What was once Pueblo Harvest Cafe & Bakery has undergone some changes this year. In April, the restaurant attached to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center shortened its name to simply Pueblo Harvest, and the rebranding didn’t stop there: They also redecorated the whole interior of the restaurant, tearing down a dividing wall and adding in turquoise upholstered booths. But the biggest change that came along with the redesign was a new Executive Chef in the kitchen: Brent Moore.
Well, saying he’s new there isn’t exactly right. Chef Moore worked as sous chef at Pueblo Harvest under Executive Chef David Ruiz for about a year and a half before Ruiz left to chef at Toltec Brewing. This means that Moore has been steeped in Pueblo culture and cuisine, and that he’s familiar with the IPCC’s goals. He’s already been working with the ingredients sourced from and native to the 19 Pueblos that own and operate the IPCC, and is excited to put his own creative take on the Pueblo-inspired dishes that set Pueblo Harvest apart from any other restaurant in the city. To get an idea of the new direction that Pueblo Harvest is going in, I recently sat down to chat with Chef Moore and Caitlin Cano, the Marketing and Digital Manager at the IPCC.
Weekly Alibi: What was the motive behind the name change?
Caitlin Cano: We thought sometimes that we were going in a gimmicky [direction]. We wanted to be more of an [extension] of the museum and to showcase the education behind our food in our restaurant and tell the same stories in the museum that we tell here. That was the main reason for the change—and we really spearheaded it with Brent’s help.
Are you working on new menus for the restaurant, Brent?
Brent Moore: Sure, we change the menus seasonally. Obviously, we like to try and keep the produce fresh and current. So we're going to be doing another change here coming up in winter, which will fit the seasonal theme. We want to try to focus on pre-contact elements where we can, and push the culture of the food along with the museum. (“Pre-contact” refers to ingredients that were used by indigenous Pueblo peoples before European contact).
What were you doing before you were at Pueblo Harvest? You’ve been cooking for quite a while, right?
Moore: Yeah, I’ve been cooking for a long time. Here in New Mexico I first started working at Hyatt Tamaya in Bernalillo, at the Corn Maiden restaurant. I worked my way up to kitchen supervisor, went from there to kitchen supervisor at the Hyatt Downtown, and then after a short period I was sous chef there. I was sous chef there for just under two years, and that’s when I came on as sous chef here under David Ruiz.
What do you feel like you’ve learned here?
Moore: A lot of the things that I learned here are more of the cultural part of everything, not necessarily kitchen learning. Because, you know, before I was just a cook at hotels, and the Hyatt is obviously just Hyatt—there was no real cultural part. So I had to learn a lot of things that had nothing to do with cooking.
What are some of the surprising ingredients you’ve used here that you haven’t worked with before?
Moore: Lots and lots of stuff. I mean, I’m a classic French-trained chef, I like cream, I like butter—and once I moved into pre-colonial cooking—those are all French and Spanish ingredients, I can’t use those. So delving into the native plants here in New Mexico was really fascinating to me. When I first came out here I knew about the three sisters (corn, beans and squash), but I didn't realize there were so many other plants that we consider weeds [that are edible]. There’s purslane and wild spinach, and then sage and lavender and all kinds of other edible flowers that are growing around here in abundance. I have a huge patch of purslane that grows in my front yard, and I can just go out and pick it—I have to fight the chickens for it, though.
Do you have any big events coming up?
Moore: We actually have a pretty big month coming up. We have our ninth annual fundraising gala: a huge, huge dinner to benefit the museum out here in our courtyard. It's going to be super fun. And then right after the gala is our Latin dinner, and Duke It Out (a cooking competition where nine Albuquerque chefs compete against each other) is also [in September]. This will actually be my third year doing Duke It Out with Pueblo Harvest, but it will be my first year as the executive chef. I did two years with David [Ruiz] before, and now I actually get to compete against him!