8 Questions with Executive Chef Zachary Perron of Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
-Article written and interview done by Jeffrey Smith, Cleaver and Blade New Mexico.
What’s cooking misfits?! In the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Chef Zachary Perron, and I believe he’s a great chef. I think what he’s doing at Ortiz in the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is amazing. This guy is extremely humble, and he’s very knowledgeable and thoughtful about his cooking. I really enjoyed interviewing chef Zach, and I’m pretty sure you will take something away from this brilliant chef.
Where are you from? How long have you been in New Mexico?
Zachary Perron: I’m from upstate New York and I’ve been in New Mexico for almost 14 years, call it 13 and a half. Somebody told me when I moved here that Santa Fe is the type of place that if it embraces you, you’ll do well, but it doesn’t always embrace you. I guess I was lucky, Santa Fe has embraced me. I’ve really had a great time here. I met my wife here, my sons were born here, and I’ve been able to make a career here in the culinary business.
What would you like people to know about Ortiz and the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza?
Zachary Perron: We have great small plates. We do that extremely well. This lounge area is wide open, recently redesigned, and it’s gorgeous. People need to come and be in this place.
What type of food do you serve at Ortiz? it seems eclectic.
Zachary Perron: I guess I would call it eclectic Americana, whatever that means… You can call it Southwest eclectic. We have a green chile cheeseburger. It’s good. Not a lot of people know about our carving station for lunch. We do pork loin, roasted prime rib, and turkey breast weekdays Monday through Friday. A lot of folks who work for the city, county, and state will come over on their lunch breaks. A lot of other people around here they just don’t know about it, but it’s awesome.
What other food operations do you manage for the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza?
Zachary Perron: We have a full banquet operation here. We are going after the non-traditional smaller weddings market. Most of those folks aren’t from here so we’re sort of a destination wedding space for people who want to get married in Santa Fe. We’re looking at like 40 to 100 people. Anything bigger and I think folks are going to want to go to the El Dorado or maybe Hotel Santa Fe (to bigger spaces).
What are your goals?
Zachary Perron: I just want to keep getting better at what I do. I take care of people, I feed them and make them happy, and I make things beautiful. I use everything around me as much as I possibly can. I learn from the people around me and I try to do good for them. I just want to get better at that. That’s my goal.
What ingredients or techniques inspire you most?
Zachary Perron: I bought the James Beard Foundation book, it’s called “Waste Not.” They just put it out. It’s beautiful, and the whole thing is just do as much as you possibly can with everything you have. So, I’m trying to put that at the center because as chefs that’s kind of what we do anyway. I’m trying to really key in on that lately, and I think that as a business here what we do will improve, but also, what the people around me are learning it’s going to help them. And I mean, shoot, why throw anything away if you can use it?
What do you recommend people do in Santa Fe? Of course, after they eat at Ortiz…
Zachary Perron: Well the Christmas lights are still up on the Plaza right now, it being April. But I love that, and I tell people all the time, wait till it gets dark and take a walk-up San Francisco street.
What are your thoughts on Southwest Cuisine and what really makes New Mexico stand out from some of the other Southwestern food scenes?
Zachary Perron: I mean, we’ve got chile... I met these pepper farmers down in Hatch a few years back. I said something about the pepper being an Anaheim, and oh they were mad. They said California stole it from them and they’ve been growing it in New Mexico for hundreds of years, and it’s probably true. I haven’t been here that long but how can you argue with a flavor like that? And the red is distinctive from the green yet it’s the same thing. That’s what I think is at the heart of what we do with food in this state. You have this thing and it’s got its own special flavors and colors. I mean a fresh roasted New Mexico green pepper, it looks great, tastes great, but I mean it smells wonderful. Then you can leave it on the vine and you just let it go a little further, in our sun, in our soil and it becomes something completely distinct and different from what it was before.
I have found a great new place for me to hangout at, just minutes from the Plaza (walking). You’ve been introduced to this kick ass chef and I strongly encourage you to try the deliciousness at Ortiz. The bar/lounge is swanky, and I love how wide open the seating is. If you like watching tv while you eat and drink, you can do that. On the other hand, if you prefer less distractions there’s a separate lounge/dining area away from the bar. The food is really tasty, and I’ve always received exceptional service. Santa Fe has so many great restaurant bars, and Ortiz is one of them. Check it out for yourself and be impressed!