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Tempe Elementary Alumnus Beats Bobby Flay on Food Network Show

Post Date:04/11/2019 12:55 PM

Photos in order of appearance retrieved from: Luis Sanchez Saturno, Santa Fe New Mexican News, Mexican Food Journal, and Enrique Ruiz, Tempe Elementary School District.

man cooking looking at pan with flameOne week ago, if you asked New Mexico Chef Fernando Ruiz if he would ever find himself in need of a publicist, an agent, and a personal attorney, he would say – “never in a million years.”

However, this Tempe native, and alumnus of Wood Elementary School and Fees College Preparatory Middle School, has found himself in the middle of media attention after recently beating Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s popular show “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Beating Bobby Flay is no easy feat, as those familiar with the show can attest. Ruiz, executive chef at the Lodge at Chama Land and Cattle Company, had the chance to challenge Flay to see who could cook a classic Mexican dish better. The dish was chile en nogada, a poblano chile stuffed with ground meat in a walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds, representing the Mexican flag with its red, white, and green colors. Ruiz’s classic take on this dish “wowed” the judges and prevailed over Flay’s interpretation. You can watch the full episode here.

This was Ruiz’s third high-profile Food Network show triumph. Ruiz won the competition show "Chopped" in 2016 and "Guy's Grocery Games" in 2015.

It hasn’t always been a straight and narrow road toward success for Ruiz. As a teenager, Ruiz dropped out of high school and was in and out of jail. During his time in jail, Ruiz worked in the kitchen and discovered he had an interest in cooking.

Photo of chile en nogada - chili pepper covered with white sauce and red pomegranate seeds on top with green cilantro in a burnt orange and white bowl

“I always knew how to cook by watching my parents cook,” said Ruiz. “But it wasn’t until I started cooking myself that I realized I had a knack for it. I liked it and it came naturally to me.”

Soon after, Ruiz earned his GED and started culinary school in Colorado. After graduation, Ruiz started cooking at various restaurants in Colorado and then moved to New Mexico where he climbed up quickly in his career. Ruiz credits his success to his wife, Michelle, for her encouragement and support and the many professional mentors he has encountered.

“What I know of cooking I learned from four or five chefs that I had the opportunity to work with,” said Ruiz. “This career is all about learning in the field. Reaching success is possible for anyone...it doesn’t really matter what kind of background you come from.”

Ruiz has fond memories of his life as a student in the Tempe Elementary School District. Recalling educators from name, Ruiz remembers those who pushed him to succeed and offered him support when he needed it.

“I think about these teachers at least once a month,” said Ruiz. “I always felt that they were in my corner and wanting to help where they could.”

five men smiling at the cameraThe last name “Ruiz” might be familiar to some. Ruiz’s brother, Enrique, is a Native American Student Achievement Teacher within our District! Ruiz comes to visit his brother and family when he can, and enjoys spending time with them. Most recently, Ruiz’s family traveled to visit him in New Mexico for his “Beat Bobby Flay” viewing party.

Thank you to the Ruiz brothers for sharing this great alumni story with us! We are excited to hear more culinary success stories from Fernando Ruiz, which are sure to come.

Are you an alumni of the Tempe Elementary School District? We would love to hear what you are up to now. Please send your story ideas to gabrielle.dunton@tempeschools.org.