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Sazón Chef Fernando Olea, 71, carefully pulls roasted chiles out of the oven for use in his signature molé as he prepares for the dinner crowd Wednesday at Sazón. A 30-year veteran of kitchens and dining rooms in Santa Fe, Olea was named Best Chef for the Southwest region by the James Beard Foundation on Monday.

Fernando Olea just can’t seem to rest on his laurels.

Though he’s tried to retire as a successful chef and restaurateur before, his love for creating innovative, satisfying food keeps bringing him back. And now that he’s won a prestigious James Beard Best Chef Award, the co-owner and executive chef of Sazón in Santa Fe said he has no choice but to reach an even higher standard.

“What it means to win the James Beard Award is I’m going to have to keep pushing more,” Olea said.

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Sazón Chef Fernando Olea, a 30-year veteran of kitchens and dining rooms in Santa Fe, was named Best Chef for the Southwest region by the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture.

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Sazón co-owner and executive chef Fernando Olea exuberantly accepting his James Beard Award in Chicago.



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Chef Fernando Olea, 71, prepares his signature molé, which he says is the heart and soul of Sazón cuisine, Wednesday at the restaurant.

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Sazón chef Fernando Olea embraces restaurant co-owner Suzanna Becerra, right, after an interview with filmmaker Greg Zoch, left, last year during filming of the Santa Fe Foods docuseries pilot.

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