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.