When Chef Chris Maher was asked where his passions lie, he answered, “in front of the camera and behind the stove.” That’s because this respected chef, whose Momentitos de la Vida restaurant was a Taos fixture for years (Maher sold it in 2005), is also a longtime actor. And not just a regional-theater kind of actor but one of the genuine Hollywood kind, in series such as The West Wing and 24 and films such as Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, and raised in Toronto, Canada, Maher (who was born Maher Boutros) came to love cooking when he was attending New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. A side gig waiting tables and working in the kitchen at restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s Tavern on the Green set the stage for a second career in food. And after years in Los Angeles, he turned once again to the kitchen, catering when he wasn’t acting.

After vacationing in Taos, Maher decided to make it home and make a more permanent career in cooking. He bought a building in sore need of repair, renovated it, and opened Momentitos de la Vida in 1998, which the Santa Fe New Mexican called, “a playground for the senses, full-on beauty of place matched by exquisite attention to the myriad details of gustatory pleasure.”

In 2004, Maher and his wife, Valerie, launched Cooking Studio Taos, in nearby Arroyo Seco, giving classes in skills from Southern Italian and Moroccan cuisines to Spanish tapas, and throwing monthly Secret Suppers, five-course farm-to-table dinners in private homes, art galleries, and other unexpected spots.