I'm not Ted Scheffler
, so I'm not going to pretend to know what I'm talking about when it comes to Salt Lake City's restaurant community. I highly recommend reading his articles if you want an opinion on local food. But I am savvy enough to recognize that we've gone through some major changes over the past decade that have had an impact on the quality of food available to us when we really want to indulge. Keeping track of all the corner shops and new dining establishments to pop up every month has to be a full-time job unto itself. Recently, a businessman turned podcast host, Chase Murdock, has been highlighting the stories of many SLC-based establishments on his new show, The Utah Foodie
. Today we discuss the show with Murdock and his goals for highlighting these businesses. (All pictures courtesy of The Utah Foodie.
Gavin: Hey Chase, first thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey Gavin—thanks for your interest in the podcast! Huge fan. I’m an entrepreneur here in SLC, and the founder of The Utah Foodie
, a new local podcast and radio program. I’ve spent the last several years building a couple startup companies here in the state, and love to travel—especially if it involves a backpack and a foreign country. I’m also “dad” to my little guy Liam, who keeps me busy, humble, and always on my toes.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in business and what education did you receive as your background?
Oh man, I have such an untraditional career path I have no idea where to start. I left college early because the company I was working for relocated me overseas to work in the Philippines. I was only 19, and my whole world changed from that point on. A few years later I started an import/export business that kind of just took off on us. It grew faster than we expected, so at 23 I was the Founder/CEO of a company with 50 employees in four states doing millions in sales, and I was one of the youngest people there. It was a wild ride, especially because I had no formal business degree or education. So I’d say my business background came from making a lot of mistakes, screwing up often, but learning from each one of them.
Gavin: You are a bit of an entrepreneur, what inspired you to take that route with your career as a whole?
I love building things. I’ve always said being an entrepreneur is just a way of seeing the world. It’s reacting to problems or frustrating experiences with new ideas on how to fix them, and then actually doing something about it.
Gavin: Years ago you founded the company Dress Code. What made you decide to try our fashion and how was it running your first major company?
When I was living in the Philippines I was an $80 flight from anywhere in Asia—I took full advantage of it. It seemed like every country I traveled to had custom suit shops everywhere, and I bought way too many of them. Over time, I became fascinated with the different quality levels and price points that varied by country in Asia, and just fell in love with the whole manufacturing process. When I came back to the States, I was surprised at how awful the suit shopping experience was by comparison. I mean, Jos. A. Bank? Come on. The suits don’t fit, they were all overpriced, and I hated working with their pushy salespeople. So my college buddy and I started measuring friends and family for custom suits and importing them in from Asia. When we started getting calls from friends of friends, we knew we were on to something. A few years later we were named one of the fastest-growing menswear brands in the world and had raised $1.7M in venture capital. It was a fun experience.
Gavin: You're currently the co-founder of Purpose Portfolio. How did you come to be involved with that company and how has it been working with companies to create “give back” strategies?
Purpose Portfolio is a social business that helps companies become more sustainable, socially minded, and engaged in mission-aligned causes. We see a world
where there are thousands of companies like Warby Parker and TOMS Shoes—companies that do more than turn a profit. We got into it because we feel strongly
that giving back as a company isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also good business. But many companies didn’t know where to start, so we founded Purpose Portfolio to make it easier for companies who wanted to do good in the world. Our venture is still really early on, but we’re having a lot of fun with it and are helping some great companies engage in some cool charity projects around the world.
Gavin: Along the way, what made you decide to take an extra interest in local food and restaurants?
Honestly, it probably just came out of my lack of cooking skills. I eat out A LOT, and you can only have so much Olive Garden before you start turning to the less-explored restaurants and hole-in-the-wall places in your neighborhood. I love discovering new places, but have always felt underwhelmed with food reviewers and Yelp as my only guide. I wanted to know the stories of the places I ate out at regularly. I just knew that gorgeous restaurants like Log Haven, or quirky speakeasy-style bars like The Rest had interesting people and stories behind them. But, aside from the one-paragraph history you’ll read on a restaurant’s menu, there was no one was telling those stories.
Gavin: What have been some of your favorite places to open up that you frequent a lot in the past year?
Current and their cocktail bar Under Current are both stunning places with an outstanding menu and atmosphere, and they both demonstrate the groundswell we’re seeing in our state’s food scene. I’m also a big fan of La Barba, inside Finca on 200 South. It’s my favorite go-to for reading or working over a cup of coffee, and I’m there probably two times a week.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start up your own podcast?
Like all good ideas, it came over a couple of drinks at a bar. A few weeks later, the website was up, we had scheduled our first ten interviews, and had struck a partnership with local public radio station 90.9FM KRCL. I had no idea what to do with equipment and knew there had to be studios with down time after hours that wouldn’t mind working out a trade deal or something. That turned out to be a harder problem to solve, and I’m still pretty dissatisfied with the options available to local podcasters that don’t want crappy audio, and don’t have a partnership with a radio station like we do. Someone needs to fix this problem. We’re a broadcasting partner of KRCL 90.9FM, so we record out of their studios and use their equipment in exchange for rights to our clips that they air between songs on their station. It’s a pretty awesome setup and we’re lucky to be working with KRCL.
Gavin: What made you decide to start with Whiskey Street as the first episode, and what was the response like from both the bar and listeners?
Whiskey Street was brought about by long-time bar veterans from Bourbon House, who decided to open the bar of their careers. They finally had the perfect location, access to capital, and the dream of hitting a home run with Salt Lake’s quickly growing bar and nightlife scene. When they opened on their first night, the place was packed. And it’s been that way ever since. Most people don’t realize Whiskey Street is only a year and a half old, and that it was probably the most successful opening for a bar that the entire state of Utah has ever seen. We felt sharing that story would be a great place to start, and it’s a meaningful story because their success also says something about Utah’s bar and nightlife scene. It’s growing up.
Gavin: What do you look for when planning out a place to interview?
Passion. There’s no getting around it, the food business sucks. 9 in 10 restaurants fail in their first year, the margins are awful, and diners are overly-critical on review sites like Yelp. Getting through all of that, let alone thriving, takes grit and passion and makes for a great story. Each week we talk with restaurants, cocktail bars, and coffee shops who have a great story, like a gelato shop that took ten years and several false starts before finally nailing it (check out our interview with Dolcetti Gelato). Or a story of the Utah staple and family heirloom Maddox Restaurant, that serves 13k+ people each week in the rural town of Perry, and has been in business for three generations. We also interviewed the chef and owner of Forage Restaurant, named by Open Table as one of the Top 100 restaurants in America, about how they build their menu. Our food scene has so many great stories. We look for the passionate people working hard behind the scenes who make our growing food culture interesting.
Gavin: Aside from topic, what do you believe best separates your show from the vast podcast network in Utah?
Chase: The Utah Foodie
is about storytelling. Our food scene is full of challenges and triumphs, and those stories are fun to listen to. Also, we’re now getting to the point where we get to talk with some smaller restaurants many of our listeners haven’t yet heard of, so we’re helping a lot of people discover new places to try that have a great backstory, or make a particular dish really well, or just have a charming atmosphere. So we’re kind of like an audio food guide in that sense!
Gavin: What are the top places on your mind right now that you want to talk about?
Here are a few curveballs for you. Drive down to Millcreek and check out Lazy Day Cafe for breakfast. They have a lemon pancake that melts in your mouth and it might sound strange, but they just do their eggs and hashbrowns right, every time. Also, head out west of downtown to Chunga’s. Order this, and thank me later, it’s only $12—two tacos al pastor, black beans, rice, chips and salsa, and a big goblet, for lack of a better word, of fresh mango juice. These guys do it right and it’s nothing like the wait down the road at Red Iguana. For coffee, head down to central ninth and check out Blue Copper. They have great espresso.
Gavin: Are you looking to expand the show in any way or sticking to how things are for now?
A few months ago we brought on Keni Nelson, a wonderful and uber-talented woman who is equally passionate about our food scene. She helps with our marketing, social media, and partnership outreach. We are planning some fun events coming up, and she has a few things up her sleeve we’ll announce in due time. We also recently convinced an overqualified producer and friend of mine, Ryan Samanka, to join the podcast to help us boost the production quality of our program. He’s already made some great improvements and is working on some things that will expand the scope of what The Utah Foodie
does. So a lot of improvements in store as we grow. We’re only about 25 episodes in [as of this interview], so we’re still just getting started.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and the show going into 2016?
Stay tuned, a lot of big things in store for the next year. You can follow our journey and discover your food scene at our website or on Facebook
, or Instagram
. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.