Santa Fe-based chef Fernando Olea wins James Beard Award - Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe-based chef Fernando Olea wins James Beard Award

Fernando Olea is chef and co-owner of Sazón restaurant in Santa Fe. Olea was awarded a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest on Monday. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

Fernando Olea’s journey in the culinary world has been full of creations.

On Monday night, Olea was named Best Chef, Southwest, at the James Beard Award ceremony in Chicago.

The Santa Fe-based chef at Sazón bested the competition which included two other New Mexico-based chefs.

The Salazar Brothers from La Guelaguetza in Albuquerque and Martín Rios from Restaurant Martín in Santa Fe were also finalists in the category.

Olea, who is originally from Mexico City, has been based in Santa Fe since 1991, where he’s become known for his contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes.

He prides himself on using Mexican Indigenous and culinary traditions with locally sources produce and meats.

The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.

The James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards were established in 1991 and is one of five separate recognition programs of the awards.

Olea is the latest New Mexican to win a James Beard Award.

In 2016, Rancho de Chimayo Restaurante picked up an award.

Albuquerque’s Mary & Tito’s Cafe won in 2010.

In 2003, The Shed in Santa Fe picked up the honor and in 1999, Café Pasqual’s took home an honor.

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