Former country club chef readying new 14-seat eatery

charlesplaceALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Charles Benzaquen’s retirement dream looks like it soon will become a reality.

Benzaquen, the longtime executive chef at the Albuquerque Country Club, said he hopes to open his 14-seat, five-table restaurant next month inside a home at 1223 Tijeras NW. He said he’s only waiting on his beer and wine license and has a hearing scheduled with the city for April 28.

The restaurant — called Charles Place — has been years in the making. Though he just retired from ACC in 2012, Benzaquen bought the 1,500-square-foot home 15 years ago with plans to eventually use it for a small restaurant.

It’s been more than a decade since he first sought a zoning change that would allow for that use. His plan met with some neighborhood resistance, he said, but the zoning change was approved a few years ago.

Benzaquen has since made some necessary upgrades to the property, outfitting the kitchen with commercial-grade appliances and enhancing accessibility with a ramp outside of the door.

Benzaquen — who grew up in the Middle East but has been trained in classic French technique — said the restaurant won’t focus on a specific cuisine or style of food. He said he plans to offer a different prix-fixe menu every weekend.

“This is pretty much for retirement,” he said. ” It’s not to make money per se.”

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