At Santa Fe’s Restaurant Martín, chef-owner Martín Rios calls his cooking style Progressive American because, he says, “it reflects everything I’ve been through in my career.” For Rios, who has been nominated three times for a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest, that includes many, many ways of thinking about food.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he worked with his grandmother in an outdoor street-market kitchen, he learned much about selecting fruits and vegetables. After immigrating to the United States and finishing school, he was set on a career as a chef and worked his way up through the restaurant ranks to eventually become executive chef at Santa Fe’s Eldorado Hotel.
Feeling there were still many things he wanted to learn, Rios left his job to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, followed by externships under French chef Georges Blanc, American David Burke, and world pastry champion, Montreal, Canada’s, Jean-Marc Guillot.
Realizing the dream of having a place of his own, Rios in 2009 opened Restaurant Martín with his wife and business partner, Jennifer. There, he takes his Mexican heritage and his American experience, his French training and his love of Asian ingredients to create a menu that incorporates them all. Rios shines with dishes like a yellowfin tuna tartare with a Hass avocado mousse, coconut-wasabi purée, a green papaya salad, and black sesame Vietnamese-dashi syrup. Or scallops with a yuzu glaze, soybean-shallot purée, pressed melon, a fennel and spring onion pancake, and blackened tomatillos.
He’s also collected some of the recipes in his 2015 cookbook, The Restaurant Martín Cookbook: Sophisticated Home Cooking From the Celebrated Santa Fe Restaurant. Rios has twice been named Chef of the Year by the state of New Mexico, has appeared on Iron Chef America, and devotes time to nonprofits Cooking with Kids and the Horse Shelter, New Mexico’s largest rescue for abandoned, abused, and neglected horses.