Executive Chef of the Hotel Andaluz, a Curio Collection By Hilton

best chef, Albuquerque

Photos by Stacey M. Adams

Marc Quiñones was born and raised in the South Bronx, growing up entrenched in his Puerto Rican heritage and watching his mother and grandmother cook delicious dishes from as far back as he can remember. Since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu’s program at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, he has realized many successes. Prior to taking over the helm as executive chef of MÁS Tapas y Vino at the Hotel Andaluz, he served as executive chef of the historic Inn & Spa at Loretto in downtown Santa Fe, as well as at Bien Shur Restaurant atop the Sandia Resort & Casino.

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?

In short, the biggest reason why I’ve gotten to where I am currently in my career is because of an undying passion for food and people. Being raised in the South Bronx by my mother, whose roots are Puerto Rican, food was always the centerpiece of all our days. Since I was a young boy I’ve always felt in my natural habitat when I’m around food, so when it’s time to talk about my craft, the dialogue flows organically. Even when I was a young dishwasher, I would always volunteer to stay late for free just to watch (and if I was lucky, to help) the line cooks at night. It was never a chore for me and was definitely a “get to” not a “have to.” My first job was at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in high school, and even then I was always super thrilled to work the grill station and took great pride in all of the burgers I sent out! That special care and attention to detail stood with me every step of the way. When I started working in “real kitchens,” that supreme focus is what separated me and ultimately what would get me noticed by my chefs. As a result of my thought process, culinary school was a piece of cake, and I graduated top of my class and on the president’s list from Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale. The opportunity to take over the culinary department of Hotel Andaluz popped up almost overnight, and after meeting with ownership I immediately felt like I was supposed to be there all along.

What is a local food issue that is important to you? Why?

Childhood hunger. Growing up in poverty in one of the very most underprivileged neighborhoods in the world (Hunts Point), this one touches close to home. We must be better as a community to ensure that no child goes hungry. Ever. And as a chef with a little bit of influence, I will never keep my mouth shut about this and will always leverage anything I have—time, money, etc—in doing all that I can to help.

You’ve competed on a couple of television food programs and have a large social media following. What are your thoughts on this era of the “celebrity chef”? Is that something you would welcome or have reservations about?

None of those things define me in any shape, form, or fashion. Ten out of ten people who have seen me compete at that level, or even follow my social media platforms, will tell you that I’m completely different than that they thought I would be, after having sat with me for even just ten minutes to get to know me. While grateful for all of those opportunities, and there’s more coming (teaser), that’s just not anywhere near the top of the list as to why I selected this industry to make a living in. In any context, I’m simply a very passionate individual with a genuine love affair with food. I think my energy and passion are what has opened those doors for me. The love that I have for my family, tireless work ethic, and lending a helping hand are the bullet points that define me. I also have a massive thirst for more knowledge and will always consider myself a student of the craft.

Moroccan Short Rib Bao Buns.

Where do you see New Mexico’s place in the national food scene?

I’ve traveled all over the globe and have been blessed to cook at the most outrageously beautiful places most would only dream of. That being said, let’s get one thing straight right now: The great state of New Mexico, without question, belongs right at the top of the list with all of the perceived food cities worldwide. Few, if any, have that distinct level of authenticity and mystique that this beautiful Land of Enchantment has and those qualities spill right into our food scene from A to Z. And I will always be on a mission to let the world know that we belong.

How does your heritage influence your cooking? Is there a place in Albuquerque you love to go to for Puerto Rican cuisine or ingredients?

Being Puerto Rican is such an honor. The flavors of our island are deep in my veins. I always build a lot of my flavor profiles for a dish with those marinating and seasoning techniques in what I call “from the ground up approach.” That’s where the dish may look five-star but the flavors are what sing. I like to go to Talin Market here in Albuquerque’s International District. They have a fantastic section of ingredients that the Puerto Rican and Cuban communities out here can choose from.

What’s a current food trend you love? What’s one you think is overrated?

I love how I’m seeing so many young chefs take a thoughtful approach to food. That’s the ticket and it’s encouraging to see. Nothing is overrated. If something lights your soul on fire and gets your juices flowing, go ahead and do your thing, even if it’s being done everywhere else. I’m not qualified to judge anyone, so I always say, as long as you’re being authentic, do your thing!

What are your favorite activities outside of the kitchen?

Spending time with Lysa and our three sons, Ilijah, Truth, and Journey. They are my “whys.” I have a great rresponsibility being their father, and nothing else that I do tops that.

Tell us something surprising.

I run. A lot. Seventy-five to ninety miles a week, three marathons in the last year and am currently training for my fourth, which will be my first World Majors marathon up in Chicago this fall.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
New Mexico, you have been so good to me and my family. Truly. And I fully intend to continue to sing your praises at any event I do, anywhere in the world. I’m proud to represent us. Your landscape, culture, food bounty, and people are majestic. Let’s take care of our youth—­ and trust me when I tell you that I’ll always be first in line to help.

125 2nd St NW, Albuquerque, 505-242-9090, hotelandaluz.com

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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.