Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Like many others, Mike White often watched TV while growing up.
In the early 1990s, Food Network was in its infancy and was ushering in a new type of chef.
The days of Julia Child will always remain, but there was a changing of the guard.
At that time, White became entranced by Emeril Lagasse.
“The first time I saw him throw in a spice and say ‘BAM!’ I was hooked,” White says with a smile. “That was the first hook. Then I became obsessed with Bobby Flay and Anthony Bourdain. They were my rock stars. I wanted to be that chef.”
White continued to watch Food Network and YouTube to feed his curiosities regarding the world of cuisine.
Flash forward to today and the 37-year-old is not only a chef but a philanthropist and business owner.
He’s the mastermind behind High Point Grill & Taproom, 9780 Coors Blvd. NW, Suite A, and The Point at the Promenade, 5200 Eubank NE.
White has been a chef for eight years, though he’s been cooking for about 20 years.
“I’m self-taught,” he says of his journey to being a chef. “I started cooking as a teenager. I’ve worked for various restaurants doing everything in the kitchen. I decided to make the leap and take the reins over and create.”
There’s not one day that is the same for White.
He wakes up after only a few hours of sleep daily and begins to tend to problems with the business.
These days, his worries are more than just how many people will come to the restaurant.
One of his biggest issues is whether he will have enough employees to staff the day.
“I also try to help in the kitchen as much as possible,” he says. “I’ll work on the line. Then it’s off to meet with vendors and testing products because I always am trying to make ourselves better.”
As of June, he’s still waiting to reopen The Point at the Promenade due to a shortage in staff.
Despite the issues, he pushes through.
“Anytime I stop, I feel like people are passing me,” he says of his determination. “I had the opportunity to have two days off recently, and I began painting and hanging new decorations in the restaurant. I put up shelves so we had more storage space. I saw it as a time to improve the restaurant.”
White describes his days as “triage management,” as he is always dealing with new issues.
“It’s a chaos that I thrive in,” he says. “I don’t know how to work any other way. Sleep doesn’t come easy for me.”
If being the chef and owning two restaurants wasn’t enough, White finds time to give back to the community.
He’s been the driving force behind the 505 Food Fights for a few years.
Like the TV series, “Chopped,” 505 Food Fights pits New Mexico chefs in a head-to-head competition.
Chefs have an hour to create two dishes featuring three of the mystery ingredients.
Spectators are charged an entry fee, which then goes to a designated New Mexico charity.
In the last few years, more than 20 New Mexico charities have received more than $20,000 from 505 Food Fights. Some of the organizations include The Kitchen Kids, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, New Mexico Autism Society, New Mexico Chapter of the American Heart Association, Rebels with a Cause and Pediatric Congenital Heart Association, just to name a few.
“I’m in the process of figuring out the next event and who the competitors will be,” he says.
If that wasn’t enough, White is also at the helm of the nonprofit The Kitchen Kids, which gives free education and cooking courses where children of all ages and abilities get to work side-by-side with industry professionals.
“We’re going to have a block party in July,” he says. “Some of my Kitchen Kids students will compete in a 505 Food Fight-style event. They will be under the guidance of a local chef as they compete. The chefs will be there to make sure all of the health codes are being followed and to ensure that each dish is properly created.”
White took culinary arts classes in high school and knows the importance of giving that avenue to children.
It’s the impetus behind The Kitchen Kids.
“If I had the opportunity when I was a kid to be involved in this, I would have been first in line,” he says. “It’s really cool because many of the chefs that I work with on this program have been on Food Network shows. I’ve been on a few shows and it’s great to be able to be that positive example for the next generation of chefs.”
Though born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, White considers himself a New Mexican.
He grew up in the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area after his dad retired from the military and got a job at Intel.
White enjoys the friendly competition in the local culinary scene because it only helps the quality of cuisine.
“I’m a big supporter of local chefs,” he says. “We need to have locally-owned restaurants around here because these are the places putting their unique spin on food. I’ll often go and support the local restaurants, not only to try their food, but see what they do best. Then I can step back and take a look at what I’m doing and how I can improve. Supporting local restaurants is important because each place adds value and culture to the scene. Otherwise, it would be a sanitized food scene with cookie cutter chain restaurants.”
Green Chile Chicken Philly
6 ounces chopped chicken breast (marinate the day before in your favorite fajita seasoning)
2 ounces New Mexico green chile, your desired heat level
½ cup sliced white onions
½ cup sliced mixed bell peppers
1 tablespoon Chimayó red chile powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ ounces shredded cheddar
1 ½ ounces shredded provolone
2 ounces guacamole
Green Chile Aioli
2 tablespoons olive oil mayo
Pinch of parsley, fresh minced
A splash of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of pureed green chile
1 teaspoon of pureed roasted garlic
Over high heat, saute the marinated chicken, bell peppers, onions and red chile powder (in a saute pan or flat grill), approximately 6 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
To make the aioli, combine ingredients and whisk all items together.
Dress your favorite hoagie roll with green chile aioli. Pile high with chicken/veggie mixture, and top with cheeses.
Place sandwich under broiler until cheese begins to brown, approximately 90 seconds and serve with guacamole.
Recipe by Mike W. White, chef and founder of the High Point Grill