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Durango’s restaurateurs share what it takes
Owner Michael Lutfy roasts peppers in a stone-lined brick oven at Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen. The ovens, which are used for 75 percent of the restaurant’s prep work, reach temperatures of up to 800 F.
Roll-top garage-style doors create an indoor patio feel and provide a practical solution to Durango’s variable weather.
Curved, spiral seating offers sound mitigation and privacy for diners who choose to sit in a booth at Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen.
Chimayo owner and designer Birgitte Lutfy sits at one end of the curved, contemporary bar that she designed.
Freshly roasted poblano chiles contribute to Chimayo’s Southwestern flair.
Strawberry rhubarb crumbles are prepared for diners at Chimayo. The dessert is made with seasonal fruit.
Chimayo owners once worked Indy car circuit

If getting the show on the road for your family reunion or annual picnic in the woods seems like a daunting task, consider the responsibilities once shouldered by Michael and Birgitte Lutfy.
From 2001 to 2006, the couple managed food service and corporate hospitality for the Michael Andretti Indy car racing team, an experience that fine-tuned the skills they would need to open their new Durango restaurant, Chimayo, six years later.
For 17 weekends a year, from May to October, they set up temporary restaurant locations that served up to 1,200 meals, rain or shine.
Their traveling system included a hospitality suite in a tractor-trailer fitted with a fold-out rear platform and a small kitchen equipped with a 10-burner double oven, a prep area and a six-foot grill. The left side of the trailer featured a large awning under which up to 100 people could sit at a time.
A second triple-axle trailer was fitted with a refrigerated, commercial kitchen where they prepared pastries, salads and perishables. Up to 80 more people could sit under the awning that popped out from the side of the rig.
Yet another trailer carried the furniture and utensils needed to feed the sizable crowd. That’s where they packed the propane tanks, tables, chairs, dishes, buffet service, forks, knives and, uh ... how about the can opener?
Two days before the racing crew arrived onsite, the Lutfys were set up to receive deliveries from food suppliers, but they often had to jump in the Jeep to make a run to Walmart for last-minute items.
Upon the arrival of the 80-member crew, breakfast was served at 6 a.m. Some days it was just scrambled eggs and ham, fruit, pastries and yogurt. On race day, they might have served smoked salmon hash with hollandaise, eggs Benedict or French toast strata.
On the weekends, up to 250 hungry VIP guests started arriving around 8:30 a.m.
By 11 a.m., crew members would start showing up at the tent for lunch. For the others, the Lutfys would pack food and transport it to the garage in a moment’s notice. On race day, they would serve a gourmet lunch to as many as 300 guests.
Afternoons were spent shopping and prepping for the next day. No expense was spared to deliver fresh, healthy and, when possible, local ingredients.
At each location, VIP guests often included corporate executives who expected to enjoy local specialties such as grouper, ropa vieja or mojo chicken in Miami or hand-crafted artisanal sausage and brats in Wisconsin. Smokehouse turkey, pork and sausage were the rule in Texas. On race days, the Lutfys prepared fresh fish, jumbo shrimp and crab, as well as grilled, marinated steaks or rack of lamb served with locally grown produce.
On a typical day, Birgitte Lutfy baked 8 dozen assorted cookies and ran a 10-item salad and sandwich bar for lunch. Buffets always featured at least two hot entrees, two sides, pies, cakes, beverages and sometimes even ice cream.
On the last weekend of August, the racing team would arrive in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where the Lutfys attended special events at the Andretti family winery. Race stops in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto also were among their favorites.
Other perks of the Lutfys’ racing adventure, which lasted for six seasons, included meeting and touring the kitchens of celebrity chefs who were friends of the Andrettis.
“All in all, a great experience,” Michael Lutfy said.

Want to open a restaurant?

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Owner Michael Lutfy roasts peppers in a stone-lined brick oven at Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen. The ovens, which are used for 75 percent of the restaurant’s prep work, reach temperatures of up to 800 F.
purchase
Roll-top garage-style doors create an indoor patio feel and provide a practical solution to Durango’s variable weather.
purchase
Curved, spiral seating offers sound mitigation and privacy for diners who choose to sit in a booth at Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen.
purchase
Chimayo owner and designer Birgitte Lutfy sits at one end of the curved, contemporary bar that she designed.
purchase
Freshly roasted poblano chiles contribute to Chimayo’s Southwestern flair.
purchase
Strawberry rhubarb crumbles are prepared for diners at Chimayo. The dessert is made with seasonal fruit.
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