Friends & Collaborators

Building community around great food.

Chef Derek Rugsaken

Derek Rugsaken is the Chef and co-founder of Southeast by Southwest popup events in northern New Mexico, blending Southeast Asian and New Mexican cuisine with an emphasis on locality, seasonality and story. His interest in cooking began in childhood with his midwestern mother and Thai father, for both of whom food played a central role in life. His uncle and cousin opened the first Thai restaurant in Muncie, Indiana in the mid-1990s where Derek worked through the latter half of high school and gained insights on Thai menu-development and cooking technique.  In the summer of 2008 Derek moved to southern Thailand with his wife and young son, where they lived in two of the premier food cities of the region: Hat Yai and Trang. It was here that his interest in the diversity and history of the cuisine deepened, and he did extensive ‘research’ on the many culinary offerings of the area (i.e. eating anything and everything possible!).

While on further travels at an ashram in India, Derek and family met a woman who suggested they move to New Mexico, going so far as offering them a place to stay.  They accepted the offer, and it was in New Mexico that Derek developed Southeast by Southwest, beginning as an invite-only supper club and expanding over the last 5 years into public cooking events, classes, a podcast of the same name and an upcoming cookbook. Derek interest in the intersection of Asian and Latin cuisine, as well as the historical realities that account for the similarities between these cultures, and he is eager to share the food and story with anyone who will listen or taste.