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Chef Randy Tapia uses his culinary skills to bring dishes to Santa Fe and give back to the community

Chef Randy Tapia makes rice at his Poki Tako restaurant in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Randy Tapia has always felt at home in a kitchen.

“I feel nostalgic when I’m in the kitchen,” he says. “It’s like my second home. I started cooking with my grandmother when I was about 7 years old. I’m always learning.”

Tapia feels a sense of purpose when creating dishes. It’s a way of bringing people together.

This is also the reason why he has been working in the food industry since he was young.

Randy Tapia, owner and chef at Poki Tako, contemporary Asian and Mexican cuisine, has “CHEF LIFE” tattooed on his hands. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Today, the Santa Fe native’s life just got busier as he expanded his food truck — Poki Tako — into a retail space at Chomp Food Hall, 505 Cerrillos Road, Suite B101, in Santa Fe. The food truck is at Santa Fe Antiques, 1006 Marquez Place.

“I always have ideas running through my head,” he says of his creative process. “I always think of different ingredients. As chefs, we can taste a different dish and be inspired to create and add our own twist.”

While the 38-year-old’s culinary journey began in his grandmother’s kitchen, he found himself “forever a student”.

“I learn something new every day,” he says. “With the new Chomp room, I have to think about how to balance the food truck and the new room. It will take a lot of work and I have a great team.”

Since he was old enough to work, it was the kitchen that called to him.

Like many others, he started out as a dishwasher and then a prep cook. During this time he entered the culinary program at Central New Mexico Community College.

Eventually, he worked his way up to executive chef at restaurants like Vintage 423, Bien Shur, El Nido, and La Fonda on the Plaza.

“I’ve been cooking for 22 years,” he says. “I still haven’t gotten bored. I love how creative I let myself be. I just love feeding people and I’m glad I can bring joy to the community through food.”

Though Tapia’s free time is scarce, he finds time to give back to the community.

He often competes in the 505 Food Fights held in Albuquerque.

Constructed by Albuquerque chef Mike White, the 505 Food Fights pits New Mexico chefs in a head-to-head competition.

The chefs have an hour to create two dishes using three of the mystery ingredients. Viewers are charged an entry fee, which then goes to a designated charity in New Mexico.

In recent years, more than 20 New Mexico charities have received more than $20,000 from 505 Food Fights. Some of the organizations are The Kitchen Kids, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, New Mexico Autism Society, New Mexico Chapter of the American Heart Association, Rebels with a Cause, and Pediatric Congenital Heart Association to name a few.

Tapia made himself available to attend the Behind the Mask Gala in Albuquerque on November 12th.

“I’ve won most of the 505 Food Fights,” he says proudly. “I didn’t win the last final. I also work with Kitchen Kids in their competition and helped the group of kids I worked with win. It’s always amazing to see talent everywhere.”

Now with his two kitchen areas, Tapia feels like he’s in a hurry to get things done right away.

However, the culinary world has made him wise that it takes time for everything to simmer properly.

“I use social media more to try and promote myself,” he says. “When summer came, I did events all over town. The weather is getting cold and the food truck is slowing down.”

Because of this, Tapia has moved to Chomp where other restaurants are located.

Randy Tapia, owner and chef of Poki Tako, prepares his spicy tuna poke bowl at his restaurant in Chomp, Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

“My goal is to stay in Santa Fe and have my own restaurant,” he says. “With the chomp room, I immediately started adding new overheads. I tried to give Chomp more exposure to help all companies.”

Tapia is ready for another life transformation as he finds a new rhythm to his daily life.

He will now be up earlier than 7am to start promoting the store and its menus.

“For the food truck, I fill up the propane tank, wait for my order and prepare for the opening,” he says. “My plan is to have lunch and dinner at the food hall and then have lunch at the food truck.”

Tapia says there will be different menus in the two rooms.

“I don’t make hot food indoors, so it’s poke bowls,” he says. “The warm food comes from the food truck.”

The spicy tuna poke bowl at Poki Tako in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Coconut Ahi Strike

8 ounces sashimi-grade ahi tuna

¼ cup diced sweet onion

3 tablespoons ponzu sauce

3 tablespoons toasted chopped macadamia nuts

¼ sliced ​​rehydrated wakame seaweed

1/3 sliced ​​diced fresh coconut

Cut ahi tuna into ¾ inch squares. In a medium mixing bowl, add tuna, diced onion, ponzu sauce, chopped macadamia nuts, peeled and diced fresh coconut, wakame seaweed.

Mix well with the spoon. Then enjoy it.

(Recipe by Chef Randy Tapia)

Hawaiian style poke

16 ounces sushi-grade ahi tuna

4 ounces diced sweet onion

4 ounces wakame seaweed

2 ounces ponzu sauce

1 ounce sesame oil

3 ounces macadamia nuts

3 ounces freshly shelled diced coconut

Cut ahi tuna into ¾ inch squares. In a medium mixing bowl, add tuna, diced onion, ponzu sauce, chopped macadamia nuts, peeled and diced fresh coconut, wakame seaweed. Salt to taste.

Mix well with the spoon. Then enjoy it.

When you have all the ingredients, put them in any bowl – and eat!

(Recipe by Chef Randy Tapia)