Farm & Table, Executive Chef

Local Hero: Best Chef, Albuquerque

Photos by Sergio Salvador

Chef Steve Riley was introduced to the world of fine cooking by acclaimed Chef Jennifer James, working alongside her at Le Café Miche, Graze, and Jennifer James Contemporary Cuisine. In 2004, he embarked on a thirteen-year career in Southern California, beginning at Chez Mélange where he worked with executive chef Robert Bell.

In 2010, he and Chef Bell opened Mama Terano in Palos Verdes. He returned home in 2017 with a desire to contribute to New Mexico’s growing culinary scene. He joined Farm & Table in 2019.

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?

It has been a long and wonderful journey—from my hometown of Albuquerque to Los Angeles and back to Albuquerque—to be where I am today. Finding a place that closely aligns with my own beliefs of supporting local businesses and building community was what brought me to Farm & Table, where I am very grateful to be a part of such a wonderful team of professionals.

How have your experiences outside of New Mexico shaped your culinary approach?

Los Angeles opened the culinary world to me and showed me the importance of fresh, quality local ingredients. Working with Robert Bell at Chez Melange really taught me to keep things simple and to let Mother Nature shine though.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with?

Cooking with the seasons is my favorite way to create. One ingredient in particular that shines in all seasons is corn. With its never-ending possibilities of flavors and textures, it is truly an amazing ingredient in every season.

What inspires you these days? How have you managed to keep your spirits up in 2020?

Yes, 2020 sure has been quite the roller coaster for everyone, especially for us in the service industry. Honestly, I am very grateful for the people that surround me on a daily basis. Whether at work or at home, their everlasting positivity keeps me moving forward every day.

What do you think the biggest lessons from 2020 might be for local chefs going forward?

A big lesson I know I have learned this year is how to be flexible and pivot to the needs of the moment. I have also seen just how strong our team is at dealing with such uncertainty and the ability to stay positive during these trying times.

What’s a local food issue that’s important to you? Why?

A local food issue that’s important to me is the commitment, or lack thereof, by many in the food industry to truly source local. Sadly, the status quo for most restaurants and hotels is to purchase the cheapest ingredients, often pre-cut, pre-prepared, and pre-packaged, leaving behind a systematic lack of love, care, and attention to making food. When we are making food from scratch with local ingredients, we are making better food. It supports our local economy while raising the bar for the food industry in our state. Eat local, shop local, and use local purveyors for locally made artisan products, meat, cheese, produce, dairy, condiments, and whatever else you can. This is the clearest way to send a strong message about the importance of local food.

What do you like to eat on a day off?

Barbecue! The slow, long cook of barbecue is a great change of pace on my days off. Or going on an adventure to find what other great chefs are creating in New Mexico.

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

Thank you to everyone who voted.

8917 4th Street NW, Albuquerque, farmandtablenm.com

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