Photo: Tina Larkin
If a good chef must have a passion for food, a cooking background and a healthy dose of creativity then Richard Pyatt, one of the youngest chefs in town, fits the bill. He is 19 years old and has been working at Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery, on and off, for the last three years.
Pyatt, born and raised inTaos, attended TheTaosWaldorf School and Taos High School, where he participated in Benjie Apodaca’s Culinary Arts Program. “When I started my sophomore year at Taos High, I had already been working at Joseph’s Table as a dish washer, and I was interested in moving up in the business,” he said. “I wanted to know more about how to prepare food professionally.”
The classes gave Pyatt an opportunity to develop his talents and explore the world of cooking.
“He was a good student and really enjoyed what he did,” said Benjie Apodaca, Pyatt’s instructor and current Chair of the Culinary Arts Program at UNM-Taos.
Pyatt continued to work in the kitchen all through high school. “I liked the idea of having a good skill that I could take with me anywhere and get a job,” he said. “In that sense, being a chef was a career choice that I made early.”
It seems that this was the right choice. “Richard is extremely enjoyable to work with because of his enthusiasm for cooking and working with quality ingredients,” said Wanda Eskebach, Eske’s owner and kitchen manager. “The culinary program at Taos High School was a vehicle for him to discover how much he could do. Richard cares about food and can go very far in this field.”
Pyatt’s favorite dish (to eat) is a good duck confit. “But my favorite dish to prepare is a nice Caprese salad,” he said. “It is easier to make, delicious and difficult to mess up with.”
As for appliances, he doesn’t have a favorite but admits that “the Robot Coupe food processor does the most work the fastest.” He doesn’t really like slicers. “I am always cutting my fingers with them,” he said. “I also like my J.A. Henckel knives from Germany. They go with me whenever I’m cooking.”
Besides working at Eske’s three times a week, Pyatt cooks all the time at home and for friends. He enjoys his own creations. “But I admit to eating a lot of cereal,” he said.
When Pyatt isn’t working in the kitchen, he is fond of skiing the steeps atTaosSkiValleyand participating in extreme ski competitions. He raced competitively with Alain Veth’s,Taos Ski Academy, and placed second in the Junior Men’s Division of the Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships in 2009 at Taos Ski Valley. He won Salomon’s Freeride “Sickbird” award in 2010. “Food and snow are my big loves,” he said.
Pyatt likes to cook New Mexican fare and sometimes adds a few personal twists. “But only when I am cooking for myself,” he said. “If you are cooking ethnic dishes for others, it is better nor to stray too far, because people often want the traditional stuff, not someone’s interpretation of it.”
For Pyatt, the hardest part of being a cook is the high stress level he experiences on the job. Eske’s is a busy place, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. “Sometimes there are fifty people waiting outside, and I am the only cook. But our patrons understand, and they get a drink and have a good time while the food is being prepared.”
As for the best part of his job, “It’s when I know I made someone happy with what I cooked,” he said. “That’s rewarding enough.”
2 to 3 medium-sized Heirloom tomatoes
8 ounces of organic mozzarella
Olive oil – to drizzle (about 2 or 3 ounces)
A bottle of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Prep Time: Salad: 15 minutes
Prep Time: Balsamic vinegar reduction – 2 hours
Getting the reduced balsamic or “real balsamic”:
In a thick bottomed pot, pour half the bottle of balsamic vinegar and keep it on low heat, stirring on occasion and making sure it doesn’t boil. (This is done in order to reduce and evaporate any water in the vinegar.) Once it is thick, let it cool and you will have “the real stuff.” It may take two to three hours to get the “real balsamic.” Make sure you have a ventilated room while you do this!
Slice tomatoes and mozzarella to a thick cut.
Drizzle on olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Put the basil on tomatoes and mozzarella.
Add the reduced balsamic to garnish.
Slow cooked duck in classic Cumberland sauce
(This is delicious, but not true duck confit)
2 whole ducks, cleaned and prepped.
½ cup of chicken stock or broth
½ onion, chopped
2 teaspoons of salt and pepper
Fresh sage if available
2 cups of carrots
2 large potatoes
1 celery stick
Clean and wash ducks.
Season them with salt, pepper and fresh sage.
Place duck (skin and fat on) in Crockpot first, then chicken stock and preferred veggies (carrots, potatoes, celery and orange zest).
Cover and cook on low for 2 or 3 hours or until tender.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 5 depending on duck size
Classic Cumberland sauce
1 lemon, squeezed
2 oranges, juiced and sliced
6 ounces of currant jelly
10 ounces of Port
1/3 cup of sage vinegar
3 tbs. ofDijonmustard
1 tbs. of sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tbs. of cornstarch and water in equal parts
Blanch orange rinds in boiling water for 2 minutes, then remove.
In a pot, heat all ingredients except the cornstarch and water until it simmers. Add cornstarch slowly to thicken.
Serve hot with duck.
Sauce preparation time: 20 to 30 minutes.
Lemon and mint sorbet in blueberry soup
Ingredients for Blueberry Soup:
½ lb of blueberries
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
Instructions to make blueberry soup:
In a saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and water.
Heat until the sugar dissolves completely
Remove and let cool at room temperature.
Lemon mint sorbet
2 lemons, squeezed
½ cup sugar
1/2 cup water
½ cup of lemon juice
½ cup of San Pellegrino mineral water
Lemon zest grated from the rind of the lemons
Fresh mint for garnish
To make syrup:
Mix ½ cup of sugar, lemon zest and a cup of water in a saucepan and let it simmer until dissolved.
Remove and cool.
Now, if you have an ice cream maker, use it and follow the manual’s instructions. In a pitcher, stir syrup and ½ cup of San Pellegrino water with the ½ cup of lemon juice and pour it into maker or your container.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze the mix in a tall container, preferably aluminum or metal. Freeze for an hour, then remove and stir with whisk. Return to the freezer and proceed to stir every thirty minutes (the more you stir, the lighter the ice cream will get).
Total Prep time: 4 hours.
Once it is ready, place the blueberry soup in a bowl and scoop sorbet and mint in the middle. Enjoy!
Eske’s Brew Pub
106 Des Georges Lane
Taos, New Mexico 87571
Free customer parking!