Eat Learning History Through Food
When the railroad snaked its way towards Utah from both coasts, it brought people along who helped to build it and those who hoped for a new future. Three distinct cultures were present in Utah during the railroad era which helped to shape the cuisine of our region: The Chinese, the Irish and the Spanish.
The intersection of these distinct, disparate cultures inspired me to create the menu for Yuta at the Lodge at Blue Sky; I wanted to use storied, heirloom ingredients that were punctuated by unexpected, bright bursts of flavor from these unique, significant cultures to create something new and different.
For Spanish influences, I incorporate aioli, olive oils, and peppers into dishes and for Mexican influences, I use cactus and chilis in unexpected ways. One of my favorite dishes at Yuta is Clay Pigeons. Not only does it help guests relive their memories of their time on the Sporting Clay course, but it is also a dish I was served once. It took me years to master and perfect it with wild sage and mushrooms. The original dish was served with pheasant, but we serve it with squab in a clay pot making the name of the dish a fun play on words.
These cultural concepts carry over to our cocktails and beverage menu. One example is a shrub that is native to the area called Ephedra. Both the Chinese and the Mormons have used it to treat respiratory problems and altitude sickness. As a welcome, guests are greeted with a cooling shot of Ephedra tea (a Blue Sky version) to set the tone of their stay.
Inspired by the settlers of these different cultures that lived off the Utah land, I am committed to “Love of the Land,” be sustainable and use locally sourced ingredients (especially the ones we grow ourselves at Gracie’s Farm) as much as possible. I’ve learned fruits and vegetables come into season much later in Utah, such as tomatoes in July. In order to create fresh menus, I keep an almanac of what is in season by daily journaling what I saw in the markets and what the farm has produced. Now, my menus are seasonally appropriate based on the local growing season.
My favorite part of my job is creating and hosting immersive culinary experiences for our guests. I really want guests to understand the best food comes from the earth and how to cook and enjoy that food. As I learn, so do the guests and they take a piece of Utah history home in the form of a recipe which they can enjoy together for years to come.