Acclaimed Chef Tamara Stanger Joins Hell’s Backbone Grill as Executive Chef

It’s not often that I get to write about what I would consider breaking news in the world of Utah food writing. But I could not be more excited about the delicious update that just came across my desk. Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm announced today that highly lauded and accomplished Chef Tamara Stanger will join its culinary team as Executive Chef.

An acclaimed chef in her own right, Chef Stanger will join the women-owned, six-time James Beard Foundation-recognized restaurant in one of the nation’s most remote towns – Boulder, Utah. “We had started to imagine if it would be possible to find the right chef for our unique setting,” Co-Owner and Founding Chef Jen Castle said. “There is no one else who could have filled this role. Tamara is a strong leader who will work in tandem with us in the kitchen while also celebrating the challenges and rewards of high-desert farming.”

“Tamara’s arrival comes at the perfect time,” said Co-Owner and Founding Chef Blake Spalding, “as we take the restaurant to the next level. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century that we’ve been in deep service to our project. Now we have an opportunity to reimagine and implement a renewed vision that supports not only the health of our business but an ever-deepening commitment to culinary and hospitality excellence. We’re excited to have Tamara’s help, skill, and fresh eyes on our goal, which is for our business to be stronger, healthier, happier, and more joyful as we move out of the difficult pandemic years.”

Hell’s Backbone Grill has been bringing joyful culinary experiences to so many for years – coming up on 24 seasons, all told. Since its inception, thousands have flocked every season to Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm to be nourished by the fresh, seasonal cuisine sourced and harvested from heirloom orchards, local ranches, and, primarily, from the restaurant’s own organic farm. But the pandemic was especially hard for the remote location. Although Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm is widely recognized by the culinary community and popular with foodies, travelers, and environmentalists worldwide, the pandemic presented unique challenges to the restaurant located in remote Southern Utah. 

If anyone is well poised to fit right into everything at Hell’s Backbone Grill, that person is Chef Tamara Stanger. She will fit right into Boulder, which has a population of 252 people. She was born and raised in Utah, living mostly in a ghost town called Mammoth, which at one point in history, was booming from gold mining operations. She grew up hiking the mountains, exploring caves, and foraging the land for food. She has always had a strong connection with her surroundings. Stanger’s personal mission to educate the public—especially youth—about sustainable desert agriculture, in the hope that the future of food can return to a place of abundance, wellness, and sharing, aligns closely with that of Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm’s co-owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding. Her arrival coincides with the much-anticipated opening of the 24th season and a new reservation system, which is live now for all who wish to experience the world-class restaurant on the grounds of the Boulder Mountain Lodge.

Most recently, from The Lakehouse at Deer Creek, Stanger talked to us about her goal of venerating old cooking styles with a focus on foraging or gathering ingredients from nearby land, right in line with the respect for the land that comes as part of the package at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm. “Food tells a story,” she explained. “I want to look at the ways the early settlers and Native Americans cooked and what they cooked. I grew up foraging, and most of our meat was hunted or fished. The first thing I ever foraged was wild rhubarb. I made ice cream out of it. It felt like treasure hunting.”

We are looking forward to the story Chef Stanger will tell from the kitchen at Hell’s Backbone Farm and Grill. 

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm will reopen for their 24th season with a new reservation system on March 31, 2023.

Connect with Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm through the Website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


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Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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