Ten 3 Chef J. Martin Torrez strives to deliver dishes to match the spectacular views from atop the Sandias - Albuquerque Journal

Ten 3 Chef J. Martin Torrez strives to deliver dishes to match the spectacular views from atop the Sandias

J. Martin Torrez, executive chef at Ten 3, is the creative force behind the restaurant, which is located atop the Sandia Mountains. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Editor’s note: Cocina Connection is a once-a-month feature that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a New Mexico-based chef, who, in turn, shares some recipes.

Like many others, J. Martin Torrez wakes up each day and gets ready for work.

After a commute to the base of the Sandia Mountains, he rides the Sandia Peak Tramway.

When the 15-minute ride is complete, Torrez’s view of Albuquerque is one that never grows old at 10,300 feet above sea level.

As the executive chef at Ten 3, atop the Sandia Mountains, the 36-year-old is a driving force in bringing an elevated dining experience for guests at the restaurant.

“It’s a unique destination,” he says of the restaurant. “There aren’t many places where you can dine at the top of a mountain. Being in the kitchen is my calm through all the chaos.”

Torrez has been in his position for just a bit under three years.

Yet, the stepping stones for his journey in the culinary world began decades ago.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, Torrez began finding his place in the kitchen alongside his mother.

He would often lend a hand with creating her carne adovada and tortillas.

“It was during the holidays when she loved to cook for her family,” Torrez recalls. “I picked up a lot of ideas from her.”

J. Martin Torrez creates a dish inside the kitchen of Ten 3 in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)at 

By the time he was 15, he was washing dishes in the restaurant at Hotel Albuquerque.

With his foot in the kitchen, that’s when his education began.

As he moved around various restaurants within the city, Torrez never stopped being a sponge – soaking in the information from his mentors, all while learning how to avoid the pitfalls of the incredibly harsh industry.

“When I was 22 or 23, I got the chef de cuisine job at The Artichoke Cafe,” he says. “I’ve been able to put my own spin on dishes since then.”

After 20 years in the industry, Torrez continues to not only be challenged, but find that daily rush from his current position.

“Every kitchen is a completely new environment,” he says. “What Benny Abruzzo has designed with Ten 3 is like no other place I’ve been. It’s wonderful to create dishes inspired by the surroundings.”

Torrez says when curating the menu at Ten 3, he has no boundaries.

“Management gives us complete creative control over the menu,” he says. “The general manager trusts my vision for the menu. When people come up here, they want an unforgettable experience. My pastry chef, Tyler (Linebarger), and I think outside of the box when creating. You’re getting a different perspective up here from location to what’s on the menu.”

While there’s no day that is the same, Torrez does have a routine.

The 15-minute ride up the tram is filled with music in his headphones, preparing him for the many tasks that will arise throughout the day.

Once there, he will take stock of the situation and began writing out specials for the night.

“We have a daily catch or we’ll do a Butcher’s Board,” he says. “I try to stay involved in the trends of what’s going on in restaurants around the world.”

The one defining factor that Torrez and his staff have to contend with is Mother Nature.

Because the restaurant is located at the top of the Sandia Mountains, the staff has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“We could be ready to have an amazing dinner service and then we’ll get shut down because of the weather,” he says. “We then have to begin to cancel the reservations so that we keep everyone safe.”

Torrez was one of the many that were stranded overnight on Dec. 31, 2021, on the tram before being rescued on New Year’s Day.

“We can have winds that change so quickly,” he says. “Spring is probably the worst of all seasons when it comes to weather.”

Despite contending with Mother Nature, Torrez thoroughly enjoys that rush as well.

As a leader in the kitchen, he also wants to pay it forward when it comes to educating the next generation of culinary workers.

“I got a bunch of young cooks working for me and I want to help keep them motivated,” he says. “I try to help them stay ahead of the curve and make sure that their love for food continues to grow, just as mine does.”

Torrez’s goal is keep pushing himself through his ideas.

“Me and (general manger) Bill’s (Howley) plan is to make Ten 3 world renowned,” he says. “Each day, we try to make it an elevated experience. The recognition will come in time because the hard work will pay off.”

Lamb shank created by chef J. Martin Torrez. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Rack of Lamb

12 to 14 ounce lamb rack

Salt and pepper

Lightly salt and pepper the lamb rack. In a medium-sized pan, sear on medium high for about five minutes, carmelizing on the fat end.

Pull from pan and finish in oven at 400 degrees for eight minutes.

Butternut Squash, Sage and Pumpkin Puree

1 butternut squash, halved and deseeded

4 tablespoons butter (melted)

4 tablespoons butter (not melted)

8 ounces of pumpkin pureed (canned)

3 sage leaves

5 whole roasted garlic cloves

Half a chopped yellow onion

1 quart heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375 degrees.

Salt and pepper the butternut squash. Use the 4 tablespoons of melted butter to coat butternut squash. Roast for 35-40 minutes with skin side down on cookie sheet.

Should be fork tender (be able to push a fork through once roasted). Pull out of oven and let cool.

While the butternut squash is cooling, grab a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, add the non-melted butter. Sweat the onion and the garlic. Add the heavy cream, pumpkin and sage. Turn down to simmer.

While simmering, clean the skin off the butternut squash. Add it to the pumpkin cream mixture and stir. Cook for about five minutes.

Add mixture to blender and puree. Salt and pepper to taste.

Luxardo Cherry Portwine Reduction

1 750 milliliter bottle port wine

8 ounces Luxardo cherries in their syrup

1 pound brown sugar

2 zested and juiced oranges

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium-size pot and reduce liquid on low heat by three-quarters.

(Recipe by J. Martin Torrez, Ten 3 executive chef)

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