests, and that is really special. Often, good questions can come from that interaction, and it becomes an opportunity to educate the public about all that New Mexico has to offer.
What are you excited by in the culinary world right now?
The number of businesses that are embracing this way of working and educating the public about local food just keeps growing. It truly helps us to take care of our community and gives us all a greater respect for the people doing incredible, important work in our state. Watching this movement grow, not just in New Mexico but in other states, is really exciting.
What would you like to try next at Campo?
We are working on so many things to enhance and improve the culinary program at Los Poblanos. We have a great team which means ideas come very organically, as do the research and the practical efforts necessary to implement those ideas. One specific example of growth is the expansion of our meat program. We have moved one of our chefs into a dedicated butcher role and are refining practices to offer new products across the property, including the Farm Shop counter [which sells sandwiches, fresh baked bread, pastries, and other offerings made at Campo]. We are still growing and looking forward to hitting our stride, but right now we keep pushing forward and evolving because the ideas keep coming.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
Support the locals. In partnering with local purveyors, we are able to showcase the efforts of our community through the food at Los Poblanos and share their efforts and stories with our guests, who visit from all over the world.
4803 Rio Grande NW, Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, 505-344-9297, lospoblanos.com
Edible celebrates New Mexico's food culture, season by season. We believe that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. With our high-quality, aesthetically pleasing and informative publication, we inspire readers to support and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs, beverage and food artisans, and other food professionals in our community.