In a perfect world, everyone would have the loving personality, compassion and passion for food that is the foundation of who Carlos Zozaya is. Anyone that knows Carlos can attest to his loving energy and tenacity for food, family and fun. As a culinary graduate in Tuscon Arizona, Carlos was among the top of his class winning their "Iron Chef" competition while maintaining his role as class president. Inspired by his grand mother at a young age, cooking was instilled in his heart as he later became a personal chef while running multiple catering events for various celebrities before returning to his roots here in New Mexico to further his culinary career.
Shortly after his return Carlos was recruited by his "mentor and best friend", Chef Marc Quiñones of Mas Tapas Y Vino during his previous residency as executive chef of another prestigious restaurant in down town Santa Fe, New Mexico. Carlos thrived as sous chef and handled the banquet events before being exposed to our Taste of Santa Fe tour with us here at Food Tour New Mexico. It was a match made in culinary heaven. Carlos later became a guide with us here at Food Tour New Mexico and excelled to our lead guide and manager position and is now among the most requested person on all of our tours.
We know why our guests appreciate Carlos so much but we wanted to know a bit more. So we sat down and did a Q&A with Chef Carlos Zozaya as to his life behind the scenes and this is what he had to say:
FTNM: Everyone knows you for you’re amazing personality and passion for food, what are a couple (positively) interesting things about you that people may not know?
CZ: Well I truly love Classical Music! Most people don't know that I used to be in band growing up. Also, being that I am a water sign, I love the outdoors and being around water. I find it very healing.
FTNM: If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
CZ: Wow this is definitely a hard one. I always tell the guests on my tours that if i could eat my grandmas cooking for the rest of my life, I would be one happy man. A close second would be sushi. Sushi puts me in a happy place!
FTNM: What is your culinary dream? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CZ: My dream would be to become a well known food critic and hopefully go back into being a personal Chef while also teaching classes at a high school or middle school.
FTNM: If you had to pick one favorite restaurant, what would it be?
CZ: This is a hard one. I always tell my guest my absolutely favorite restaurant is my grandmas house, but when my grandma isn’t available it’s my mamma's house.
FTNM: If you had your own restaurant, what would the concept be? And why?
CZ: I have always had a dream of owning a very small restaurant. Preferably a small house. I would serve the food my family grew up on in their small village in Mexico, Tekal. Tekal is near the Yucatán Peninsula. It would be an honor to serve family favorite, something like panuchos and relleno negro. Also, my favorite mole and cochinita pibil!
FTNM: What is the strangest thing(s) you’ve ever eaten?
CZ: Judging one of the 505 Food Fight competitions we had Iguana. I'm not a fan because it is very rough and stringy.
FTNM: What is your favorite part about guiding tours and why?
CZ: My favorite part of being a guide is the amazing feeling of being considered an ambassador to our amazing cities, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, with all of it's fantastic history and culinary experiences.
FTNM: What inspired you to want to be a culinary tour guide with Food Tour New Mexico?
CZ: I was very intrigued by the concept when I used to be one of the chefs that would serve the tours when they would come in to our restaurant. I realized that it combined two of my passions, people and food. The opportunity to do both at once in some of the most amazing cities in the world.... how could I not?
FTNM: Who is your chef idol?
CZ: I have really enjoyed watching and learning from Chef Gordon Ramsey! He is such an amazing family man and phenomenal culinary teacher and represents everything I hope to become.
FTNM: What is your favorite thing to cook?
CZ: One of my favorite dishes to make are actually two dishes from my military brat days in the Philippines. One is an amazing dish called pancit canton. The other is a favorite of my aunt and myself. It's a noodle dishe called lumpia’s. A take on a Asian egg roll.
For more information about Carlos you can follow him on Instagram and Facebook