Sunday, April 2, 2023

Corrales Chef Spreads the Word about NM Dishes and Ingredients


Chef Jon Young of Corrales has been named New Mexico Food Ambassador by the Dept. of Agriculture for a tenure of two years. That means he will shout the word about local food and food products throughout the country to food producers and distributors. Some lucky members of the public also will see demonstrations and taste the dishes that Chef Jon and his assistants will be prepping.

"I am really excited to see where this goes," said the delighted Chef Young. "We'll be going to different places to discuss New Mexico agriculture and the rich traditions in our food. We have specific cuisine nobody else has, and it's a melting pot of the world. I'll be a cultural ambassador, but with food and a wealth of knowledge to impart to other chefs."

Chef Young has a lot to say about the melting pot of New Mexico. "Corn tortillas and the corn itself is Indigenous food. The Spanish influence is the addition of heavy pork. Onions and squash and corn are native to New Mexico, too. Corn was the Americas' flour. Wheat actually comes from Central Europe. And as of right now, we have one of the largest pecan growing operations, in southern New Mexico."

When asked where he learned to be a chef, Chef Young was happy to recall his Corrales roots. "I am third-generation CorraleƱo," he said."At first I learned from older ladies and gentlemen around the Village. I was that geeky kid not watching cartoons but watching Julia Child and other PBS shows with TV chefs. In the '70s, I'd get a haircut at the local barber shop and then talk to Henry Clompton, who owned Country BBQ. By the mid-'80s, I was 14 years old and working at Casa Vieja, the premier French restaurant here at the time; the owner was Chef Jean-Pierre Gozard. I worked on and off for him for years; he's still a chef."

The first event for this year's Food Ambassador program (which is in its second year) will be held in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque at a to-be-announced location. "We'll be doing a traditional matanza in underground pits. If you get there at 1pm on Feb. 25, you can see us taking the food out of the ground," he said. Check the NM Dept. of Agriculture's new website for information on this event and about the chef ambassadors program: and

Chef Young owns At Last Farm in Corrales. The Food Ambassadors program has given his future plans a dash of inspiration. He expects to start a food truck with food that is "75% pasta based" and will include fresh ingredients from the farm. He also wants to begin a new program within his Food Ambassadorship.

"This Dept. of Agriculture program is a nationwide effort to educate food sellers and producers about New Mexico foods. Annually, big food producers hit the culinary schools to talk to students about their products. There is no such effort to promote locally grown food to the students. I want to show culinary students how to cook with local ingredients and how to source locally." Chef Young also will teach in the CNM culinary courses including CNM's Street Food Institute outreach.

Chef will be traveling a lot this year, to Miami, Chicago, Napa Valley and Las Vegas, Nev., among other places, but he is excited to do so. "There's going to be a ripple effect that's going to make a bigger impact on New Mexico-based farms and people, and I have two years to drop the small pebbles," Chef Young said.

To Chef Young, the Food Ambassador designation is a crowning achievement in his career. "I've had restaurants and they are no longer and I was looking at my place in this newer food industry," he said. "This is more about legacy."


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