By Craig Springer
“Jay Shouldn’t Blog” is the name of Jay Wulf’s online muse. Maybe he shouldn’t. But he also shouldn’t give up creating cuisine at his Cedar Crest location – the Greenside Café next to the Triangle Grocery on North 14.
Wulf’s venture into blogging may be novel, but his venture into cooking up victuals for East Mountain folks has been a long and winding road from the gray and wet of the Pacific Northwest to the original Sunshine State of New Mexico.
The self-described former apple picker, pizza thrower, and professional juggler graduated from the Western Culinary Institute when it was still affordable. The cost of his professional training has since grown exponentially, he says, thanks in part to “food television.”
To escape the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest, Wulf jumped on his motorcycle and headed to Sedona, Arizona, for a spell that was much shorter than he expected. Jobs didn’t work out. The cost of living was too high. A Taos postcard prompted him to move on to New Mexico, and he landed in Albuquerque with his leathers, raingear, and sweats, near homeless, with $500 to his name, and no job. A November 1991 snowstorm grounded him and nearly caved in his tent at the KOA on Central Avenue. He quickly relocated to a hotel and then just as quickly found work at Restaurant André as a chef. It was there where he met his wife, Barbara, who waited tables. Barbara is now an occupational therapist and the co-owner of Greenside Café.
Jay has left his culinary mark throughout the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area. He’s been a chef at the Prairie Star and The Range Café in Bernalillo and the Double A and Café Escalera in Santa Fe. In Albuquerque, he owned Gecko’s Bar and Tapas and was the founding partner of the Standard Diner on Central Avenue east of downtown. But he’s moved on and up to the mountain to be his own boss and create a new standard for dining in the East Mountains, only three miles from the home he shares with Barb and their two boys.
A lot of planning and prep went into creating the Greenside Café, which started taking form in January of 2007. Wulf was a full participant in creating the space, serving as plumber’s assistant, electrician’s assistant, and head painter. The restaurant opened in October of that year with a menu that features inventive interpretations of American and New Mexican favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Wulfs’ extensive knowledge of fine wine also manifests itself in special wine pairing dinners held about once every four to six weeks and on holidays like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
Wulf culinary philosophy remains matter-of-fact. “I’m a firm believer there are no special ingredients in any recipe,” he says. “If there’s any one secret ingredient, it’s ‘love.’ You have to be moved by love; you have to love what you do. I don’t want to lessen the mystic, but I’m a tradesman, crafting food.” Tradesmen push the edges with creations, and so does Wulf.
In addition to his wife and children, Wulf is also inspired by the great outdoors. In fact, from almost anywhere in the light-filled restaurant, there is a view to the outside, including from the kitchen where, as you might expect, Wulf spends a great deal of his time.
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