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Cooking Style: Southwestern Cuisine
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James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef in the Southwest 2005," Mark Kiffin, chef and owner of The Compound Restaurant has worked, written and taught in the restaurant industry for more than 25 years. A recognized leader in Southwestern cuisine, Kiffin creates a seasonal, Contemporary American Menu combining the diverse culinary influences of the Mediterranean with those of the New World. In October 2002, Kiffin was recognized in Gourmet Magazine’s Guide to America’s Best Restaurants and in The New York Times as a destination not to be missed with excellent cuisine. In April 2004, Bon Appétit Magazine calls The Compound “One of the regions best restaurants, showcasing Mark’s sophisticated brand of southwestern cuisine with Mediterranean accents.” Judith Hill of The Santa Fe New Mexican called her experience “Zen like” and refers to Kiffin’s passion and flavors as a personal affair with food. In February, 2004 Kiffin was a featured chef at The Masters of Food and Wine in Carmel, California, where he cooked at two events with the industries most highly renowned chefs.

Selected by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine as a “Rising Star Chef,” Kiffin started working in the kitchen at age 15. A native of Colorado, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1982. Most recently, Kiffin served as Corporate Executive Chef for Star Concepts, parent of Dallas’ famed Star Canyon and AquaKnox restaurants, working directly with Chef/Owner Stephan Pyles and was in charge of all culinary operations, the “New Tastes from Texas” PBS cooking show, while overseeing all design, building, and opening of new restaurants; including Star Canyon and Cañonita in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Beginning in 1990, Kiffin partnered with owner Mark Miller at the famed Santa Fe-based flagship Coyote Café and later Coyote Café MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he acted as Corporate Executive Chef. During his 8-year tenure at Coyote Café, Kiffin co-authored three books with Miller: Coyote’s Pantry (Ten Speed Press, 1993), The Great Salsa Book (Ten Speed Press, 1994), and The Indian Market Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 1995).

Kiffin also created, designed and tested many of Coyote Café’s popular line of Southwestern food products under the Coyote Cocinas brand. In addition, Mark worked as a consulting Chef for the opening of Miller’s Red Sage restaurant in Washington, D.C., and was periodically a guest chef there.

Kiffin co-wrote his fourth cookbook, The Steak Lover’s Companion (Harper-Collins, 1996), with Fred Simon, president and CEO of Omaha Steak International. Based on his work at The Highlands Inn in Carmel California, Mark has been a featured chef in the prestigious Art Culinaire Magazine and in the book Cooking With the Masters of Food and Wine (Bon Vivant, 1997).

Kiffin enjoys teaching and has appeared as a guest chef at numerous national and international food events, including Wolfgang Puck’s Meals on Wheels in Los Angeles; Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in Orlando; the Aspen Food and Wine Festival in Aspen, Colorado; The James Beard House in New York City; Masters of Food and Wine in Carmel, California; The Four Seasons and Regent Hotels in Singapore; and at the International Olive Council seminar in Morocco, North Africa.

With Mark’s non-stop schedule his feet seldom seem to touch the ground. As one of only 12 chefs asked each year to host a prestigious out of house James Beard Foundation Dinner, Kiffin has scheduled a dinner for September 12th, 2004 after his March 2002 dinner was such a glowing success; he has also recently appeared as a guest chef at other James Beard Dinner’s including The American Restaurant in Kansas City and Fire in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 2001, Mark was one of only 25 chefs invited from around the world to cook at the James Beard Foundation Awards reception, the culinary equivalent of the Oscars.

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