As Chef Edgar Beas and I sit down in the cozy library of the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, one of his qualities immediately stands out. “You strike me as being quite young for an executive chef,” I begin. “Yeah, I get that a lot. A lot,” he says as he rests his chin in the crook of his left hand. A tattoo of a tree climbs from his left hand and swirls around his wrist.
The 29-year-old has been at the helm of Restaurant Anasazi for five months, but his tenure in the kitchen began during childhood. In elementary school, he cooked with his mother. They made the dishes of his Mexican heritage, honoring the ingredients, creating rich sauces, and building layers of flavor, all qualities that are hallmarks of his dishes to this day. When out to dinner, his father would sneak him into restaurant kitchens—“It was bizarre!” Chef Edgar says—so that the budding chef could observe, taste and see his future. As soon as he graduated high school, the budding chef attended culinary school in his hometown of San Diego/Tijuana at the San Diego Culinary Institute and began working professionally at age 18.
Edgar started as the garde manger, preparing salads. He was at the bottom of the kitchen hierarchy—just as he wanted it. “I worked my way through every single station in the line of the kitchen. I believe it’s important for a chef to understand everything,” he says.
Chef Edgar went on to study in Spain’s Basque Country at Martin Berasategui Restaurant, where he trained with Chef Martin Berasategui, who has a total of eight Michelin stars to his name, three of which are for his namesake restaurant. Back in the U.S., Edgar took the helm of San Francisco’s Chez Papa Resto. Most recently, he was chef de cuisine at Madera, the Michelin-starred restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park. He took a promotion and relocated to Santa Fe for the Inn of the Anasazi position in March.
Spanish influences sprinkle his dishes, as in the Pulpo a la Plancha, Galician-style octopus, served with charred avocado, whipped potato, sofrito broth and shishito pepper. In Spain, Edgar learned to respect ingredients and balance flavors.
Today, Chef’s cuisine is modern and progressive, defying categorization in any one style. In a warm starter, the subtle flavor of grilled artichoke balances a smoky garbanzo puree, tart pickled cherry tomatoes, and the grassy finish of purslane. In a main dish, local lamb saddle is kissed by apricots—the stone fruit of the season—English peas, rice porridge and goat cheese curds. Diners shouldn’t get attached to these dishes, however delectable they sound. Local ingredients drive the menus, which may change daily or weekly as Chef Edgar adapts to availability. “There are certain restaurants that do very signature dishes. Here, it’s different. I enjoy the challenge of adapting to the seasonality and truly enjoy sourcing locally—not just because it’s a trend—because it supports our local farmers,” he says.
So far, Edgar’s been pleasantly surprised with the availability and quality of local ingredients. “I knew there was local produce [in Santa Fe], but I didn’t know it was going to be this good,” he says. He partners frequently with Squash Blossom, a farm distribution hub, to create menus that feature 90-percent local ingredients. Even the eggs and flour for the perfectly cooked pasta in the hand-rolled cavatelli is local. The venison sausage that tops it is made in-house. Staples like garlic and onion are from local farmers too, as are, quite fittingly, items like squash blossoms that make the vegetarian dishes sing.
Although Chef Edgar made a name for himself elevating vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes in previous restaurants, he brushes off this “specialty” as merely part of his guiding principals. “I don’t cater to vegetarians or vegans. Just sometimes a plate is nicer if you use produce. It’s just about enhancing the fruit or the vegetable,” he says.
For Edgar, a dish begins with a star ingredient evolves as he enhances certain flavors and balances others. “I just go to the Farmers’ Market, come back, and start cooking. I know my way around flavor profiles. I also enjoy pairing different combinations of ingredients, like doing pickled green strawberries with bone marrow. That’s not a common combination, but the acidity of the strawberries cuts the fat,” he says.
Although he’s worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, the chef doesn’t have Michelin aspirations himself—even if the guide were to rank restaurants in Santa Fe, which Edgar describes as having an amazing amount of talent. “I don’t want people to think Michelin defines me as a chef. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and too much pressure. You lose focus on what you really want to cook and what you really want to do. Just for a Michelin star. Just for a trend. It’s overrated,” he says.
Chef Edgar keeps his focus on the food. He thinks of himself as a restaurant chef rather than a hotel chef. And except for the occasional guest who charges a meal to his room, at Anasazi Restaurant, it’s easy to forget you’re dining in a hotel. A raw wood room divider subtly separates the dining area from the bar, where cocktails like the Whiskey Smash (with Overholt Rye Whiskey, mint, lemon and soda) are refreshing in the summer heat.
In the dining room, stacked rock climbs the walls behind tawny leather sofas. It’s surely a white-linen tablecloth environment—though there are no actual tablecloths strewn across tables. Rather, placemats are laid on high-varnish wood tables. Attentive servers place baskets of house-made bread, including an intriguing black focaccia made with caramelized onion and onion ash. As the courses unfold, diners may be served handmade pottery plates with bright tomato and melon salad, dry-aged steak, or dessert churros, as light as sugary clouds in a salty caramel sauce.
The meal is a result of the chef’s team of a dozen, which he oversees like a conductor, using his eyes to cook, as often as his palate. “Kitchen is kind of like an orchestra. If it’s too big, you can’t really command the whole kitchen. If it’s small, everyone’s kind of close together,” he says.
Although Edgar knows that not all of his staff members aspire to be chefs, he teachers them as if they did. “When I was a cook, I had a lot of mentors, and when someone believes in you, it makes you better… I want them to keep growing,” he says.
Chef Edgar also mentors his five-year-old son, who is soaking up the family’s outdoor excursions this summer. The family’s been camping and fishing in the Jemez Mountains. Chef Edgar has also been exploring Native American cooking techniques, which I’m sure will soon become part of this talented young chef’s repertoire.
Restaurant Anasazi is located at 113 Washington Ave. in Santa Fe. 505.988.3030, rosewoodhotels.com.
Story by Ashley M. Biggers