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Salt Lake City


Dining in Salt Lake City

Chief among them are the growing availability of local organic produce, a full range of fresh, quality ingredients, and an influx of well-traveled chefs who are making a delicious difference as they add excitement and energy to the city's menus. Meet six recent transplants:

Will Benner, Executive Chef, Rivers and Private Reserve launched his cooking career at San Francisco's famed Stars restaurant and the venerable Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland. "My mise en place at Ballymaloe began each day with trips to the gardens where I cut my own herbs and plucked fresh vegetables from the earth," he says. "It was every chef's dream." After forays to Australia and China, Benner settled in Salt Lake, drawn to the area's "laid-back attitude" and mountains. Benner raves about organic produce from Bohemian Farms in nearby Payson and goat cheese from Drake Family Farms in Salt Lake. "Who knew?" he says. "I love everything about cooking at the base of the Wasatch Range."

Robert Barker, Executive Chef, Bambara landed in Utah by way of New Orleans restaurants Emeril's, Arnaud's, and Louis XVI, and Sazerac and Demi Epicurious in Austin, Texas. Also a veteran of a few Wolfgang Puck properties, he rode into town in his favorite restored '72 Chevy SS Nova with visions of plump oyster shooters with toasted corn and carrot ginger bisque in his head. Salt Lake ate it all up—with relish. Though he used to order produce from Chef's Garden in Ohio, Barker rapidly emigrated to local produce and his favorite, free-range Morgan Valley Lamb. The opportunities to ski and raise his family in a "hassle-free" place drew him to Salt Lake.

Franck Piessel, Executive Chef, L'Avenue is as French as his popular moules et frites in tarragon-laced broth. As a young boy, his aunts in Bordeaux schooled him in the ways of tart shells and gratins and awakened his passion for great ingredients. Trained formally at La Cigale, L'Escinade, and Auberge Saint Donat in Sainte Maxime, Piessel went on to cook at Le Moulin de Lourmarin and Auberge de L'Eridan. From there, he moved to New York's Park Bistro, where the owners of L'Avenue tasted his food and enticed him to take charge of their authentically furnished French bistro in Salt Lake. Knowing he could indulge his love of hiking, biking, and skiing while creating his own menus, Franck headed west. Though he still looks to Thuries Magazine Gastronomie for inspiration, Piessel is a devotee of local products and is thrilled to find daily shipments of fresh fish that meet his exacting standards.

Perry Hendrix, Executive Chef, Metropolitan studied plants and wine as a Botany major at Ohio's Miami University and progressed from learning about wine production to cooking. Before the "beauty of the mountains and proximity to skiing" drew him to Salt Lake, he was executive chef at Richmond Hill Inn's Gabrielle in Asheville, North Carolina. His culinary resume also includes stints at New York's Gramercy Tavern, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Chanterelle. "As far as local purveyors go, I have been thrilled to find great local produce, farm fresh eggs, a thriving farmers' market, a great fish purveyor, and of course, Morgan Valley Lamb, which is the best lamb I've ever had," he said.

Kurtis Baguely, Executive Pastry Chef, The Grand America Hotel makes a sourdough baguette that transports your senses straight to San Francisco as the chewy crust gives way to an unmistakable tang and warm, yeasty fragrance. It's no fluke to find this heavenly dough in Salt Lake. Baguely, a former chef/pastry instructor at the California Culinary Academy, studied with masters such as Steve Sullivan of the Acme Bread Company in Berkley, and counts Rose Levy Birinbaum and Flo Braker, two of the country's most revered bakers, among his closest friends. While his breads and pastries garnered rave reviews at Scala's Bistro, Silks, and the Fours Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, Salt Lake's own "four seasons" drew Baguely to the high-altitude city where he now presides over the city's grandest pastry kitchen.

Mark Smith, Chef de Cuisine, The Grand America Hotel is a Salt Lake native who left for the joy of studying and cooking in San Francisco, Seattle, and Spain, then chose to return to be near his family and the opportunity to cook. Along the way, mentor Roland Passot of La Folie in San Francisco taught him to "work clean, work organized and use my imagination." While studying in coastal San Sebastian, Smith happened upon Eloy Lanziego and ended up cooking in that acclaimed Basque restaurant as well as Arzak and Urepel. His sophisticated culinary worldview now finds expression at the Grand America's Garden Café where Smith serves as many fresh local ingredients as possible.

Diners at Bacis
Diners at Bacis

Diners at Bambara
Diners at Bambara



Document Information
Source: Salt Lake City CVB, Grant Heaton, Erich Schramm
Last modified: 20050101
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