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Editorial: New Mexico chefs strut their stuff

New Mexico chefs are smokin’ hot. We knew that; now so does the world. In less than a month, two Duke City chefs have shown they have the chops to be top winners – and $10,000 richer – on the popular Food Network show “Chopped,” hosted by Ted Allen.

A chef is eliminated after each round – appetizer, entree and dessert. On the Feb. 28 episode, Marie Yniguez, owner and chef of Bocadillos at Green Jeans Farmery, took the top prize. On the Jan. 31 episode, Carrie Eagle, executive chef at Farm & Table in the North Valley, sliced and diced the competition. And in November, Santacafé executive chef Fernando Ruiz also won “Chopped,” impressing the judges with dishes with Southwestern style. He said he learned to cook from his mother and grandmother and learned to cook with expired food items while in prison.

The popular show pits four chefs against the clock and each other to create something hopefully delicious – or at least edible – using sometimes crazy ingredients. Yniguez had to turn sushi burgers, fresh longan berries and pork floss into an appetizer (she made tacos). For an entree, she had to use buffalo top sirloin, porcini mushrooms, aji dulce and sea buckthorn juice.

“I proved to myself that I’m not just a sandwich maker. I set out to do it, and I did it,” Yniguez said, referring to her business that began with selling burritos in a cafe in the South Valley. She also provides breakfasts and lunches for 500 students a day at the Native American Community Academy.

Eagle, who used to teach kindergarten and has been at Farm & Table for close to two years, got ingredients including mac and cheese, artichokes and a stadium starch for the episode with the theme of “game day party.” “I wouldn’t make a career of cooking on TV,” she “But in the competition setting, I like the opportunity to have a set of challenges and come through.”

Congrats chefs, for spreading the word New Mexico is a great foodie destination. Locals knew that. Now so does everyone else.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.