Eat A Conversation with SkyFire Executive Chef Pablo Peñalosa
What were your initial thoughts when you arrived in Santa Fe?
When I arrived in Santa Fe, I was struck by “a different kind of America.” Santa Fe has kept its heritage, which I love. It is not a copy/paste location and is quite unique. This city has a lot of art as well, which is something I love.
What kind of art do you appreciate?
I like modern art. I respect all art, but I really like abstract modern art. When I was living in London, I used to go to the Tate Modern. I love that place.
What do you think New Mexico’s biggest food influences are?
This land has Indigenous, Spanish, British, Mexican, and Latin American influences. I am going to try to include all these influences in my cuisine. I need to discover everything – it is about discovery. Discovery is humble. I am here to learn new favors and to try to play with them.
What kind of food are you most influenced by?
Mexican and Spanish food, especially. My Mother lives in Madrid – so a lot of Spanish food.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school in Mexico City at Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. I attended a five-year program where I studied gastronomy, not just cooking. I studied the history and the entire scope of food and how it shapes culture.
What else influences your food?
The environment. In Santa Fe especially, the food needs to be a little rustic because you feel that everywhere in Santa Fe – it is a little rustic. I cook with wood all the time and fill the kitchen with that smell. Cooking with wood is very important to me, and it is something I am committed to continuing at SkyFire.
What type of woods do you cook with?
At the moment it is what we can find because of the fires. We are cooking with apple wood right now. Hickory and apple – these types of woods produce a very nice flavor. If we can get local woods like piñon in the future, that would be great.
What are some of your favorite local ingredients?
I love Chimayo chile. The Chicos corn is amazing. There is a lot here in New Mexico for me to play with. I am going to show you unexpected ways to use the food you are accustomed to eating here in New Mexico, because I am not very traditional either in food or art. I try to pursue something different and to discover what is next. What if I mix this favor with that one—what happens?
What is happening next at SkyFire?
I am excited about our upcoming Art Dinner on July 21st. I am collaborating with the artist Kenneth Johnson, and we have already had some very interesting conversations and have found intersections in our cultures.