Meet Your Merchant: Alberto Figueroa, executive chef at Viceroy Snowmass
Lavender. Rosemary. Sweet basil. Tomatoes. Jalapeños.
These are just a few of the plants in executive chef Alberto Figueroa’s new patio garden at the Viceroy Snowmass Resort. From specialty mixed drinks to other summer menu items, Figueroa has been utilizing these on-site herbs and produce to offer up the freshest, most creative choices for Snowmass locals and guests at the Viceroy to enjoy.
For nearly three years, Figueroa has worked at Viceroy Snowmass, first helping start the Toro Kitchen and Lounge as the executive sous-chef and now as the executive chef. On a recent afternoon, the Snowmass Sun sat down with Puerto Rican native to learn more about his new garden and his goals for the Viceroy restaurant:
Snowmass Sun: How long have you been living in Snowmass?
Alberto Figueroa: I moved here in November 2017. I was living in Miami chaos, you know, so I wanted something different.
SS: When did you first get into cooking?
AF: When I was younger. … I would come home from school and always be hungry, so I started improvising and creating. That’s when I was in high school. My father, too, is into cooking. So, yeah, I was just always so hungry after school that I started to be creative and I soon decided that I wanted to do this as a career.
SS: Tell me more about what made you want to go into cooking as a career. What did you like about it?
AF: So actually the summer before I went to college I went to work in a restaurant. My father is in the wine industry so he knows the top chefs in Puerto Rico and he told me, ‘Before you do this, you need to work in a restaurant, because you don’t know if you’re going to like it or not, if it’s for you.’ So I agreed with him and I went to work for like a month. I was already planning to go to (Johnson and Wales University) in Miami to study culinary arts but I did this to make sure that cooking was what I wanted to do as my career. So I actually worked in one of the best restaurants down there and loved the rush, the adrenaline of the kitchen. I said this is perfect for me.
SS: What made you want to come to the United States?
AF: Well, we’re U.S. citizens so it’s easy for us to move around, but down there there’s more competition; it’s an island, it was just more difficult to succeed, I guess. There were some recruiters from Johnson and Wales down there and they took me into the program so that’s when I decided to move to Miami.
I was thinking of going to either the Miami, Denver or Providence campus, but I have family in Miami and there’s more of a Latino community there. So I went to Miami to feel more at home I guess and I think it helped, but after a few years there I wanted to really get deeper into the United States and try something different. Now here in the mountains — we have plenty of mountains in Puerto Rico, too — I love it. I really love it.
SS: How is working in the restaurant industry here different than in Miami?
AF: Here, it’s more difficult to get talent and good cooks. They’re difficult to find and that’s my biggest challenge up here in the mountains, getting really good cooks. Aside from that, most of my product comes from places here in Colorado and California, whereas in Miami I was getting products from the West Coast, all over. So here I see we can definitely get better product than in other places.
SS: Since you’ve been working here, what has your goal been with the menu and with what types of foods you’re looking to bring to the community?
AF: I’m always trying to be different, trying to bring in different stuff, different styles. There are a lot of places that are offering kind of the same stuff so I’m trying to keep new recipes coming in, new styles. My main dish this summer is a whole fried Colorado hybrid bass, which is filleted then fried whole and cut, and people are liking that a lot. I haven’t seen that style up here in Snowmass at least. But yeah, just trying to bring new stuff and always changing by the seasons so people don’t get bored with the same menu all of the time.
SS: Awesome. Tell me more about when you came up with this idea to start a garden you can utilize for your dishes?
AF: It was during COVID. When we were just doing to-go foods and we were very slow I was just like I need to do something different here. And so they gave me the green light to start it by the pool. At the beginning it was difficult to get some produce out of there … but now it’s all getting very nice and I’m able to use it more.
SS: How has this summer been so far for you guys with the ongoing crisis?
AF: It’s been challenging, interesting I will say. We’re trying to find new ways to reach the community. For me it’s very hard to try to serve a lot of food in containers to-go because of quality so it’s very tricky there, but now we’re allowed to get more people in here so that’s a good thing.
SS: What are your goals moving forward with the restaurant, how do you hope to see the menu and your offerings to the community continue to evolve?
AF: I just want to bring the best talent to this kitchen and to this community so we can be the best restaurant out here in Snowmass, offering the freshest, best produce, the best food choices and the best service out there.
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