Photo: Katharine Egli
Images and story originally published in Taos News
Chef Jeff Huck has an eclectic background that combines education, anthropology, and cooking. He is currently the kitchen manager at Cid’s Food Market.
Huck started cooking at home when he was fifteen years old.
“I found out then that I really liked to cook,” he said. “Of course, I love food…I am a New Yorker!”
He moved from New York to Colorado in 1995 and attended Naropa University.
“I was very interested in environmental studies so horticulture and anthropology were my main focuses,” he said. “All those years, I still cooked at home and enjoyed it, though I didn’t think I would become a chef.”
After graduation he and his then girlfriend (now his wife) Alicia Bartzen Huck moved to Taos.
“That was in 1998,” he said. “We left for a few months but decided to come back. This is where we belong.”
From the kitchen to the classroom—and back
Huck’s first jobs in Taos were all somehow related to food.
“I worked in a co-op called Amigos, similar to Cid’s but smaller,” he said. “I also worked at Taos Pizza Outback for several years and at many other restaurants like Taos Inn.”
Then he decided to make a change. He went back to school and got his teaching license.
For the last two and a half years Huck worked for Peñasco Independent Schools, teaching math and science.
“I was working at Cid’s too, part-time during the school year and fulltime in the summer,” he said.
When the kitchen manager job became available in March he started working fulltime at Cid’s.
“The Backers are the best bosses in town,” he said. “They really care about their employees, customers and, most of all, their community, and they will do anything they can for any of them so I am very happy to be here.”
But Huck still enjoys teaching and working with young people.
“Now that I don’t have to travel that much, I hope to help with the garden projects at the Waldorf School, where my children go,” he said.
His wife is a teacher at Waldorf.
“We both love education and food,” Huck said. “She also works at Martyrs Steakhouse.”
Cooking at home
Huck says he is the one who cooks at home.
“My family likes my lemon chicken pasta,” he said. “I usually do it over angel hair pasta, though it can be made with rice too. It’s a simple dish, but tasty and nutritious.”
Foods and gadgets of choice
Huck’s favorite foods to cook are Thai, Cajun, and New Mexican.
“I love to cook with spice,” he said. “My main philosophy in cooking is to appeal to all the different kinds of tastes that our taste buds can distinguish—sweet, spicy, tart and savory.”
As for cooking utensils, he favors the mandolin.
“It saves time while keeping your cuts uniform,” he said. “Also, you can make cuts with it that you just can’t do with a knife.”
Cid’s menu: tasty, local and healthy
Huck and his team at Cid’s take pride in providing a tasty, healthy alternative for the individuals and families on the go.
“We as a society are so busy these days that makes it difficult to eat in a healthy way,” he said. “That’s why we make sure that our deli offers a better solution to what else is out there, for those of us that cannot always slowdown in our day. We also try our best to use as many local ingredients as possible in our salad bar and products.”
As the growing season gets further along, Huck plans to bring in more local products.
“Not only this results in fresher, healthier food, but it also supports our community and many of the customers that are coming in to Cid’s and supporting us,” he said.
Burritos and more
Huck starts counting all the burritos they make. It turns out that there are around ten.
“Green chile chicken burrito, calabacita burrito, bolita bean and cheese and bolita bean and pork burritos…” he said. “And many, many more.”
The fresh deli salads include tabouli, quinoa, and Aztec quinoa with black beans.
“Don’t forget our desserts,” he said. “We have a wonderful pastry chef, Julia Collier. Steve Price is also great. His soups are delicious.”
Among the recurring menu items is a dish that Huck strongly recommends—bacon grease fried chicken.
“If you are going to get something fried, go for it,” he said. “The bacon fat is actually better for you than other fats.”
Chef Huck’s pointers for eating healthy:
Eat local whenever possible; this ensures a fresher quality of food.
Eat fresh foods: cooking foods always lessens their nutritional value.
Eat often throughout the day. It is better for you to eat three smaller main meals a day while snacking in between.
Drink lots of water. Often, when our body feels hungry, we are actually lacking water.
Chef Huck’s Recipes
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the stems from the kale and cut into bite size pieces. Wash and dry the kale thoroughly. Drizzle the olive oil and sea salt onto the kale and toss together. Place on a cookie sheet and bake until the edges of the kale are brown, not burnt. Approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Creamy lemon chicken over angel hair pasta
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (sliced into strips)
4 oz. angel hair pasta (cooked al dente)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Juice from 2to 3 lemons
1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets and steamed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sautee the chicken in the butter until cooked and slightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté 2 or 3 more minutes so garlic is cooked but not burnt. Add the lemon juice and heavy cream, bring to a boil and then cook on low heat until the sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the angel hair pasta and top with steamed broccoli florets.