How this CNM-Trained Chef Stepped Up to Help Albuquerque’s Most In-Need Residents

Each day, Mike Tafoya and his staff make hundreds of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that go to the city’s homeless population
November 24, 2020

A couple weeks back, Mike Tafoya got a call from the City of Albuquerque around 10:30 a.m. They asked him if he and his catering staff could put together somewhere around 150 dinners. When Mike asked when the City needed those dinners, they told him that same night.

Mike—who owns the Old Town Catering Company—was surprised but also happy to help, so he and his staff got to work and put together a simple but nutritious dinner that was delivered to homeless residents. The next night he and his staff did another 150 dinners and it only grew from there. Currently, Mike and his staff prepare over 100 breakfasts, and over 400 dinners and lunches, seven days a week.

“This has been a blessing for everyone,” Mike says. “We’re happy to help those in need and I’ve also been able to bring all my employees back to work.”

Staff at the City of Albuquerque say they’re equally thankful.

“Mike at Old Town Catering has been an amazing asset to the City of Albuquerque,” says Elizabeth Snyder, the City’s EOC Logistics Section Chief. “We asked and they were able to accommodate a big request of multiple meals a day to different sites. They are great to work with. Super friendly and always going above and beyond.”

Food and service have long been part of Mike’s life. He grew up around restaurants—his parents met while working at one—and he attended cooking classes back when CNM was TVI. He went on to work as the executive chef at several popular Albuquerque restaurants including Ambrosia and Wisque, and he also founded and operated the Old Town Pizza Parlor for nearly a decade.

He started his catering business several years back and quickly built a solid client base. He and his staff prepared all the food for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe offices located here in Albuquerque, including food for St. Pius X High School, and catered weddings and parties around the city.

When COVID-19 hit, however, his business went to almost zero. They shut down except for a small processing contract and were trying to wait out the pandemic. To immediately jump back to full staff has been exactly what he and his employees needed. 

“We’re very lucky and we know it,” he says.

Mike’s contract with the City lasts until the end of the year, but he and his staff are happy to keep helping for as long as there’s a need. He’s also looking forward to using food to rebuild community once the pandemic goes away. 

“For me, food is a great way to bring people together, to create nourishment and comfort,” he says. “I love creating something that people can enjoy together, and when you see them enjoying it, you want to do it over and over again.”