Rancho de Chimayo Wins Prestigious James Beard Award

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Rancho de Chimayo Wins Prestigious Restaurant Award

Florence Jaramillo: “It Is Everybody’s!” Five Restaurants In US Win It

By Robert A. Naranjo

Chimayo – A garden plot of the famously hot Chimayo heirloom chile is thriving on a gentle slope at the foothills of the iconic Sangre de Cristo Mountains that take on a deep blue hue when looked at from a distance. The chile is irrigated by a life-giving acequia, or ditch, that makes calmative gurgling sounds reminiscent of a small New Mexico mountain stream or brook, as it cascades into the garden giving life to the famous strain of Chimayo chile plants that will soon be used for “carne adobada” (marinated pork), or everyone’s favorite, enchiladas, at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant.  LAYLA K. CORIZ

The chile garden is located on restaurant property, and plans are to expand the estate-grown heirloom chile garden to close to an acre next year which will triple the harvest. The groundskeeper, Layla K. Coriz, shown here, also tends to the chile garden.

This nationally famous northern New Mexico restaurant, as most locals are aware, is located near another famous building, a church, known as the “Lourdes of America,” El Santuario de Chimayo, whose long-time padre, Fr. Casimiro Roca (1917-2014), was a regular to the restaurant and is credited with saving the world famous shrine from destruction by an encroaching Santa Cruz River in the 1950’s, shortly after the Archdiocese of Santa Fe assigned him there.

The Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant, now in business for over half a century, was the home of Hermenejildo Jaramillo, “Grandpa Jaramillo,” as the staff refers to him, who built it about 1880-1885 using adobes and vigas from the nearby mountains. His brother, built his home directly west, and that home is now is a bed and breakfast associated with the restaurant. The over 100 year old photo of the Jaramillo brothers greets restaurant guests as they first walk in.

Shown here in photo is the original owner and builder of a home that eventually became Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant, Hermenegildo Jaramillo. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com

HERMENEJILDO JARAMILLO

El Rancho de Chimayo, has fifty-two years of history as a restaurant where its guests can come home to “mama’s cooking” and served delicious, award-winning, New Mexican style dishes to a wide array of people who frequent it–ranging from locals, visitors, famous personalities, writers for national and international culinary magazines, newspapers, and TV media as well.

Anyone who comes to the Rancho de Chimayo for lunch or dinner, or for a special occasion ranging from weddings to birthdays, will become enchanted with the ambiance of an old northern New Mexico hacienda turned restaurant, featuring New Mexican dishes that are sure to delight the tastebuds.

And, it’s possible that someone may become a return customer almost from the time they get off their car and see the picturesque restaurant from the outside, it’s akin to looking at an old postcard, with the red chile ristras hanging from the roof eave and separating the walls from the steeply pitched roof of the old hacienda, giving it a nostaglic appearance, back to a time when almost every home northern New Mexico was adorned with ristras.

“Here comes Mrs. J.” announced a waitress named Kayla.

ERICA VIGIL & KAYLA MARTINEZ

Photo shows two wait staff at the Rancho de Chimayo, Erica Vigil (L) and Kayla Martinez, standing below the James Beard Foundation Award For An American Classic Restaurant. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com

The Valley Daily Post was at the Rancho de Chimayo when Mrs. Florence Jaramillo, owner, returned from the restaurant’s office nearby. A reporter joined her as she walked, and she kindly obliged a request for a photo of her standing in front of her famous restaurant. She asked if an appointment had been made for eleven. “No,” the reporter responded. “Did you call to make an appointment,” she asked.  Then Jaramillo realized it was two different newspapers and said, “We must hurry then, because I have an appointment with Jennifer.”

FLORENCE JARAMILLO

Photo shows, Mrs. Florence Jaramillo, owner, of the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant, in front of her James Beard Foundation American Classic Restaurant. Jaramillo tells the Valley Daily Post of the call from New York that informed her that the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant had been awarded the James Beard Foundation Award For An American Classic Restaurant. Not knowing it the Foundation calling, she tells the James Beard Foundation’s Mrs. Brown, “Oh, come on, who’s  kidding me? You know you’re kidding me,”  Jaramillo said. The Foundation’s Mrs. Brown responded,”No, my name is Brown, Mrs. Brown and  I’ve been to your restaurant, actually. And I love your sopapillas — it’s been years since I’ve been there. The only thing is that you can’t say anything about it (James Beard Award) until we publicize it.”  Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com

The reporter said, “no problem, we can continue as we walk.” Jaramillo, who is referred to as “Mrs. J.” by employees, was greeted by a chorus of “good morning, Mrs. J.” by some waitress staff as she walked in the front door of her historic restaurant. She responded cheerfully and continued walking and asked a management staffer a question about some restaurant business. Then told her that she would be busy for a little while and had someone else at 11, and if they were ok. “We have it covered,” came the response.

Jaramillo then sat down with the Valley Daily Post. It was a beautiful morning at the Rancho de Chimayo on August 4. Jaramillo spoke at length about what it took to make the restaurant what it is today, i.e., a nationally famous restaurant that was honored with the industry’s most prestigious award, the James Beard Award for American Classic Restaurants. She said only five are selected from across the country. Suffice it to say, it took lots of hard work. “I’m still here,” she said emphasizing her point.

Asked how she was made aware of the award, Jaramillo then tells exactly how it happened.

“So the phone rings,” she said. “You’re wanted on the phone, it’s some lady who wants to talk to you from New York,” a restaurant staffer told her. “So I went to the phone and I said hi,” Jaramillo recalled. The New York caller said, “I just want to let you know, and you cannot say anything until it is public, that you have won the James Beard Foundation Award for an American Classic Restaurant.” And Jaramillo responded, “Oh, come on, who’s kidding me, you know your kidding me.”

And the caller said, “No, my name is Brown, Mrs. Brown, and I’ve been to your restaurant, actually. And I love your sopapillas–it’s been years since I’ve been there. The only thing is that you can’t say anything until we publicize it.” Jaramillo feeling she had slighted the James Beard Foundation’s Mrs. Brown who was calling with great news, said she told her, “I’m sorry, I thought it was a board member.” Jaramillo said that Brown said it was quite alright, but emphasized that Jaramillo could not say anything about winning the award until the Foundation publicized it.

Jaramillo said the Foundation publicized the award winners in February and the presentations were in May and she said the awards show n Chicago “was huge. Everyone asks me how it was,” she said.  Jaramillo says she knows that she “was there but it was so overwhelming with famous people giving out the awards, like the Academy Awards,” she said. “I know I was there, my body was there, but I still asked my daughter, ‘Did we just do that,” and she said her daughter said, ‘Yes, we did!’

Jaramillo said she wants to go the awards to experience it again. “I’d like to go back,  just to participate. I like Chicago. My daughter came with me, and lives in San Antonio. Let me show you something,” she suddenly said. And Jaramillo came back with a picture. “I haven’t shown it, no one has used it, it’s a picture and you can take a picture of it,” she said. It was a photo of Jaramillo and her daughter at the awards show in Chicago and Jaramillo is wearing the prestigious award medal and now hangs at the restaurant.

“It was amazing, when you don’t know what to expect. And my daughter was excited, we were all excited. My nephew wanted to go, too, and I wish I could have taken him but they said you could only invite one person,” Jaramillo explained.  

“It’s everybody’s award! I’ve got so many people come up to me and congratulate me. I didn’t think that many people knew. People who I haven’t seen in years. They tell me stories, some even cry with the memory of their experience,” she fondly remembers.

The she ended with classic Florence Jaramillo, “It helps everybody,” she said. “It’s everybody’s award…”

 

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