What Chef Hosea Rosenberg Wants You To Know About New Mexican Food - Exclusive

We all might claim to be experts when it comes to the food we grew up on, but as a "Top Chef" champion and restaurant owner, Hosea Rosenberg has the accolades to prove it. And he's using his newest restaurant, Santo, in Boulder, Colorado to show off everything he knows and loves about the New Mexican cuisine of his upbringing. Santo bills itself as "modern, Northern New Mexican fare" with a menu that combines "classic cuisine — regional spices, chiles, and techniques — with a seasonal and local, Colorado approach to sourcing meats and produce," (via Santo).

Rosenberg, who grew up in Taos, New Mexico, spoke exclusively with Mashed about what inspired him to open Santo in the heart of Colorado. We also asked him what he wishes more people everywhere knew about authentic New Mexican food. "Well, that it's not Mexico. That's the first thing," was his knee-jerk response. But of course, there's much more to it than that. Rosenberg shared what makes New Mexican food so unique and delicious in the eyes of a local. And trust us, it will leave you with a whole new craving.

New Mexican food has a long and rich history, according to Hosea Rosenberg

Chef Hosea Rosenberg admitted that "a lot of people don't know what New Mexico is all about." And he'd be the first one to say they are missing out on a really special cuisine that fuses a lot of history and culture into every dish. Rosenberg described it as "a really interesting mixture of ... Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and American cultures that have all kind of been mixed together."

Geographically, New Mexico is a crossroads of civilizations, and that is abundantly clear in the local food. It focuses on native crops like chiles, beans, and corn, with new ingredients and flavors influenced by the Spanish conquerors who arrived in the 1500s and Mexico, which controlled the area during the 19th century, according to BBC. Not to mention the many different Mexican and Central American immigrants who have brought their own culinary customs with them for centuries (via Frommers), which has led to a bit of a misconception. While there are a lot of similarities to Mexican food, Rosenberg made sure to clarify that New Mexican food "tastes a little bit different and the techniques are a little bit different."

In New Mexico, chile reigns supreme

Hosea Rosenberg describes his native New Mexican cuisine as comfort food packing a punch. "It's simple, it's homey, it's not fancy, but it's a lot of flavor," he said. And there's one defining ingredient — the chile. And not just any hot pepper, but specifically hatch chiles that are grown in the state.

"The green chile and the red chile are like our lifeblood in New Mexico," Rosenberg explained. Beyond being one of the state's official vegetables, per New Mexico Secretary of State, chiles are also one of the pillars of the economy, bringing in more than $50 million a year, as KOB4 reports. New Mexico chiles are used in almost everything (via New Mexico Magazine). And they're nothing to scoff at when it comes to the heat. They can be as hot as a jalapeño or serrano pepper (via Pepperscale).

Hosea Rosenberg's newest restaurant features the best of New Mexican food

For a taste of true New Mexican food with a "Top Chef"-level twist, look no further than Hosea Rosenberg's newest Boulder restaurant, Santo. He told Mashed, "I really miss that food that I was eating when I grew up and I didn't feel like there was a good place for it." So he decided to start making it himself. The restaurant's menu features a range of elevated, traditional favorites, including pork adovada, posole, enchiladas, and more, plus a slate of house-made cocktails to pair perfectly with all those spicy flavors.

If you're able to pay a visit, Rosenberg said there are a few staples you have to try. First is the Santo Enchiladas, "smothered with red or green chili." He said "those are the most popular dish on the menu," adding that they are "really simple, but it's something that you see on every menu in New Mexico." Rosenberg also recommended the starters. "Our salsas, our guacamole, our queso fundido, those are all really good." He added that "the green chili cheeseburger is also probably our second most popular dish...we have a lot of great tacos on the menu as well." Of course, most of us can't eat all that in one sitting, so Rosenberg helped narrow it down for first-timers. "If you're going to come in and have just one thing... get the queso fundido and some salsa and then get the enchiladas."

To taste dishes on par with what chef Hosea Rosenberg might serve at his restaurants, check out the recipes he created in partnership with Teton Waters Ranch.