Few restaurants in Salt Lake City are as iconic as Blue Iguana, the culinary baby of Kris Cappaert, a fixture among downtown’s restaurateurs since 1998. “We’re a downtown institution going on 21 years,” says Cappaert. “Lasting that long in the restaurant business is no easy feat. There are a handful of iconic restaurants that retain the same flavor and faithful origins as Blue Iguana.”
And her dedication to being a successful business woman started at a very early age. “I’ve always been very thrifty and probably should have been a banker. When I was in elementary school, I was elected to banker for half of the year and mayor of the class for the other half,” she remembers. “I have, to this day, my piggy bank from when I was little—a two foot tall lime green plastic poodle that’s still filled with change from that age.” Her dedication to saving and succeeding led her to take a big chance when the Red Iguana family offered the Blue Iguana restaurant to her about six months after opening in 1997. “I owned several businesses before this, but I’d never been in the restaurant industry. I just thought it was a such a great product, and I believed in it so much,” says Cappaert.
And she is fully dedicated to keeping the Blue Iguana’s authentic Mexican cuisine as fresh and up-to-date as possible. “My husband, Ed, and I go to Mexico three or four times every year, largely to look for inspiration and to refine the brand to make it more authentic,” she says. “Every time we go down there, we come back with new ideas. We take lots of notes and its very important to us that, when you walk in the door, you feel like you’re south of the border.” While they’re always looking for improvements, consistency is the name of the game for Cappaert, and the restaurant has even maintained the original chef and sous chef nearly since opening over twenty years ago. Cappaert wants all to know, “It’s always a fun, colorful fiesta at Blue Iguana.”
Q. Best Advice?
“Don’t make important decisions when you are angry, and don’t make promises when you’re happy.”
Q. What’s new?
“We’re constantly making every dish better and fresher and buying the best ingredients we can. We have a new menu item served in a lava rock bowl called Molcajete. It has fresh grilled chicken, grilled jalapeños wrapped in bacon, jumbo shrimp, grilled beef strips, tomatillo sauce and cactus.”
Q. Why is Blue Iguana important in the Salt Lake community?
“We’ve retained a very high percentage of original staff from the restaurant’s origins, and I think it’s a testament to the management style, and I’m very loyal to my staff as well. We’ve won dozens of awards—three times in a row by Best of State for Best Authentic Mexican, we’ve won Best of Utah awards and we’re Zagat rated.”
See all of our fall 2018 Women in Business here.