Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joe's Crab Shack Offering Seafood "Steampots"

Summer travel season may be winding down, but the new menu items at Joe’s Crab Shack let diners' taste buds travel to the North and South Poles and New Zealand.

The national seafood restaurant will highlight two new Steampots with fresh-caught Antarctic king crab, Alaskan queen crab and green lip mussels from New Zealand. 
  • The Santolla Steampot - Antarctic king (Santolla) crab, clams, shrimp, New Zealand green lip mussels and smoked sausage finished with a spicy garlic wine sauce and Old Bay® Seasoning
  • The Arctic Bay Steampot - Queen crab, shrimp, a whole split lobster and sausage, steamed in a garlic broth and topped with Old Bay® Seasoning
Also highlighted on Joe’s fall menu is the KJ Steampot, featuring Alaskan snow crab with  seared scallops and mussels basking in a light Kendall Jackson wine sauce with hints of garlic, pepper and citrus.

Joe’s Crab Shack will feature the  menu items at its 130 locations, including two restaurants coming soon to Latham, N.Y. and Hunt Valley, Md. For a full list of menu items, go to For locations

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Utah State Fair Cooking Contests -- Enter Now!

Governor and Mrs. Herbert judging his meatloaf contest. This year, it will be pies.
Last year's Ghirardelli contest winner.

You could win up to $300 for your original recipe at the Utah State Fair's cooking contests.  
Even if you don't win, you will at least get a free ticket to the fair for your trouble.
I will be judging a contest or two at the fair, and I'll also be doing cooking demos from my new cookbook, "Soup's On" on Sept. 13 (4 p.m.) and Sept. 14 (5 p.m.) in the Home Arts Building where the indoor cooking contests take place. So, I might see you there!

The line-up of State Fair cooking contests has gotten smaller in the past few years, as some national companies such as Hidden Valley Ranch and SPAM have dropped their sponsorships. But there are still some good opportunities to test your culinary creativity. 
Deadline for most of the online entries is August 31, so don't delay. After that, you must wait and enter on the day of the contest.
If you enter online, a complimentary gate pass will be mailed to you beforehand. If you enter the day of the competition, a pass may be picked up at the Fair's administration office, 155 N. 1000 West.  You will receive one entry pass per cook-off entry.
To enter, go to the Utah State Fair website, Click on "Exhibitors." The list will include  Indoor Cook-Offs and Outdoor Cook-Offs.  Click on online registration link.
It really pays to read all the rules, and to follow them. As a past judge, I've seen delectable entries disqualified simply for not following the rules. For instance, the rules state that the pie must be baked in a disposable pan.  The entries that were baked in a glass pie plate, or a regular pie tin, were disqualified. 
Last year, some Ghirardelli entries had to be disqualified for using too many ingredients; contest rules specify only 10 ingredients in addition to the Ghirardelli chocolate products.  Also, some people don't bring their recipe, and the rules state that two copies of the recipe should accompany your entry.

Think smart when it comes to food safety so that you don't give the judges food poisoning. (I judge some of these contests, so I have a vested interest here.) Transport your food in a well-chilled cooler so bacteria won't grow on your way to the fair.
Another thing I noticed: last year there were 28 entries in the Ghirardelli chocolate contest, and a lot fewer in the King Arthur Flour cake contest. If you've got a great chocolate cake, you've got a better chance of winning if you enter it in the cake contest than in Ghirardelli.  

Here is a list of the contest possibilities. New this year is a Funeral Potato contest...only in Utah....!

Indoor Cook-Offs:
The Governor's Pie Contest: Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. First place wins $150. 
Fleischmann's Sandwich Bread Contest: Friday, Sept. 7 p.m. First place wins $150 and a shot at a $1,000 regional prize. 
King Arthur Flour Great Cake Contest: Sept. 8, 2 p.m. First place wins a $200 KAF gift card and a shot at a regional prize of a $500 shopping spree at
C&H Sugar Cookie Contest: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. First place wins  $75.
Utah's Own Ultimate Recipe Roundup: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. First place wins $150.Participants are required to make an original dish that uses at least three Utah's Own ingredients (found at Utah's Own Funeral Potato Contest: Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. First place wins $150.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship: Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. First place wins $150 and a Ghirardelli gift basket.
Utah Cattlewomen's  Beef --Anywhere, Anytime Contest: Saturday, Sept. 15,  1 p.m. First place wins $300.
Outdoor Cook-offs:
Utah Beef Council Barbecue Cook-Off: Saturday, Sept. 7-8.  Grand champion of the professional division wins $1,000 and a berth at the American Royal in Kansas City. Backyarder division winners receives $150.
Budweiser Chili Cook-off, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2-8:30 p.m. First place wins $300.
Fresh Made Salsa Competition, Thursday, Sept. 13, 4 p.m. First place wins $75.
Utah Farm Bureau Great American Dutch Oven Cook-Off, Sept. 15. First place wins $300 and a berth at the International Dutch Oven Society World Championship Cook-Off in 2013.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Slow Food Utah's Feast of Five Senses Sept. 16

Chef Nathan Powers at 2011 Feast of Five Senses.
Chefs  Nathan Powers and Greg Neville at 2011 Feast of Five Senses.

Food served at 2011 Feast of Five Senses.
 In the name of good taste and to support Slow Food Utah’s Micro-grant Fund, the 8th Annual Feast of Five Senses takes place  Sunday, Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Alta Club, 100 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City.


Chefs and contributors this year include: 

  • Kassie Little of Liberty Heights Fresh
  • Greg Neville of Lügano
  • Ethan Lappe of Café Niche
  • Nathan Powers of Bambara
  • Phelix Gardner of Finca
  • Brian Edwards of the Alta Club
  • Amber Billingsley of Vinto
  • Romina Rasmussen of Les Madeleines
  • Uinta Beer will offer pairings
  • Francis Fecteau of Libation LLC will be pairing a wine with each course

Tickets are available online at or by mail to Slow Food Utah, PO Box 581213, SLC, UT 84158-1213. Cost to attend is $85 per person, with a $35 optional wine pairing. Seating is limited, so early reservations are highly recommended.

This annual fundraiser funds Slow Food Utah's program, including a micro-grant program for small-scale food growers and producers, community innovators and educators.  In past years, Slow Food Utah has funded schoolyard and community gardens, Utahns Against Hunger’s Real Food Rising program and has helped small farmers build greenhouses and barns, purchase a tractor, and expand beekeeping and livestock operations.

In addition to the restaurants and chefs,  Sysco is also a proud sponsor of this year's Feast.

Slow Food Utah is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing everyone to the table to celebrate the pleasures of good, clean, fair food. They are engaged in food education such as Slow Food in Schools. They link producers and consumers, foster community, support eating local foods and support local farmers. The website,, provides a variety of information and resources applicable to the Slow Food Movement, both in Utah and around the world.  Slow Food Utah is an all-volunteer run organization.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Viet Pham of "Extreme Chef" Celebrates at Forage

Viet Pham serving up goat meat at Forage's 3-year anniversary.
"Extreme Chef" watchers: Am I the only one who thinks that Viet Pham is coming across as a bit of a bossy know-it-all?
 I've actually met the guy, and he's a lot more personable than how he appears so far on the Food Network series. (Here's an update on Viet Pham's upcoming gig, The Next Food Network Star). 
Last weekend he was out barbecuing a couple of goats for the third anniversary celebration of Forage, the restaurant he and Bowman Brown own in downtown Salt Lake City.  It was a fun backyard type of afternoon for many Forage friends and customers, who brought potluck dishes to share at the event.  (Goat? You may be wondering if this was a throwback to an "Extreme Chef" episode. But it happens that goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world.)

At the party, Viet seemed to be having a good time as he greeted people and cut up pieces of goat meat. (For my original interview with Viet, click here.)

But on the show, he seems more brash. First, last night's episode showed Viet trash-talking with chef Scott Brandolini while making vanilla-scented squid with ratatouille out of Coast Guard MREs (ready-to-eat meals). While Viet sounded good-natured, Brandolini didn't seem happy when Viet warned that he would send him home to Boston.
Viet Pham of "Extreme Chef" cooks goat at his restaurant, Forage.
Later he showed his teammate, Tiffany Ward, how to chop veggies quickly, leading her to comment, "Viet is a pretentious chef, a bit of a know-it-all," and "I'm getting so sick of Viet. I envy his knowledge and that makes me kind of hate him."

Other comments during the show:
"Viet is a little bit full of himself," from Susanne Dillingham, the Charlotte chef who lost the one-bite challenge and was sent packing last night.
"Viet bothered me when he tried to manipulate our decision," from Issy Sarto, who had to pair up teams and later, decide which chef would join Susanne in the one-bite challenge.

Meanwhile, some of Viet's comments about the other chefs weren't so positive, either, such as "Tiffany's a wreck."

But Viet's culinary expertise continues to shine, as he handled exotic seafood such as squid and sea urchin as easily as the rest of us make peanut butter sandwiches. His physical toughness is also apparent, as he kept up with windsurfer Tiffany while swimming to find ingredients. He remains calm and collected during moments that would fluster just about anyone. All of this, of course, makes his a threat to the other chefs, so no wonder they're grumbling about him.

In contrast, I felt relieved when Susanne went home, because I feared she was going to drown during the swimming segment. 

Viewers certainly don't see everything that goes on 24/7 in a TV reality show. The end product is usually stronger on "show" than "reality." Producers like to show big personalities, and give viewers reasons to cheer for or against someone. I've met past contestants on reality series who claimed that they were unfairly portrayed, with their incidents of bad behavior blown out of proportion and their acts of kindness never shown. On the flip side, we hear stories of contestants who are not as nice as we thought. It's just that their nasty behavior was never aired.
A little drama makes a show more interesting, but it can also wreak havoc. In this last season of  "The Biggest Loser," contestants seemed so hateful and unlikeable that by the time they staged a strike and two of them quit the show, viewers had already stopped watching. 

It's true that you can't edit quotes INTO a show, if someone doesn't say them. But there are a lot of things that get said, especially in the heat of a challenge. So a lot of picking and choosing goes on in the editing room.

It will be interesting to watch the next episodes to see how Viet's personality evolves.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Market Street Grill and High West Distillery Opening at Airport

Market Street Fresh Fish Special - Caprese Salad with Snow Crab.

The Market Street restaurants got their claim to fame by flying in fresh salmon on Western Airlines (before it became Delta).
So it's fitting that in September, a Market Street Grill will open at the Salt Lake International Airport. A few days ago I had lunch at Market Street Grill with the public relations team at Gastronomy, Inc., and they shared the news with me. The restaurant will be located in the space that  Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill occupied, and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The airport concessionaire, HMS Host, will staff and run the restaurant, but the menu, recipes and cooking technique are uniquely Market Street. HMS Host staffers have been training at the downtown Market Street Grill, said Judy Cullen, Gastronomy's Communications Director.

Market Street Fresh Fish Special of Cedar Planked Salmon.
They will be serving the fresh seafood and Certified Angus Beef that locals have enjoyed for more than 30 years. 
High West Distillery and Saloon of Park City also opened a restaurant and saloon in Terminal E of the airport last week.  
Many airports around the country are including local flavors in their terminals. A few years ago, when I was stranded in the Atlanta airport when my flight was cancelled, I consoled myself with dinner at Paschal's. I found out it's a well-known Atlanta restaurant with an outlet at the airport. 
At the Salt Lake airport, Squatter's and Cafe Rio, Vino Volo Ale House, and Millcreek Coffee Roasters are some of the other local dining spots.  Judy Cullen said it's good exposure for restaurants, because it gives people a chance to have the local experience, and perhaps when they come back to Salt Lake City they will seek out one of the Market Street restaurants. 
High West will also be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, features a wide selection of High West's favorite spirits and cocktails. The food menu ties closely to High West's Park City location, with a variety of small plates, sandwiches, All Darn Day Saloon Bites and, for the morning fliers, healthy and delicious Crack O' Dawn Victuals.

Air travel has changed a lot over the years. The trays of piping hot meals served on board the plane were replaced with peanuts and pretzels, unless you are traveling first class. And with security checks, delayed flights, more connecting flights, etc. people are spending more time at the airport. But having some interesting dining options makes a wait much more palatable. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Deni Hill of "Biggest Loser" Speaking at Courage 2 Change Event Aug. 25

Deni Hill of "The Biggest Loser"
A teenage singing sensation from Australia's "The X Factor," the at-home winner of "The Biggest Loser" and physician from the PBS show, "The Healing Quest" will all be featured at an event called "The Courage 2 Change" on  Saturday, August 25 at 1:30 p.m. The program, focuses on wellness and lifestyle, takes place at the Christian Life Center at 2352 Highway 193 in Layton. 

Aspiring singer Emmanuel Kelly wowed audiences when he competed on "The X Factor" Australia in 2011. Emmanuel and his brother were born somewhere in Iraq, and nuns found them abandoned in a shoe box in a Baghdad park. Both boys had been severely injured in the war zone. Australian humanitarian worker, Moira Kelly, adopted them and brought them to Australia for corrective surgeries.

Kelly will tell his inspiring story and sing during the program.
Deni Hill, winner of the at home prize of "The Biggest Loser" Season 11, will share the story on her journey of change.  Hill, from Bountiful, competed on the show in 2011, losing 125 pounds in seven months, through health, nutrition and exercise. Former health issues, including sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes were eliminated. She has maintained her health and weight loss 
for over one year.

Emmanuel Kelly of "The X Factor" Australia.
Dr Marcus Laux, a licensed naturopathic physician, currently appears on the PBS program, "The Healing Quest," with Olivia Newton John. He will be speaking about the complications associated with the American lifestyle, including Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues.

This event is organized and hosted by a weight loss/health program called Sponsor Me Slim. For more information, and to find out about tickets, go to www.TheCourage2Change.Com.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Viet Pham on "Extreme Chef"

    Viet Pham has already established himself as  one of the frontrunners of "Extreme Chef," during  the Food Network's season premiere that aired last night.

   The Salt Lake City chef of Forage proved that he could, indeed, forage amid the rubble of an abandoned tent town to come up with a restaurant-quality meal. ("Beef tongue, baby, beef tongue!") 

He came off as cool and confident, even during the cooking showdown where he did a one-bite amuse bouche of chicken hearts, burning off bits of his cutting board to add smoky flavor.

   But it's obvious that some of the other chefs perceive him as a threat, that person standing in the way of the $50,000 prize. As he said last night, he knows they will be gunning for him, but he displayed a fearless, a "bring it on" attitude.  
  To read my interview with Viet, click here.

Zy Celebrates Tomato Days Dine Around

ZY Food Wine & Cheese’s Chef Matthew Lake has added a seasonal tomato dish to the restaurant's menu to support Wasatch Community Gardens’ (WCG) Tomato Days Dine Around event.
The $12 dish is a fresh salad of heirloom tomatoes gathered from the Wasatch community gardens, and topped with house-made burrata, California olive oil and garden herbs. The salad is available on ZY’s menu the duration of WCG’s Tomato Days event from August 17 through  September 8, in which 30% of the dish’s proceeds will go towards WCG. 
ZY is located at 268 S. State Street in Salt Lake City.

The Tomato Days proceeds will supply resources to 20 community gardens in the Salt Lake area. WCG educates members of the community on growing and eating quality foods through workshops, events and educational programs. WCG’s annual Tomato Days Dine Around event is celebrated by many local restaurants, in which each contributes a delicious heirloom tomato dish with a portion of proceeds going to the WCG’s initiative.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

Today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. The culinary queen passed away in 2004, before she (and Meryl Streep) captured yet another generation of fans through the film, "Julie and Julia" in 2009.
I'm reminded of the phone interview I did when she was approaching her 90th birthday, and her parting words to me, "Cooking is really perfectly easy; it's been done for thousands of years. If you love to eat, you will be a great cook."
I had taken the day off from my job as food editor at the Deseret News, and was in the middle of  organizing my cupboards when my editor, Chris Hicks, called.  Julia Child's "handlers" were trying to get in touch.  She was giving interviews in connection with her 90th birthday celebration, and had the next half hour free to talk. It was unlikely my chance would come again.
I grabbed a pen and notebook and dialed the number. When a deep, warble-y voice on the other end said, "Hello," I introduced myself and started to ask for Mrs. Child.
"Oh, yes, they said you'd be calling me," the voice answered.
"Oh, you're Julia Child? You answer your own telephone?" I blurted out.
"Yes, don't you answer your own telephone?" she asked.
"Yes, but I'm not Julia Child," I answered.
Having committed that gaffe, I quickly told her I saw her kitchen at the Smithsonian. (She donated the contents of her famous Cambridge, Mass. kitchen to the museum when she moved to Santa Barbara.)
"Oh, how were they coming with it?" she asked. "They were so persnickety about having to write down every little toothpick and all. I just left everything as it was."
"I miss the size of that kitchen," she said. "I have a very small and compact kitchen where I am now, in Santa Barbara. It's beautiful and very well-designed. But only two people can be in it at once."
Her Santa Barbara kitchen contained a quick-cooking Advantium oven that used halogen lights. "It's one of those modern things where you can't tell it; it tells you," she said.
You may not be able to picture the queen of roast duck and souffles using a microwave. But, she found it convenient. "When I'm home by myself, I can bake a potato in three minutes," she said.
We chatted about some of the kitchen innovations she had seen in her lifetime, such as the food processor.  "I couldn't live without a food processor. When you're making mushroom duxelles, it would take you an hour to chop all the mushrooms if you had to do it by hand. It's amazing."
What about those who say they have no time to cook? Well, good cooking doesn't have to be fancy and complicated, it's more about using good, fresh ingredients carefully, she said. Once you learn to do it right, it becomes easier. "You can learn to do things like chopping and slicing very quickly. The more you learn, the quicker you are, and soon you don't even have to think to be able to do it."
She could have been talking about herself, since she didn't learn to cook until after she married.
Her wealthy California family had a hired cook, and the 6'2" Julia McWilliams was more interested in playing tennis and basketball. After graduating from Smith College, she worked in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and was stationed in Ceylon (now the country of Sri Lanka). It was there that she met Paul Child, also in the OSS.
At age of 34, Julia began learning to cook for her new husband, a sophisticated gourmet. "I went into it seriously with Gourmet magazine and 'Joy of Cooking' as my guides," she said. "It took hours to get dinner on the table, but he was encouraging."
When Paul took a job at the American embassy in Paris, she enrolled in France's prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school. She later opened her own cooking school, with two Frenchwomen who also loved cooking — Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. They called their school "L'Ecole des 3 Gourmandes" (translation: "School of the Three Happy Eaters") and collaborated on a French cookbook for Americans. They tried to de-mystify French cooking with step-by-step, detailed instructions — including eight pages for a one-egg omelette. 
The Anne Frank connection: Child's cookbook was rejected by several publishers before Judith Jones, a young editor at Alfred E. Knopf, helped her hone it into a user-friendly tome. Jones had a knack for picking winners; she also saved "The Diary of Anne Frank" from the rejection pile. 
A few years ago I met Jones, now in her 80s and a senior editor at Knopf. She regaled the Association of Food Journalists with stories from her own memoirs, "The Tenth Muse" (Anchor Books, $14.95, paperback), which would also make a great foodie movie.

When "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was finally published in 1961, the timing was perfect; the Kennedys had hired a French chef for the White House, Americans were doing a lot of  traveling to Europe, and French food was considered the height of chic and sophistication.
She and Beck embarked on a do-it-yourself cross-country book tour to "drum up some sales." as Julia told it. They went to ladies' clubs, where they cooked things like omelets, Roquefort quiche and fish mousse on a portable stove. Then, while Julia and Simone signed books, Paul washed the dishes, sometimes in a restroom sink or bucket of water if there were no kitchen facilities.
"I often marvel at this valiant and uncomplaining contribution to our cause by a former diplomat and cultural attache," Julia said.
Child appeared on WGBH, Boston's educational television station, and demonstrated how to make an omelet using her copper bowl and whisk. This led to a series, "The French Chef," that earned her the Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. DVDs of the black-and-white episodes show an unpretentious Child energetically slapping around hunks of raw beef, and pounding butter with a rolling pin to soften it.
Thanks to "Saturday Night Live" and other parodies, the public often assumed Child was a klutz. But if you have a chance to see any of her shows, you realize she was actually very nimble  — cracking and opening an egg with one hand without losing any bits of shell in the bowl, or skillfully using a pastry bag.
In truth, her segments were painstakingly scripted and choreographed beforehand, with Paul timing each step with his stopwatch. In her memoirs, "My Life In France," and the recently released biography, "Dearie," by Bob Spitz, it's evident that Paul was an equal partner in her success. 
Julia told me French cooking was still her favorite type of cuisine, "Because it's careful cooking by people who know what they're doing. I also love Northern Chinese food. I don't cook it, but I eat it with great pleasure."
You can improve your culinary skills by helping and observing friends who are good cooks, Julia told me. "Jacques Pepin (a chef and friend) said when he first started at a restaurant as a boy, he was helping out doing the chopping and slicing, and he watched what everybody else was doing and how they did it. So when the time came, he was able to step into it, just by being with them and observing."
Cooking classes are a great shortcut to learning, Julia added. "You cook, and then you eat what you've cooked."
In our youth- and looks-obsessed culture, would Julia even had a chance as a cooking show host today? She was in her 50s when her shows began airing, and producers might have overlooked her, lacking the beauty of Sandra Lee, the cool sophistication of Martha Stewart, or the cleavage of Giada deLaurentiis.  But her show featured timeless technique and a wealth of knowledge. She came first, and paved the way for everyone else who followed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Utah Chef On Food Network's "Extreme Chef"

Viet Pham of Froage is on Food Network's "Extreme Chef." 

Set your TV recorders NOW for the premier of "Extreme Chef," on Thursday, Aug. 16 when a Utah chef gets his 15 minutes of fame -- or Pham, you could say.

 Viet Pham, co-owner of Forage, will be one of the seven chefs competing in the scorching California desert and Thailand jungles for a $50,000 grand prize in the second season of the Food Network's reality series. (Here's an update on Viet Pham's June 2013 gig, The Next Food Network Star). 
It could be described as "Iron Chef" meets "Survivor." The chefs not only have to be great cooks, they also have to be physically fit and mentally tough.

According to a Food Network press release, during the first episode a helicopter drops the chefs into Salton City, California, an abandoned "post-apocalyptic wasteland," where they’re left to scavenge for ingredients and tools. The chefs have only 60 minutes to raid a deserted tent village for non-perishable ingredients, build their own cooking stations, and use items like steel wool, batteries and tumbleweed to start a fire. 

"It was physically and emotionally challenging, very tough," he said of the experience when I interviewed him for my Deseret News column. "We were taken out of our comfort zone."

But for Pham, it was also a sentimental journey, since part of the series was filmed in Southeast Asia. His parents, Hiep and Hoa Pham, were "boat people," or citizens who fled Vietnam by boat when it fell to the Communists in the 1970s.  They struggled for survival. Pham was born on an island in Malaysia, where his father had to chop trees to build a treehouse for the family to live. They eventually were able to immigrate to the United States, and they now live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"I felt like I was doing a reverse journey of what they did, coming to America," Pham said. "My having to adapt was similar to what my parents had to do. I learned a lot about myself and I developed a deep appreciation of what they went through. "
Pham said he turned down an invitation to compete on the series last year because he and his business partner Bowman Brown were named as two of Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs" and would be in New York City. This year, he committed to the show just five days before he had to be in Los Angeles, which it didn't give him much time to prepare. 
"My friend does Cross-Fit, so I did that for four days before I left, but I don't know how much good it could do you in four days," he said. "I live a healthy lifestyle, so I consider myself generally in really good shape. But there's really no way even in four months to prepare for the show, because you don't know what they are going to throw at you. The things that you can rely on are the things you've done growing up and in your career, and you dig deep."
"First and foremost it a cooking competition, about your skills and how you are able to cook under pressure and your ingenuity," Pham said. "But it's also a strategic game where you form alliances and play like a game of chess."
Playing against the odds is something Pham is used to doing. The small restaurant, Forage, at 370 E. 900 South, was a long shot when it opened in the midst of the economic downturn in the summer of 2009. Owners Pham and Brown chose to serve just one fixed-price meal each night, with the menu changing every day based on what was in season. They wanted to rely on local, organic ingredients and even started a vegetable garden and greenhouse to raise them. And a meal could run well over $50 — not a great lure for cost-conscious Utahans.
Both Pham and Brown had culinary-school training and cooked in high-end California restaurants before coming to Utah to open Spark in Provo. But, their culinary philosophy differed from that of Spark's owner.
"When things didn't work out at Spark, I didn't want to come home to California," he said. "I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable and if I failed, at least I'd know I tried.  Forage was never about the money, but about doing what we loved and satisfying people's palates. And it's worked out."
He said he hopes his appearance will help shine a light on Salt Lake City's restaurants.
"I felt like Utah's never really been on the map as far as dining destinations," he said. "But the dining scene is so different now that it was three years ago."