Andy Barnes’ love affair with the culinary world has been decades in the making.
He can’t quite pinpoint the moment when he fell in love.
It could have been when he started working at the Zia Diner in high school.
Perhaps it was during his time at The Bull Ring in Santa Fe.
Despite him not being aware of the exact moment, it’s the rush of being inside a kitchen that makes his heart beat faster.
His love and excitement has only grown as the owner and chef at Dinner for Two at 106 N. Guadalupe St. in Santa Fe.
“I started in the restaurant business at 14 where I was a dishwasher,” he says. “I moved to prep cook and so on. It’s been an incredible journey for me and it keeps getting better.”
About five years ago, Barnes bought his parents out of the family business – one they had run for more than two decades.
He wanted to be sole proprietor to make some changes and keep himself challenged.
“I was the chef here at the restaurant for 17 years and I was going to leave and go grow weed,” he says. “My parents were going to sell the restaurant and I stepped in. It’s been a transition for me to be able to have a position to change the direction of the restaurant.”
First was a liquor license to add to the ambiance of the restaurant.
Next, he stepped up his game in the kitchen to create some new dishes.
His love for the culinary world continues to grow.
“Honestly, I’m like a pirate,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t think I would make it in the 9-to-5 world. With all the swearing I do, it’s not good for appearance.”
Barnes’ journey to being a chef and owner has been full of educated decisions.
He began learning his way around the kitchen even more through the cooking program at the Santa Fe Community College, after he graduated from Santa Fe High School.
After that he moved to Vail, Colorado, where he took his newly-refined skills and put them to the test.
Not too long after, he got a sponsorship to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York.
“That was an experience,” he chuckles. “It was such an intense time and I was open to learning everything that I could.”
Returning to Santa Fe nearly 20 years ago, Barnes aimed to make a change within the culinary community in Santa Fe.
An avid traveler, he’s grateful to be part of a local community that has international recognition.
“I’m forever a student,” he says. “When I travel, I look at all the different cuisine and see how I can adapt it to fit in Santa Fe. Santa Fe has some of the best restaurants in the world,” he says. “I’ve been to Paris, London, Central America, and we’re in the game as far as having some of the best. It’s something to be proud of.”
As Barnes slowly shifts to running the front of house as well, he’s mindful of everyone’s place.
“I don’t step on anyone’s toes,” he says. “I’m forever grateful that I’ve had the experiences I’ve had in this career. I’ve worked every single one of the positions and I know how hard it is.”
Barnes and his staff will create dishes such as Filet Oscar, which is a tender filet covered with green chile queso and topped with lump crab.
Or there’s the grass fed, organic NM Filet Mignon, which is cocoa, coffee and garlic encrusted with a pomegranate balsamic reduction.
While the food is the centerpiece of the experience, Barnes has also lent his knowledge to help develop drinks that are paired with the food.
“I brought my culinary knowledge to bartending and that has changed the game,” he says. “Trying to balance flavors is a science. You want some sweet with the bitter. It’s ever changing and I’ve got a staff that continues to challenge themselves.”
Barnes admits there’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to cocktails.
“I try to write down what we experiment with,” he explains. “We made a banana margarita and I’ve been trying to re-create it because no one wrote it down.”
Barnes says his goal has always been to create dishes out of love for food.
For a good portion of his life, he has been able to accomplish those goals.
“When I first started, I wanted to be included as one of the best,” he says. “Now, I want to encourage others in different ways. I have a lot to share with those willing to learn about this career. The next generation is already here to challenge themselves. I’m here to help guide them on their own journey.”
2 ounces brown sugar Bourbon
½ ounce cinnamon infused simple syrup ½ ounce fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
Add ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake hard. Strain into glass with crushed ice.
It’s called the Harlot because pumpkin spice gets around!
(Recipe courtesy of Andy Barnes)
5 pounds pork butt
5 Roma tomatoes
1 large onions
10 garlic cloves
1 Dos Equis beer
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons bay leaves
1 pound New Mexico red chile
Add ingredients to a braiser and enough water to cover.
Braise for about 8 hours and a fork easily shreds meat.
Shred the pork meat, then smash all ingredients with remaining water.
(Recipe courtesy of Andy Barnes)