CNM Culinary Grad Opens New Albuquerque Restaurant

Steph Herrera owns Knead Dough Bar in downtown Albuquerque, a vegan restaurant that brings vegetables and sweets together to create a unique dining experience
September 05, 2023

Steph Herrera has been around the food industry her entire life.

“My first job in the industry was bussing tables at my nana’s seafood restaurant in Texas,” she says. “Then when I got a little bit older the chef there started to teach me how to plate desserts, and that’s really where my love for food and the restaurant industry all started.”

From there, Steph went on to work in several food service positions, from dishwasher to server, all while working toward the goal of opening her own restaurant someday. 

By 2013 she had lots of hands-on experience but still needed to hone her skills so she enrolled in CNM’s Culinary Arts program. 

“Going to CNM was quite possibly the best decision I ever made,” she says. “Going in I thought I knew a lot because of my industry experience but the instruction I received at CNM pushed me even more, and ultimately led me to becoming the creative, visually-focused chef I am today.”

After she graduated from the Culinary Arts program Steph started developing her business plan and with the help of her life partner, Cisco Chavez, opened their first restaurant called Wanderlust in 2019. 

It wasn’t long until the COVID pandemic caused them to shut their doors, so Steph and Cisco moved to Austin, Texas where they ran a vegan food truck. Then in December of last year they saw an opportunity in Albuquerque they couldn’t pass up.

“Cisco and I came to Albuquerque for the holidays and we were feeling pretty defeated by the Austin food truck scene,” Steph says. “We were walking in downtown Albuquerque one day during our trip and saw how much the city was growing, and then we saw a ‘for lease’ sign and we knew what our next step was.”

Steph went on to open Knead Dough Bar in that open space in April of this year, and in just four months have built a successful business. The menu features plant-forward brunch dishes as well as Steph’s signature potato brioche donuts and other vegan pastries. 

And thanks to their success, the sky is now the limit. Within the next year Steph says she wants to expand the current location and open a coffee bar that transforms into a speakeasy with wine and a tapas restaurant at night. She is also looking at opening a location in another city outside of New Mexico. 

It’s a lot to do, but Steph says she’s thankful for her success and more than anything looks forward to using food to continue bringing people together, both locally and nationally. 

“I believe that food, vegan or otherwise, should be for all,” she says. “My hope is when people come to Knead or any of our businesses that they can sit down, have a good meal, laugh, tell stories, and just get to know each other better.”

Pictured left: Espresso Piñon Potato Brioche Cinnamon Roll at Knead Dough Bar. 
Photo Courtesy of Knead Dough Bar Instagram