We’re all in this together. One of the reasons the Utah dining scene has developed so deliciously in the last decade is simple: community. I’ve written about restaurants in several cities, but I’ve never encountered a food community as mutually supportive as the one in Utah. Not only do suppliers like Nicholas & Co. support restaurants by seeking out the newest and best products—almost acting as personal shoppers—but chefs and retailers support local growers and food producers, and, most remarkably, restaurants support other restaurants.
Besides being interested in food sustainability, Utah restaurants are mutually sustaining.
For example, in the spring, 35 volunteers from Communal, Pizzeria 712 and Mountain West Burrito planted micro greens, onions, radishes and more at the organic farm La Nay Ferme in Provo. Heirloom Restaurant Group kitchens use La Nay produce, and Pizzeria 712 hosted a dinner at the farm. Caffe Niche partners with Tifie Ranch; the restaurant staff work with the the goats, chickens and gardens. Mixologists from Wild Grape, Finca and other bars meet periodically at The Virtual Sommelier Jimmy Santangelo’s house for a no-compete R&D session about artisanal cocktails. Chef Viet Pham regularly drops in at Johnny Kwon’s Naked Fish to discuss ideas about food in Salt Lake City and the rest of the world. Cristiano Creminelli partners with High West Distillery to make a New/Old World salami.
I don’t know if this community interaction springs from professional loneliness or what—it’s true that the number of people here seriously interested in good eating is pretty small. But I do know that it’s the smartest thing Utah restaurants can do for themselves.
Utah is beautiful. It has unparalleled recreation opportunities, and amazing national and state parks. It’s a great place to visit and tourism is one of this state’s tickets to the future. But there is no tourism without a menu. Travelers expect excellent food as part of the package, and for a long time Utah was a flyover state when it came to food. We need a community of good and unique restaurants—places with food that travelers can't find back home. And we're building it together.
It's the plural that's so important: A dense community of good restaurants makes each one more powerful by making the overrall attraction greater. One restaurant alone doesn't make the world pay attention. We have lots of independant, unique, high-quality eateries—more opening every few months—and that's what it takes to become known as a great food town.
Already, our reputation is growing. We’re becoming a secret foodie destination.
And everyone knows you can’t keep a secret.