New Mexican chef and baker prepares to open his restaurant
They had been telling him to do it for years, finally, with his own money and a strong foundation of delicious recipes, the favorite chef and baker of Questa, N.M. is taking his talents to the next level.
“Though it’s not a life-long dream, I’ve been talking about it for quite a while,” said chef and baker Frank Rael who at 51 is ready to open his restaurant Eats and Sweets. “Everybody’s always telling me, ‘you should open up a shop or a bakery or a restaurant. And I said, ‘well I just do a combination of both and a little bit of each.’”
Tentatively Rael has scheduled the opening of Eats and Sweets for September 18. The locale is just off of highway 522 near the Family Dollar and promises to serve something that the 2,000 hungry patrons of Questa and its surrounding areas haven’t been able to count on regularly.
Fresh eats and fresh sweets
“The thing about me is I pretty much do a little bit of everything,” Rael said of his abilities. “The restaurants that are here right now, they’re just mostly frozen and fast food. I’m going to do everything fresh. I’m going to have fresh ground beef patties, fresh homemade fries and fresh baked goods like cinnamon rollps, cream puffs and a lot of specials. I plan to do everything fresh right away.”
Rael goes for fresh, because that is what he learned. Growing up with six sisters he didn’t have too much to do in the kitchen until they married and moved away. Suddenly his world full of fresh, culinary delights was empty.
“I got tired of asking them ‘can you make this and can you make that?’” Rael said. “So I figured if they could do it, I could do it too. I’ve been at it for 10, 15 years.”
Turning the tide
Rael’s culinary conquest began at home baking desserts. His specialty at the time was cakes. Within a few years the familial tables turned and it was his family requesting his treats for their events.
“I started doing cakes for my nieces’ baby showers and family gatherings,” Rael said. “Everybody started liking them and commenting on them. By then word of mouth started spreading and people started requesting me to make more stuff for them for different occasions.”
From that word of mouth came a blossoming side project that – through Facebook and digital media – turned into a fairly lucrative venture for Rael who found himself shipping tamales, cheesecakes and other delights throughout the Mountain West region as far as Oregon, Hawaii, Florida and New Jersey.
Just what Questa needs
It was the success of his online venture that led Rael down the path of restaurateur. One he is about to official open to the public.
“It’s going to be modern New Mexican food and a little bit of American food with a bakery combined in it,” said Rael who will also be the primary baker and chef.
He added that he is excited to cater to a demographic that has primarily been ignored in Questa: hungry high school athletes.
“In Questa there’s nowhere to get dinner,” he said. “Once 5 o’clock rolls around everything shuts down. We’re planning on staying open until 8 o’clock in the evenings. We’ll stay open for all the basketball games, volleyball games and football games because the students play their hearts out and they get out really hungry and tired and there’s nowhere for them to go to eat, so we’ll be able to help them out there also.”
With close proximity to the New Mexican tourist destination of Red River, Rael also wants to cater to their needs and the community is anxious for him to get started.
“I have a lot of people telling me, ‘I can’t wait until you open up. We’re going to go eat over there,’” he said. “If I had a dollar for everybody who’s asked me, ‘when are you going to put up your restaurant?’ I’d have a lot of money by now.”
Soon, he just may.