A passion for cooking and travel inspired Chef Tony A. Blankenship to begin his career at age 19 as a dishwasher in a small town in Illinois. Inspiration led to the open road; he began a journey across America, working an array of kitchen jobs along the way. Refining his techniques in restaurants from Nevada to New Orleans to the Florida Keys, he eventually attended cooking school at the Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2003 he moved to New Mexico. His experience with every level of responsibility in kitchen work, combined with his appreciation for authentic technique and culinary tradition, enabled him to work with the various food and beverage programs at Hotel Santa Fe, Encantado Resort, and the The Club at Las Campanas. After cutting his chops he became Executive Chef at Rio Chama.
Tony’s philosophy is simple yet delicious food. He believes that elegance can be as simple as a ripe pear with good blue cheese, and his “real food, natural ingredient” ideology is present throughout Rio Chama’s new menu. At Rio Chama he has built a team he believes represents the legacy and integrity of the restaurant. His goal is to never settle for complacency, but to foster positive change and development, while still paying homage to the rich traditions of food, culture, and community that inspire him. In that vein he has also created the charity program Chefscapades, volunteering his spare time to raise money for the Interfaith Community Shelter in Santa Fe. “My life is miraculous, you can’t pay that back,” he explains. After a long journey and much professional growth, Tony still feels that feeding the hungry is the most important part of the job.