Willie Ortiz was raised in Chimayo, New Mexico before working in military intelligence most of his life. He met his wife, June (who was from Tennessee), while tagging along on a date with his best friend, an FBI agent, and June in Albuquerque. Six weeks later, June and Willie were married. After living for several years in Los Alamos, they decided to return to Santa Fe in 1972 and opened a restaurant in a century-old adobe building that was a part of the Guadalupe Mission Church. The dining rooms were formerly the convent’s dining room and chapel, and they named the restaurant La Tertulia.
The food that Willie Ortiz served at La Tertulia was based on dishes recalled from his childhood in Chimayo, and was prepared by Isadora Martinez, a native of Pecos, New Mexico. The Ortiz’s had one daughter, Joy, who was married and had three children, one of which was Kevin Nashan, who was raised in the kitchen of La Tertulia, and was captured by the fun of working with food.
Great Chefs were producing their latest PBS television series, featuring the new southwest cuisine and taped Isadora Martinez in 1985 for episode #3 and episode #6 of the Great Chefs of the West series.
June Ortiz passed away in 1990, the restaurant closed shortly before 2000, and Willie passed away in 2001, but not before sharing all his recipes and techniques with his grandson, Kevin Nashan. Kevin went on to work for Great Chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel’s in New York City, before opening his own restaurant in St. Louis in 2002 called Sidney Street Café. Now in 2016, it is known as one of the best in the city, and he has been nominated often for the James Beard Awards.