Working in the restaurant business is always a roll of the dice, but 2020, and in Salt Lake City especially, it's been one for the record books. A pandemic, earthquake, ongoing protests and a windstorm with hurricane-force winds have been visited upon our fair city—and we're only three-quarters of the way through!
But look around and you'll see signs of hope everywhere. For starters, many eateries and bars have reopened after being forced to close in mid-March 2020, and they've thoughtfully created safe dining experiences for patrons, making a return visit worth the wait.
To highlight the outlooks of five local chefs, we present stories this week originally assigned for our sister publication, Devour Utah magazine, which unfortunately did not make it to print this past summer.
For more creative workarounds and signs of hope, check out a few of these upcoming dining experiences:
The Downtown Alliance's "Open Streets"
Downtown Salt Lake and its more than 130 restaurants and bars are opening up parts of Main Street to allow people to shop, dine and enjoy performances while remaining physically distanced. Each Thursday through Saturday evening from 6 to 10 p.m. through Oct. 10, downtown stretches of Main Street will close to automobile traffic to expand patio service areas for restaurants that will be accompanied by buskers and performing artists in various locations from Exchange Place to City Creek Center. More information is available at downtownslc.org
Shop in Utah Discounts
This grant program is intended for COVID-19 impacted businesses with the goal of bringing consumers back. Participating companies offer discounts or other deals to customers. To see what restaurants (and other companies) are offering, visit the Shop in Utah webpage and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. You'll find numerous reasons to venture out during these COVID days and dine at your old favorites or try out new eateries (For example, I recently received 25% off my tab at Hog Wallow, offered Monday through Thursday. And everyone wore masks). business.utah.gov/shop-in-utah-offers
Slow Food's "Feast for the Five Senses"
Slow Food's annual fundraiser, Feast of Five Senses, is a mobile affair this year. Choose a tasting menu from one of the participating restaurants, which have joined with local farms to highlight the harvest. Presented by Harmons, the proceeds are split to help support these restaurants and to create Slow Food's microgrant fund for 2021.
Register for your meal, and on Saturday, Sept. 26, you can pick up a four-course tasting menu from one of following: Afterword by Tupelo Park City, Porch, Oquirrh Restaurant, Blended Table, Makanmakan, Zest Kitchen and Bar, Franck's Restaurant, SLC Eatery and Saffron Valley Indian Restaurant.
Then, take your meal home and create a feast using the menu and instructions provided by the chef. Additionally, you'll receive instructional videos about wine pairings and the table setting. At 7 p.m., you can join Slow Food's Facebook Live feed to savor your feast with the Slow Food community. But don't delay, meals at some restaurants are selling out. slowfoodutah.org/2020-feast-of-five-senses-a-movable-feast
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- Ryan Lowder The Copper Onion
Utah's restaurant scene has evolved quite a bit over the past decade, and a large part of that evolution is due to chef Ryan Lowder's decision to open The Copper Onion.
When it first opened for business, Lowder helped usher in an era of creativity and sustainability that set the stage for the culinary landscape we enjoy today. "Opening Copper Onion was a challenge in itself," Lowder says. "It wasn't easy to introduce Utahns to bone marrow and sweetbreads 10 years ago."
Lowder built his affinity for creative ingredients and recipes while attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, cutting his teeth in restaurants like Jean-Georges and pursuing different culinary endeavors in Colombia and Spain.
When Lowder opened Copper Onion, however, his goal was a more approachable perspective on foods he loved to cook. "Our mantra with Copper Onion was we just want to serve a bowl of pasta," Lowder says. "We're not trying to follow a trend; we just want to make good food."
Given the influence that Copper Onion has had on Salt Lake's food scene since it opened, it's safe to say: "Mission accomplished."
Copper Onion's COVID Update
Ryan Lowder says: "Our restaurants (that include Copper Common, Copper Kitchen and The Daily) have been severely limping. Limping is still moving forward, though. Our biggest challenge has been running restaurants with 0-50% customers allowed inside. With slim profits in good times, it's damned near impossible in our new reality.
"Our biggest win was paying several months of all of our employees' health benefits with Paycheck Protection Program [funding]. That's running out at the end of the month. Federal government? Are you hearing this?
"We've expanded patios where we can, added heaters, tested cross-ventilation with the doors open in our shops so we can open inside, and we're plotting a more aggressive takeaway when those doors need to be shut.
"My biggest fear? Winter is coming." (Alex Springer)
THE Copper Onion
111 E. Broadway, Ste. 170, SLC
- Rebecca Ory Hernandez
- Jeremy Matthews Nordstrom Grill
Jeremy S. Matthews
As executive chef for Nordstrom Grill at City Creek Center and a regional chef apprentice for Nordstrom's culinary division since 2013, Jeremy Matthews previously worked in restaurants and coffee shops in the Salt Lake Valley after graduating from the culinary arts program at Salt Lake Community College.
Along with being a talented chef and menu designer, Matthews is a delightful combination of a genuine "people person" as well as a great manager, a stickler for customer service and a consummate professional. A fan of his for more than a decade, I was happy to sit down with him recently to ask a few questions:
ROH: Who inspires you as a chef?
JSM: Lots of folks. Alice Waters, Samin Nosrat, Jacques Pépin, Rick Bayless and my mother and grandmother. I remember staying with my Grandma Pacheco as a child and her teaching me how to make chile verde, calabacitas, fried potatoes (in lard, of course) and chile Colorado. My mother and aunts also included me in traditional cooking—making tortillas and tamales from scratch at big family events. I think those fond memories of family unity and happiness centered around food made me want to explore it as a career.
What's your signature dish?
At Nordstrom, it's about executing high-quality food consistently across the menu. Customer favorites would be our signature crab bisque, cilantro lime shrimp salad and the prime rib French dip."
When I create for the restaurant, I enjoy utilizing Southwestern flavors of my childhood and exploring culinary traditions that are new to me.
What do you want to be known for?
As a teacher and a leader. I think a chef's success is largely defined by the trail of successful chefs they leave in their wake.
Any unexpected disasters?
The kitchen is all about management and organization. My favorite saying is: "You run your day or your day runs you." That's because the naturally chaotic and dangerous elements in a restaurant will overwhelm you if you don't take the steps to get ahead of them. This is controlled through training, planning, strategy and addressing health and safety concerns.
I've seen fryers boil over, cuts, burns, power outages, equipment failures and was even marched out under armed police during an active shooter event. As professionals, the well-being of our staff and clientele should always be our first priority. And we always need to make sure that the show goes on no matter what.
Nordstrom Grill's COVID-19 Update
Jeremy Matthews says: "Restarting after quarantine has been a challenge for everyone. Our primary objective in reopening was to be able to provide our customers with the safest service possible. And we knew that service wouldn't look the same as it was previously. So, while we may not be able to bus as frequently or offer our full range of menu items, I hope that knowing our diners are in a safe and secure environment will show them how much we appreciate and care for them.
Utah was the second region for Nordstrom to reopen, so I had the opportunity to help guide our other locations as they rolled back into service. This nationwide view showed me how this pandemic has impacted the entire food service industry—from the dishwasher, to the local farm, the delivery driver, the warehouse operators—there are just so many people that rely on us.
So, the best thing that I can do to help as many people as I can is to provide the best food possible and encourage people to dine with us and other local restaurants safely. And while this year seems to throw something new at us daily, hopefully we will be able to provide a small amount of consistency and comfort for our customers." (Rebecca Ory Hernandez)
City Creek Mall, 55 S. West Temple,
West block, Level 2, SLC<
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- Manuel “Manny” RozehnalSundance Mountain Resort
Manuel (Manny) Rozehnal
Hailing from Unterhaching, Germany, Manuel Rozehnal left his hometown after attending culinary school and launching his career to work in two Michelin-star restaurants in France and Switzerland. After a time, he moved to California to work with celebrity chef Michael Mina and then to Park City before making his way to Sundance Mountain Resort in January 2019, where he is the executive sous chef.
Traveling taught Chef Manny a lot about food. He looks to the world for inspiration and prefers real, honest food.
"I just look at what's new in the world and what's going on, and then I look back a lot to when cooking started and what they were using," Rozehnal said.
"For the Foundry Grill, especially, I look at stuff even from the '50s and '60s, where people are still thinking about how to cook with staples, and then I try to think of how I can turn that into something that people would eat right now.
"I just love making food. ... You can give one chef five things, and then another chef [the same] five things ... but you would get two completely different plates from those chefs. It's just fascinating what you can do with so little."
The flavor profiles of his dishes, like the braised short rib, served with a savory crepe and mushroom ragù, is the stuff of dreams. Simple ingredients transformed into magic on a plate.
Sundance's COVID-19 update:
Sundance's restaurants and dining options are currently open with these hours of service:
Tree Room: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m.
Foundry Grill: Open daily for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner, 5-9 p.m.
Sundance Deli: Open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Bearclaw Cabin: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Owl Bar: Sunday, noon-10 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon-midnight. (Aimee L. Cook)
Sundance Mountain Resort
8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance
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- Allysa AdamsonRoth Living
As a college hurdler who endured three ACL surgeries, Allysa
Adamson watched the Food Network while recovering. She admired chefs Julia Child and Ina Garten and loved cookbooks. Earning her master's degree in food science from Oregon State, "I learned a lot about food—what's going on at the molecular level," she says. She previously worked in recipe development at an oil and vinegar store in Washington, D.C.
Pre-food career, she says, "I was a huge people pleaser. I love making people happy. And what's more universally loved and what brings people together more than food?"
Her signature dish is cacio e pepe—"handmade rolled little pastas," she says. And people love her steak with chimichurri.
As Roth Living's executive chef who's been featured on Fox 13, this "people-pleasing" chef enjoys preparing vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, "foods that people don't normally like. and make them love it," she says. Many Roth Living clients who attend her classes are retired. They initially say, "My kids are grown. I did my cooking. I'm over it." But after Adamson's class, they leave ready to prepare food anew.
"I want to be known as that girl who got people excited about cooking again," she says.
After closing for a month due to COVID-19, the Roth Living showroom "opened back up and got right back to it," says Adamson, adding that precautions included limiting the number of people in the store, spreading out the tables and advising the staff to wear protective gear.
She was excited to start small cooking classes in June. "People wanted to come," she said. "Part of it was the idea of getting out of their houses and coming to class. The other aspect is that people are really into cooking right now. They are happy to learn new things."
She herself didn't particularly mind the quarantine. "It just meant that I got to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner at home." (Carolyn Campbell)
1400 S. Foothill Drive, Ste. 212, SLC
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- Nathan PowersBambara
A native of Rochester, New York, Nathan Powers graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park and cooked at Bay Area eateries Hawthorne Lane and Farallon (both now closed) and Bambara's sister restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An avid skier and cyclist, Powers has cultivated a premier dining hub in downtown Salt Lake City for businesspeople, theater-goers and those celebrating a special occasion.
A Bambara regular myself, I relished a sit-down with Chef Nathan:
What makes you amazing as a chef?
I am not amazing—our crew is amazing. Amazing line cooks, prep cooks, GM, sous chefs, managers, servers, bussers, bartenders and—most importantly—dish crew. I am just a cook.
Where does inspiration come from?
History ... retelling of a classic, my kids and our ranch high up in the Wasatch, great restaurants and restaurateurs, growers, purveyors, an icy martini, Ferdinand Porsche, Enzo Ferrari, a great hike with well worn-in hiking boots and deep, deep snow.
I don't really have one, but if pressed, our Steak and Frites with an '03 Cheval Blanc would be my death-row meal.
What do you want to be known for?
For being the rock of the SLC restaurants. ... Great ones come, great ones go, but keeping this 21-year-old institution on the forefront of Utah dining into its third decade is what I strive for.
Cooking for me really is not about reinventing the wheel, but it most definitely is about keeping it true and tightening the spokes.
Bambara's COVID-19 Update
Currently, Bambara is open for dinner, Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Hotel Monaco is offering a "Nights & Bites" package that allows guests to book one night and get a second night free that also includes a $100 dining credit at Bambara. (Rebecca Ory Hernandez)
202 S. Main, SLC