As Women’s History Month draws to a close, let it be known that Santa Fe women are still making history. This trend began when the first settlers’ wives joined the indigenous New Mexico female population and it shows no sign of slacking. Santa Fe was recently named the #1 place in the U.S. for women-owned businesses and with a rich heritage created by impressive female figures from the past, it’s no wonder Santa Fe thrives under today’s busy feminine hands. Modern Santa Fe women totally deserve the notice they’ve earned and the round-up below is an introduction to ladies worth reading about.
The Kitchens of the World Learn From Santa Fe
You’ve heard it said that a woman’s place is in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean staying home. Since 1984, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has put New Mexico’s regional cuisine and culinary traditions on the map for food-lovers around the globe. Born of founder Susan Curtis’ midlife career switch, the school has grown into the expert on southwestern flavors, including the Three Sisters—beans, corn and squash—and chile, our signature crop.
Classes run the gamut from traditional dishes all the way to the three-day intensive Southwest Culinary Bootcamp, an immersion into authentic ingredients and techniques. Specialty experiences welcome noted experts like Oaxacan chef Susana Trilling and cheese maven Laura Werlin; renowned Southwestern savant Cheryl Alters Jamison is a regular in the school’s kitchen. Restaurant Walking Tours created by Director of Operations Nicole Curtis Ammerman are a TripAdvisor favorite and the online market has those one-of-a-kind items guaranteed to keep the creativity flowing.
Chef Michelle Roetzer, who somehow finds time to teach at the Cooking School, boasts a day job as head of the Santa Fe Community College Culinary Arts Program. Mica is revered for mentoring up-and-comers, whom she fondly calls her “cheflings.” The balance of Culinary Arts talent includes Helen Singleton Nichols, lead pastry chef who began teaching there in 2012 and chef/pâtissière Leslie Chavez, named “2013 Chef of the Year” by the New Mexico Culinary Association.
Santa Fe Women Cook Up A Storm
Santa Fe’s food culture extends to caterers and restaurant kitchens. Chef Lois Ellen Frank of Red Mesa Cuisine has dedicated herself to keeping America’s indigenous techniques and flavors alive. Her fascinating lineage, Kiowa Nation on her mother's side and Sephardic on her father's, led Chef Lois to a Ph.D. in Culinary Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. More than 20 years spent documenting the foodways of Native America culminated in “Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations,” an engaging read featuring traditional and contemporary recipes.
After 17 years of catering memorable parties, Catherine O’Brien and Glenda Griswold set up permanent shop at Terracotta Wine Bistro. This casual, fun downtown spot is a locals’ favorite, not only for the wine list and the food flare (oh, those onion rings!) but also for the central location down the street from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
The ladies run the show, too. Café Pasqual’s menu perfection was patiently honed by Kathryn Kagel, who now gets to enjoy ownership and let someone else do the cooking. Kagel’s commitment to the best includes buying from certified organic producers and many menu items are designed to morph into vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free delights. Two cookbooks show the fruits of her labor and so does the line out the door for breakfast – hint, go early!
Take a Santa Fe Hike, Sister!
After breakfast, our gals know how to get out of doors. Outspire Hiking, the brainchild of Karen Dennison, has a proven record on finding the best spots for panoramic senery. A biologist-turned-guide, Karin is also an avid fly-fisher and co-authored a book on regional fly-tieing; her gal-guides are just as knowledgeable about the area as the guys. Sue Mally, co-owner of Santa Fe Walkabouts, took the long way round to get to Santa Fe—she’s a native of Burma—but she’s 100% local now and Walkabouts’ tours offer an insider’s view of the Land of Enchantment. And if you just want to sit back and listen, riding along on a Custom Tour by Clarice means you’ll see all the downtown sights while absorbing the local lore when Clarice Coffey herself is at the wheel.
Santa Fe’s Designing Women Make It Beautiful
If you think Santa Fe’s artistic legacy is being neglected, think again! Not only do women own plenty of galleries, they craft the pottery, paintings, photographs and jewelry shown there. Pet traveler? Caitlin Elizabeth Photography will make a record of Fifi’s visit to Santa Fe. Prefer a painting for the family room? Barbara Meikle opened Meikle Fine Art after demand for her colorful images became so high that setting up her easel in the gallery made life simpler. Those who love the Midas touch always visit The Golden Eye, where the legacy of hand-crafted jewelry established by Norah Pierson is kept alive by a bevy of talented craftswomen.
Come Celebrate the SantaFeminine
I could go on, but I suspect I’ve said enough to make you start checking plane fare. Women’s History Month may be ending but Santa Fe celebrates the skills and dedication of the distaff side all year long. Adam’s life became richer once Eve was in the picture, and your life will do the same when you visit Santa Fe to discover the women of the City Different.