Culinary community mourns the loss of SFCC Alumnus and Chef Kyle Pacheco

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The college and the culinary world mourn the loss of Kyle Pacheco, who died suddenly at age 27 in early March.

He first gained recognition from the culinary community while studying at SFCC. He earned multiple credentials: a Certificate in Culinary Arts, a Certificate in Pâtissier, and an Associate in Applied Science in Culinary Arts. He was chosen to address the Class of 2016 as the student speaker at commencement, and was featured in the Indian Country Today story, “Foodies and Funnies: A Double Header of Native Speakers at SFCC graduation.”

Pacheco was a strong, calm and steady presence on campus in his role overseeing a team working in the student-run East Wing Eatery. As a student, he regularly competed in culinary competitions. He won the state Skills USA competition twice and earned second place at the national competition. He was featured in the May 6, 2016, Santa Fe New Mexican story, “Culinary whiz kid from Santo Domingo will represent New Mexico at National Skills USA contest.”

After graduation he worked for four years at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. A member of Santa Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo, Kyle was the only Native American entrant in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs National Competition. He qualified back-to-back as a Far West Young Chef and won back-to-back awards as Best Young Chef in the Far West division. The college hosted the Far West regional competition in 2018, as was written about in the Santa Fe New Mexican story, “Santa Fe Community College culinary school hosts Chaîne des Rôtisseurs cooking competition.” After the competition concluded, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony that inaugurated SFCC’s Culinary Arts Program as Santa Fe’s only Chaîne educational facility. When SFCC hosted a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs fundraiser to benefit Cooking With Kids and SFCC’s Culinary Arts students in 2019, Pacheco led a team of students.

Matt Bunkowski, lead officer of Bailli de Santa Fe’s Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Santa Fe Chapter, said, “As far as I know, he was the only Native American ever to enter the Chaîne’s Young Chef competition. We do have other Native American members of the Chaîne, but he is the only professional to have competed.” He expressed his sorrow about the loss of Pacheco. Bunkowski said, “I first got to know Chef Kyle when he entered the Chaîne Far West Region Young Chef competition a couple of years ago. Everyone thought very highly of Chef Kyle as a person and as a talented up-and-coming chef with a bright future in front of him. He always had a smile on his face and gave back to the Santa Fe community in many ways. He was an inspiration to many young children, which I saw firsthand through his involvement with Cooking with Kids, another nonprofit with which he participated.”

Santa Fe New Mexican’s Rick Ruggles covered Pacheco’s passing in the article, “Culinary community in Santa Fe area mourns young native chef,” with quotes from prominent chefs and others in the community. In that story, Ruggles wrote: “Regis Pecos, co-director of the leadership institute at Santa Fe Indian School, from which Pacheco graduated, said sharing the gift of food was a spiritual act for Pacheco.

“Pecos, a member of Cochiti Pueblo and board member of the Santa Fe Community College Foundation, said Pacheco achieved at a young age what many people don’t – he found his passion and joy.

“‘And that’s what we hope [for] in everyone’s life,’ he said.”

The Chaîne also made note of Pacheco’s passing in its magazine, Cuvée.

The college extends its sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

SFCC Foundation has established the Kyle Pacheco Memorial Endowed Scholarship, which will support a Native American student studying Culinary Arts. Gifts can be made online or mail a check to SFCC Foundation, Room 109, 6401 Richards Avenue, Santa Fe, NM, 87508.