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Friday, April 15, 2011

Santa Fe, N.M.— First things first. Congratulations are in order for Michael Meisel, new Chef de Cuisine at iconic restaurateur Mark Miller’s Red Sage restaurant located in the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. Meisel has built a strong following in the Red Sage kitchen and was recently promoted to the coveted top chef’s slot.

Meisel knows that he’s got big shoes to fill.  Mark Miller was responsible – almost singlehandedly – for putting innovative Southwestern cuisine on the culinary map in the 1980s. Meisel debuts his new menu this month, and is looking forward to building on Mark Miller’s stellar reputation at Red Sage.

Gastronomic visionary Miller has been in the vanguard of American chefs revolutionizing the way food is prepared, perceived, and savored in restaurants and kitchens across the country for more than two decades. When his Coyote Café opened in Santa Fe in 1987, it received immediate raves from critics and diners alike for the chef’s blend of Southwestern culinary traditions with modern techniques. All agreed: This was a place that engaged the mind, eye, and palate alike. A feast nonpareil!

On the heels of Coyote Café’s success, Miller opened the first Red Sage restaurant in Washington, D.C. in 1992, with similarly dazzling results that led Esquire magazine to name it best restaurant of the year. Miller brought his Red Sage concept back to New Mexico in August 2008, when he opened a second Red Sage at Buffalo Thunder Resort.

Both Miller and Meisel take the business of food seriously. Meisel’s culinary career started after high school, when he apprenticed with French chef Yves Schmidt. He then took a 20-year hiatus from the kitchen and worked in the financial markets with Spear, Leeds & Kellogg and Goldman Sachs. Meisel rediscovered his passion for the culinary arts in 1998, when he started night school at Chicago’s Cordon Bleu. He went on to study at the professional culinary school L’Etoile in Chioggia, Italy, and did stints in Chicago restaurants, including the American contemporary Toque restaurant on Randolph Street.

“There are quite a few similarities between my two very different careers,” says Meisel, whose calm, relaxed personality belies his years in the whirlwind of the financial markets “They both are pressure cookers. I’m good in the insane, fast-pace environments of the trading and kitchen floors. You’ve got to be able to make critical decisions in a split second. In both situations, you are managing a lot of people and rallying them to work effectively as a team. I am really fortunate to have a great team here at the Red Sage.”

An avid outdoorsman as well as chef, Meisel’s move to Santa Fe from Chicago seven years ago has turned out to be a good one for him. He found a foodie town with some of his favorite hikes in the world, including the Pecos Wildness and Raven Ridge. When not overseeing the four-star Red Sage restaurant, that’s where you will find Meisel – out on the trails.

Meisel has worked with some of northern New Mexico’s top chefs, including Brian Knox at Aqua Santa, Paul Wade at El Monte Sagrado in Taos, and as part of the team at Santa Fe’s famed Pink Adobe and Old House restaurants. Working alongside these celebrated chefs, he has developed a strong passion for sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine using fresh, organic, locally sourced ingredients.

“We are serving organic wild halibut, farm-raised organic salmon and using local lamb racks,” says Meisel. “Our new menu is simple and elegant, and we are already getting great feedback on it.”

Meisel is planting an herb garden in huge glazed pots surrounding Red Sage’s outdoor patio. His dishes will be sprinkled with fresh herbs including sage, rosemary, thyme, and mint.

Among the items featured on Meisel’s new menu are house-cured organic salmon; tortilla soup; cast iron-seared organic salmon with Morita spiced summer tomato sauce, bitter greens, and slow-roasted golden beets; oven-roasted Alaskan halibut with sautéed shrimp, chorizo, corn, peppers, and mushrooms with fresh tomatillo salsa; the delectable vegetarian dish dubbed Pueblo Garden; green chile pork enchiladas with jalapeño bacon beans, yellow rice, house-made crema, pico de gallo, and avocado purée; and savory grilled beef tenderloin.

Meisel is enjoying taking the reins at Red Sage. With its striking design, bold, sophisticated flavors, and pioneering spirit, this is one restaurant that embodies the best of the American West, drawing on Native American, European, and Latin American ingredients and influences to create a modern cuisine that is a symphonic homage to the West’s many cultural traditions. At Buffalo Thunder, Red Sage diners experience the essence, flavors, and ingenuity of the original Washington D.C. restaurant, while also celebrating the culinary eccentricities, regional delicacies, and spirit of Northern New Mexico. That’s something to celebrate!

Red Sage is located on the lobby level of Buffalo Thunder Resort.

RESERVATIONS: 505-819-2056.
HOURS: Breakfast 7-11 a.m.; Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m.- close.

For more information about Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino and all it  has to offer, friend us on Facebook, visit, or call  877-THUNDER.

Jennifer Marshall