Local Business Cross E Ranch Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Story and images by EMMA CHAVEZ

Cross E Ranch is a small local cattle ranch in the Salt Lake City neighborhood of Rose Park. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

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The Great Red Barn was built in 1880.

David Hinckley purchased the land from the Jeremy family, of Jeremy Ranch Park City, in 1968. David kept the business in the family, as his son, Dalon, and daughter, Heather, are the current co-owners.  

Cross E Ranch has a long history. Dalon, 29, began working with his dad when he was just 8 years old. He explained that originally the ranch was in the business of sheep, but his father quickly turned over to cattle. “We don’t do sheep anymore because, well, we’re just not that crazy. Sheep take a lot more work and are kind of a delicate animal,” Dalon says. Instead the ranch now raises black Angus beef. That’s just fine by Dalon, though. The cows are his favorite part of the job.  

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The ranch now raises black Angus beef.

“The cows keep us grounded in what we do each day,” Dalon says. The most interesting part of the ranch’s history, in fact, is its cattle brand. It is the cross E, and the namesake of the ranch. It is the oldest cattle brand still in use west of the Mississippi. It is a bit of a mystery. “We know it was used by a commander in Brigham Young’s Mormon Battalion, most likely Ethan Jeremy, but we aren’t sure,” Dalon says.

But the Jeremy family would not sell the ranch to David Hinckley unless he promised to keep using the brand, and David’s family have felt very honored and proud to be owners of such a historic brand ever since.

There a plenty of photo ops all over the ranch.

Running a cattle ranch is difficult work, but the hardest part isn’t the manual labor like you would think. Dalon likens being a rancher to that of a gambler, playing the highest of stakes. The nature of the business is luck. “There’s a lot of hope involved,” Dalon says. “You can gamble up to $300,000 on a crop of produce, and then you’re weather dependent.” Or in the case of a festival, “you’re hoping that in six weeks you can recuperate your investment and then make enough to make it worth it.” 

In the last 50 years, though, the stakes have increased tenfold. The entire business has changed. Dalon explained that he is now competing on a global agricultural market. His operation is now expected to be equally as efficient as a ranch that is working for a mass retailer, and shipping globally. It puts a strain on his resources.

Even more concerning has been the encroachment of development. Hundreds of acres of Dalon’s land have been bought out by the state government due to water accessibility, or shut down due to new EPA regulations. The changes began to greatly affect the business. “About seven years ago, we started losing hand over fist money, nearly $400,000,” Dalon says. “We had to completely reinvent the diversification of where our money was coming from.”

A display outside the Cross E Ranch pumpkin patch.

These changes forced the family to get creative with their revenue streams, which is how the Cross E Ranch festivals began. The ranch puts on three major festivals a year, the Summer Fun Free Days, the Baby Animal Festival and the Fall Festival. It also offers a multitude of private events, such as weddings, summer camps and corporate events.

Despite the stress the festivals cause him, Dalon says the creative aspect they bring to the job is the real fun part of the business. His goal is to constantly come up with new ways to make the farm better and more entertaining for the guests. Dalon just wants people to connect with agriculture, so he spends his time thinking of new ways to make the farm experience more accessible.

The Fall Festival, specifically, has been a major success since it started in 2014. Mother-daughter working duo Teresa and Kristal Hyde consider it their favorite festival. Kristal, who is the ranch’s event coordinator, described the Fall Festival as “fun, family, and good times.” Teresa, who helps run the ticket booth, nodded in agreement and added, “I’ve gone for the past three years before either of us worked here. They make their own doughnuts and it’s my favorite.”

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“There’s something for everyone.”

Of all the activities available, both Kristal and Teresa recommend the hay ride as a must-go-on when the festival next comes around, while Dalon insists everyone try the food. “There’s a doughnut shop, caramel apples, kettle corn, and a concessions shop where you can try a Cross E hamburger,” Dalon says. “There’s something for everyone.” This 2018 Fall Festival included a 14-acre corn maze, a 12-acre pumpkin patch, hay rides, slides, animals, and plenty of food. Check the Cross E Ranch website for more details on its variety of year-round festivals and activities.

Dalon is very excited with the direction the ranch is heading currently, but admits that it is expensive to change. He and his sister Heather haven’t taken a paycheck in two years. “Herding people and cows are really similar,” he said with a laugh, “but they do require different fencing. We haven’t made any money on the festivals yet because we keep reinvesting in them.” It’s quite a strenuous transition period.

An old tractor turned display on the edge of the ranch.

In the future, Dalon hopes the ranch will stay in the family. Heather has four daughters that she would like to see be involved. The siblings would both like to continue toward the direction of mixed use, with plenty of entertainment, but also maintaining the interactivity and ambience of the ranch.

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New menu for a new conversation being unveiled at J&G Grill, Deer Valley

Story and gallery by REGINALD HODNETT

After three days with very little sleep, Rachel Wiener tasted the elusive umami flavor found in haute cuisine. She put her pan down. All the cutting and prepping with different ingredient combinations had finally come together. It was delicious.

“When I get in the kitchen, it is like this huge build up and a release, this is what I like,” Wiener said.

Wiener is the executive sous and chef de cuisine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Grill St. Regis Deer Valley. Wiener was tasked with a Dec. 1, 2018, soft opening. She is leading the rebranding effort for the St. Regis restaurant that renowned chef and restaurateur Vongerichten opened in 2009.

Wiener said she’d never say a bad thing about Jean-Georges, the man’s a genius. However, his concept of cooked meats on plates with a la carte sides and sauces had become stale. Wiener wanted to get away from that style of food presentation so she started writing a concept menu seven months ago.

She has taken inspiration from what’s available in Utah. Wiener said she has worked hard to find amazing products for her organic and fluid menu, from finding great farms, the right cattle ranchers and the best cheeses that will be available in season and at its peak.

Wiener said with all these beautiful ingredients there’s no need to hide them under a complex sauce.

Chip McMullin, executive chef at the St. Regis, said he was not on board with the J&G overhaul at first because things had been working great for so long. The food was trendy, it was good for what it was supposed to be. However, the dishes did not change; the creativity came to a standstill. Jean-Georges and his partners were scrambling to open new restaurants using the same tired old model.

So, the chefs said they had reached a point where they felt, “We’re done with this old model. Give us something new or we’re changing it!”

Wiener said everything with the new concept revolves around building a story to create a conversation. Food is supposed to connect people. “The whole reason we get into this is to create experiences with people,” she said. “I want to start the conversation again.”

She added, “So there’s a lot of shared dishes, you are not just sitting there eating off your own plate. So even if the conversations are like, ‘Can you pass that or you should try this, it is great,’ at least guests are talking to one another.”

Wiener said she is still working on the descriptions for the new menu. However, it is going to be “vegetable-forward, seasonally driven and regionally inspired.” She said, “You can make these amazing vegetable dishes where you’d never miss having meat, so I think it is super important to highlight the veggies.”

McMullin calls the menu “contemporary industrial,” which consist of tapas-style small plates and large plates along with a signature table-side carving cart service with food that’s made from scratch and is chef-driven. “It is what Rachel does so well. She blends the cultures, the spices, the ingredients from multiple cultures into this new American cuisine,” McMullin said.

Andres Jiménez is the culinary director for Pure Grey, a New York-based consulting group that focuses on hospitality, specifically luxury brands like the St. Regis and Ritz Carlton. Pure Grey offers bespoke concepts for restaurants/hotels based upon the specific needs and locations of each property.

Jiménez said he does not encounter obstacles when taking on a new project. It is about having a clear understanding of what the needs are because it is easy to throw ideas into the air. However, the magic lies in observing and asking questions to see where the needs are, where he and his team can have the most significant impact. For instance, he said he asks questions such as, What are the needs of the business? Who are the clients and what are their expectations? What are the food trends going to be in the coming years?

Jiménez described the process for selecting new floral designs, votive candle holders, flatware, glassware, silverware, hand-made china, uniforms and menu covers. “We looked at what’s the concept of the restaurant, what do we want to do, what is the physical space?” he said.

It is like a puzzle trying to come up with something different than what’s currently out there, and that people have not seen before, he said. All the right pieces have to fit together.

Once Wiener got close to deciding on food and design elements, Jiménez traveled back to Deer Valley and served as a sounding board, helping her flesh out her ideas. For example, they discussed a winter dish consisting of a stuffed kabocha squash. “Sometimes you’re too close to a project. So when I put so much into it I need that outside objectivity,” Wiener said.

“Dining has become a lost art,” she said. The whole idea of the new concept is to have it center around the food. And, the complete dining room experience needs to complement the food.

Wiener is proud of the new menu that she has spent seven months on. “So, if you don’t like it don’t tell me,” she said. “This menu is literally my heart and soul on a plate.”

 

Tinker’s Cat Café, a coffee bar with a twist

Story and gallery by JOLIE BELL

Coffee. Conversation. Cats. What do they have in common? They are integral to a new local small business.

Tinker’s Cat Café is the first of its kind in Salt Lake City. A novelty in the United States, cat cafés are popular in other parts of the world, particularly Asia. In fact, the very first cat café opened in Taipei, Taiwan, and soon turned into a sensation in Japan. Cat cafés are a twist on a traditional coffee shop. In addition to coffee, tea and goodies, people also pay to socialize with felines.

Lisa Boone is the owner of Tinker’s Cat Café, located at 302 E. 900 South. Boone saw her first cat café while watching late night television. The idea intrigued her and soon she developed plans to open an establishment of her own. She decided to name her café after her childhood pet, Tinker, who lived to be 22.

“It was all from Tinker, he shaped how I thought about cats,” Boone said. Along with petting cute kitties, the café serves a variety of specialty drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, Italian soda, and tea. It also sells pastries from other local businesses.

The cats themselves come from Salt Lake County Animal Services and are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. One aspect that is unique about Tinker’s is many of the cats may be adopted. In fact, more than 80 adoptions have occurred since it first opened the doors in 2017.

The adoption process is simple. If someone decides to adopt, an employee meets with them and discusses their history with cats. If it is the person’s first time ever owning a cat or if they have other animals in their home, the employees explain what the future pet owner needs and how to care for the cat. There is a $40 adoption fee per cat.

Adoption isn’t for everyone. Boone understands not everyone has the funds or a suitable home for pets. The café fills the need for those who love animals and she feels the café is a positive experience for both the people and felines.

“It’s a win-win,” Boone said. “Especially for the timid cats because they can socialize and get used to an environment.” The cat room, adjacent to the café, is open and without cages. This allows patrons to show them affection while they are living at Tinker’s, which can help the cats come out of their shell.

Not every cat is up for adoption. For some, Tinker’s becomes home. One cat has been at Tinker’s since it opened. He stays to help the new cats acclimate to the surroundings by sitting with the newly acquired timid cats.

“We are not sure what cat magic he has,” Boone said with a laugh.

Throughout the year, Tinker’s acquired several regular customers. Sarah Murtagh is one. Murtagh said she loves the calm environment and has made friends with other kindred spirits.

“When I was going through a rough time in my life, the café was where I found therapy,” Murtagh said. She bought an unlimited pass for the cat room to visit her furry friends as often as she could. Eventually her living situation changed and allowed her to own a pet. Once Obsidian (Obi for short) crawled into her lap at the café, she knew they were a perfect match.

Not everyone is looking to adopt. Some are interested in something new and fun to do. Ally Jelitto, a University of Utah student, visited the shop on a whim after noticing the café driving through town.

“I felt fancy drinking a latte while petting a cat in my lap,” she said in a phone interview. “I’d go back more, but if I do I might go home with five cats,” she said, chuckling.

Recently Boone began organizing special events at Tinker’s such as Cat & Paint, Yoga, and Crochet with Cats. Boone has more event ideas on the horizon, such as trivia or game nights.

The paint and crochet classes offer a coffee, hot chocolate or tea and an hour in the cat room with an instructor. The yoga class is an hour and allows an extra half hour to play with the felines. The curious cats will sit on the yoga mats, play with people’s hair and bat around the balls of yarn.

Reservation spots fill up quickly to spend time with the cats. Or, customers may walk in (if there’s room). The cost is $8 an hour and $4 a half hour in the cat room. Tinker’s offers an unlimited monthly pass for $50 or an unlimited annual pass for $600. The café also provides a children’s hour for kids 8 and under from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. It is $6 each for children and parents.

The café hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday- Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Tinker’s is closed on Mondays. The cat room opens at 11 a.m. and closes the same time as the café does.

Boone is looking forward to another year of business and to continuing to foster a community location where people can connect. Success has its price, however. As the felines leave for their forever homes, it can be difficult for Boone and her employees who become attached to them.

“It’s bittersweet,” Boone said. “However, I’m happy they are going to good homes.”

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The plant revolution: anti-inflammatory, anti-meat

Story and gallery by JEN CHUN

Plant Based Utah, a collaborative organization that utilizes specialists to educate people about a plant-based lifestyle, held the 2nd Annual Plant Based Nutrition Symposium on Oct. 13, 2018, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Doctors and health experts were invited to give lectures about a plant-based diet.

Annually, many Americans die because of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. According to 2017 data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 635,260 people died because of heart disease and 598,038 died of cancer. These two are the most fatal chronic diseases that threaten Americans’ health.

The problem is people do not know how to make healthy meals for themselves. Nutritious food is easily available, but consumers are having a tough time selecting ingredients for a healthy diet.

“One option is a plant-based diet,” said Patrick Olson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf Clinic in Utah.

Plant-Based Diet (PBD) is a diet that consists of minimally processed food. It focuses on consuming natural products that people can grow such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs. PBD does not include any animal products, which is eco-friendly to the earth as well.

“PBD is the most anti-inflammatory diet you can get,” Olson said.

He said plants are the primary source of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Not only do plants lower cholesterol and blood pressure, but they also change gene expression and lengthen telomeres. Maintaining a plant-based dietary pattern is helpful for lowering obesity rates.

Lucy Mower, a second-year graduate student at the University of Utah’s Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, said PBD promotes good health. She said PBD emphasizes the consumption of certain foods that are associated with heart benefits. “Eating vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are beneficial to the heart,” she said. Mower explains that “a lot of them have fiber which maintains or lowers the cholesterol level.” She added that components of vitamins and minerals control high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, known as LDL. “Having a PBD is helpful to break the vicious cycle of” America’s daily diet, Mower said.

Additionally, Mower emphasized the importance of research before starting PBD. She said PBD is challenging because it can be a big transition of one’s diet pattern. She said she won’t recommend specific PBD to people unless they do prior research or have background knowledge of plant-based nutrition. She emphasized the importance of discipline in building one’s PBD by researching, planning, and reading a nutrition label.

“To do a healthy PBD, it is significant to know one’s needs,” she said. She recommends considering the food groups seriously when looking for alternatives — replacing animal oil to vegetable oil — which should provide enough carbohydrate, protein, and fat to the body.

Zuri Vasquez, 18, and a student at the U has been doing PBD for five years. Her natural environment and family history — diabetes — influenced her to start PBD. “I don’t consume any animal product because I grew up with chickens and cattle in Idaho and I could not even imagine to harm them,” she said. She supports local farmers’ markets as well.

Meat-based diets stimulate climate change. According to the website PETA, making one hamburger needs as much fossil fuel as it takes to drive a small car 20 miles. Meat-based diet requires massive water, fossil fuel, and trees, which cause drought, air pollution — methane gas — and depletion of the ozone layer — carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, PBD is sustainable and has a lower environmental impact because it does not contain any animal product. “Having a PBD is promoting a huge impact on not only our planet’s health but also all its inhabitants,” Olson said.

Vasquez said having PBD is realistic and inspiring. She said it has become more accessible and sustainable since the increase of markets featuring whole food and grains. By eating healthy vegetables, fruits and nuts, she has gained more energy and improved cognitive abilities. “I feel strong and motivated because of the belief that I am doing something good,” she said.

She advised beginners of PBD to “start little by little.” Rather than changing the whole diet at once, gradually eliminating one thing a time, such as limiting animal products once a day, will be beneficial in adjusting to the plant-based meal. “It is a good investment to think about a longer period for my body and the earth,” Vasquez said.

Heber Rivera has been a chef for 15 years and has done PBD for four years now. He runs a business based on whole food and plant-based meals called “Chef Heber.” Before he started the business, he was in charge of catering to 23 different hospitals for Intermountain Healthcare. “Chef Heber” provides catering, artisan bread, and personalized meal delivery, services in which all the food is cooked by plant-based nutrition.

“Our catering is unique because it is built to the needs of customers,” he said. The artisan bread is made from 100 percent whole wheat and five other plant-based ingredients without any preservatives or sweeteners. He crafts pre-cooked plant-based meals to meet every dietary need. He delivers the food twice a week, which makes it easier for people to access and maintain the PBD.

Rivera aims to offer natural and nutrient-based meals without oil, sugar, or any chemical seasonings. “Ideally, we wanted to help people live better,” he said. He said it is hard for modern people to access healthy meals. He is trying to help as many people as possible by collaborating with different retail stores at reasonable prices.

According to the website, Plant Based Utah’s mission is, “We strive to advance our health and lifestyle culture through the sharing of evidence-based information and initiatives promoting whole food, plant-based nutrition.” This organization is helpful for learning about PBD.

At the symposium, the professionals emphasized that changing habits is crucial in PBD. Nowadays, people are too used to consuming processed and fast foods. Ayesha Sherzai and Dean Sherzai, who are neurologists and co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, described the habit pathway as a cycle that continues toward mindfulness, which brings healthy behavior and eventually, success. They pointed out that the “mindfulness” is the most important stage to form a good eating habit. The website Healthy Minds Initiative shows a lot of helpful resources and programs for a healthy lifestyle.

In addition, Dr. Brooke Goldner, who is an expert in healing chronic disease with Plant-Based Nutrition, suggested making a green plant-based smoothie daily. Her book “Green Smoothie Recipes to Kick-Start Your Health & Healing” and the website called smoohieshred.com  contains various delicious and healthy recipes of green smoothies. Moreover, she runs the website called Goodbye Lupus for further information and tips for healthy eating and wellbeing.

One of the greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” The plant-based diet could be the revolution of health needed for every individual.

 

Young entrepreneur brings delicious activity to downtown Logan

Story and images by MEGAN GILSON

After days of searching for a new job, unable to meet the required qualifications, a frustrated college student decided he would create his own.

The 22-year-old Utah State University student, Austin Jensen, is the founder and owner of Logan Food Tour, a culinary walking tour in the heart of downtown Logan.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a food tour, Jensen described it as “the best way to experience the city and its local restaurants. We dive into the food scene, visiting restaurants and trying their best menu items. As we walk around, we share the history of the downtown area, creating a unique, and delicious experience.”

Logan Food Tour features four of Logan’s best local restaurants — Pollo Azteca, Stacked Pancakes, The Factory Pizzeria, and The Crepery. Ranging from authentic Mexican cuisine to traditional Sicilian-style pizza, each restaurant serves quality, made-from-scratch dishes.

Many ask Jensen if his idea was inspired by his passion. He always replies, “I wouldn’t say that I’m passionate about food, or about historical tours, but I am passionate about fulfilling the needs of the people around me. In the end, I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”

In the spring of 2018, Jensen noticed a vast amount of students with a shortage of fun things to do on the weekends. “Logan is a small town, and frankly, there is a lack of local events and cool activities,” he said. “I wanted to build something that would solve the age old question ‘what should we do tonight?’”

A few months later, Jensen was caught up in the frustration of trying to find a job that would give him some relevant job experience for his future career. “I found that every job that sounded remotely interesting and helpful for my future required experience and a degree. So finally, I realized that if no one was willing to give me the experience I need, then I’m just going to gain it myself.”  A few weeks later, Logan Food Tour was born.

The road to building any business isn’t easy, and Logan Food Tour was no exception. Jensen put in countless hours building the website, studying up on historical facts, and finding great restaurants to work with.

After all the logistics were in place, Jensen spent weeks advertising the tours. He handed out fliers and cards on campus and started advertising on social media. After a few weeks, he finally saw his hard work pay off when he booked his first tour.

“On the first tour, I was a ball of nerves,” Jensen recalled. “I was worried about guiding the tour, remembering all of the facts and stories, making sure the participants got enough food and keeping people entertained. It turned out I was nervous for no reason. I felt totally in my element, telling stories and cracking cheesy jokes, and the restaurants absolutely delivered with huge samples of delicious food.”

Jensen felt great after his first tour and couldn’t wait for the next ones. He loved helping his guests create new memories, while introducing them to great, local food.

“One of the most rewarding parts is helping local business gain more traction, and attract new customers,” Jensen said. “We have deals with each of the restaurants, they prepare a sample plate of food for our participants, and through our own advertising efforts, we promote their restaurant. It’s mutually beneficial and allows each of us to succeed.”

Alicia Lopez, owner of Pollo Azteca, said, “When the food tour group comes in, people on the street notice my restaurant. They look in my windows and wonder what is going on and why there are so many people. This encourages them to come in and try the food.”

It is seeing the positive impact that Logan Food Tour has on restaurants like Pollo Azteca, the first stop on the food tour, that motivates Jensen to continue working hard and building his business.

Food tour participant Kyle Horton said, “It’s like the ultimate date night! It takes dinner and a movie to a whole new level. We learned cool stories and facts about the place we live, tried new delicious restaurants we had never been to, and left absolutely stuffed.”

When asked about his long-term plans for Logan Food Tour, Jensen said, “I don’t expect to stay in Logan running the tours for the rest of my life, though it would be the funnest career ever. Ideally, in a few years, I will pass down the business to another USU student. At the end of the day, I want to be able to provide someone with valuable experience and give them the chance that no one gave me.”

Jensen has learned more about business in the past three months than he has learned his entire college career. Jensen said the experience has been “eye-opening and invaluable.”

He offers this advice to other students: “Don’t wait until things seem easy, because I don’t think they ever will be. Gaining the experience you need is about doing challenging things now.”

NO BLACK OUTLINE LOGAN

Photo courtesy of Austin Jensen

 

Alexis Lefavor

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Blog

I used to love Ichiban Sushi but in recent news I found out they were closed down by the health department. I noticed that they were popping up everywhere. I have noticed recently that sushi has been a trend. It can be really expensive! Ichiban Sushi has sushi that is advertised for half off. My story talks about how they opened back up. I want to make local sushi lovers aware of this restaurant. I also want to make people aware of the health department’s website. They are required to post all of the health inspections at established restaurants. I was not aware of this until I started doing my story.

I used Yelp and Facebook to find my sources. I read many reviews positive or negative. Many of the negative reviews matched some of the reasons that lead up to the closing of the restaurant.  I interviewed people who left these reviews and asked about their experiences. I also interviewed somebody from the health department to figure out how they run the inspection.

As I got more information from my sources, I felt I was really able to write my story. The information I received is what guided my story and made the focus. The hardest part of this was trying to find people to interview. I also reached out to the Sandy Ichiban for comment and didn’t receive anything from them. I was hoping to incorporate into my story how they were planning on making sure they were able to stay open and not face another closure. I think it’s really important for restaurants to ensure that their customers feel safe eating there, especially anything with raw meat.

About Me

My name is Alexis Lefavor. I am a junior at the University of Utah majoring in Communication. I hope to graduate by Summer 2019. My focus is strategic communication. I have always been interested in marketing, branding and public relations. I hope to find myself somewhere in one of these fields in the future.

Three dessert shops in the Salt Lake Valley you need to try

Story and slideshow by ELIZABETH NYGAARD

Dessert is the best meal of the day.

If you’re looking for a delicious dessert for date night, family night or a birthday party, there are many Salt Lake City restaurants and bakeries where you can get your dessert fix. The list of desserts ranges from edible cookie dough, to out of the box ice cream, and gourmet desserts.

Edible cookie dough would have sounded weird a few years ago but Dough Co. a local Utah-based company, is doing dessert right, with eggless cookie dough options.

Dough Co. has a location in the Sugarhouse neighborhood at 2121 S. McClelland St. They are open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Dough Co. is opening a second location in South Jordan later this year.

Dough Co. offers a variety of edible cookie dough options, including milk n’ cookies, which is a scoop of edible cookie dough and ice cream and A shake with your choice of dough flavor blended with ice cream.

The Sander Family and Myles Sander, a student at Westminster, studying neuroscience were at Dough Co. to celebrate family night.

“We’ve been coming here for awhile now, my little brother loves cookie dough so whenever he picks dessert we come here.” he said.

Myles and his family shared the p’zookie, a warm skillet of melted cookie dough with ice cream on top.

Dough Co. has edible cookie dough in many different flavors ranging from: Chocolate Chip, Loaded Brownie, PB Explosion, Cake Batter, S’mores, Red Velvet, Oreo Thin Mint, Mexican Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Pretzel.

The March 2018 flavor of the month is Cookies & Cream.

Dough Co. gives out samples of dough for guests that are unsure of what to get.

If edible cookie dough isn’t your thing and you’re more of an ice cream person head to Trolley Square to try Normal ice cream.

Normal ice cream is a food truck located at 600 S. 700 East inside Trolley Square for the winter season. The shop is open Wednesday through Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 1-7 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Normal is a local food truck and it is women owned and operated.

Gabby Snow, a student at the University of Utah and her boyfriend, Weston Don Merkey, love Normal ice cream.

“We went to Normal for ice cream for date night tonight. We love it here!” Snow said. “I got the Tutti Frutti (earl grey and pomegranate twist, fruity pebbles, passion fruit caramel, and toshi cherry) and Weston got a cone of the London Fog (Earl Grey soft serve, dark chocolate dip, lavender ganache, and cotton candy).”

Snow tells her friends, “The flavors are all diverse so if you’re looking for out of the box ice cream come here!”

Normal ice cream changes its ice cream flavors, but they are always diverse and exciting.

Normal serves composed cones, which are six specially created cones, and on Sundays Normal offers a doughnut ice cream sandwich. Other ice cream sandwiches include dulce de leche filled banana ice cream served between shortbread cookies and dipped in dark chocolate.

The base ice cream flavors right now are Earl Grey, Vanilla Bean, Pomegranate, and Nutella.

If you’re looking for an all-around dessert shop, Last Course is the place for you.

Last Course has two locations: at 115 South Regent St. in Salt Lake City and at 185 E. 12300 South in Draper. Both shops are open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Mayra Repetto, a student at the U studying biology, raves about Last Course.

“My friends surprised me with a trip to Last Course for my birthday! I’ve always loved Last Course and the desserts here,” she said.

Last Course has gourmet desserts and ice cream, such as Strawberry Nachos, 24 Karat Cake, and Glamping S’mores.

“My favorite is probably the Upside Down Caramel Apple Pie, it’s so dreamy,” Mayra Repetto said.

The Upside Down Caramel Apple Pie is a cinnamon roll filled with layers of warm apples covered with salted caramel sauce and a streusel topping.

Last Course isn’t limited to just desserts. It also features gourmet ice cream scoops.

Everyday flavors include Tahitian Vanilla, Breakfast Cereal, Smoked Maple Bacon, and Olive Oil.

The breakfast cereal ice cream is cream infused with Trix Cereal, with chunks of Lucky Charms throughout.

The workers at Last Course offer an unlimited amount of tastes for guests.

Last Course is a Utah company that uses local ingredients to make its desserts.

The dessert shops around the Salt Lake Valley are not limited to these three. There are many options. These three shops cover all dessert favorites and happen to be many people’s top-three places to go.

Just as Mayra Repetto believes: “Dessert is spent better with friends and family!”

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It’s all about the bread: the history and legacy of the Village Baker

Story and gallery by SPENCER GRAY

Worth McCleery, founder of the Village Baker, has been serving his famous homemade bread to locals for almost 25 years.

“People would travel from all over the valley,” McCleery said in an interview. “Word spread quickly about the bread we were making, and others just had to give it a try.”

The Village Baker has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. McCleery had his main location in West Jordan for almost 15 years before he decided to franchise.

The Village Baker is a place that people go to not just for the sandwiches, pizza and dessert, but also for the environment and feeling they get when they walk through the door.

Keenan Burnett, current manager at the original location in West Jordan, discussed what exactly the Village Baker brand means to him.

“Family, tradition and hard work,” Burnett said. “We’re all friends there, which allows us to have more of a positive environment.”

The Village Baker has been a family-run business from the beginning. McCleery hired a lot of his siblings to work at his original store to maintain that brand of love and family strong in his store.

But since the opening of the store located in West Jordan in 1994, McCleery and his crew soon outgrew their shell.

“Lunch rushes were crazy all day, every day before we opened the dining area in the original location,” McCleery said.

So in 2013, McCleery and his team finally decided to franchise their bakery, opening their second store in Sandy.

Since then, McCleery has opened three more stores in Lehi, Herriman and downtown Salt Lake City to meet their customers’ needs for their well-known bread.

Jordan Watko, general manager of the new Salt Lake City store located at 111 Main St., has been with the Village Baker since the original location in West Jordan.

“I grew up eating at the Village Baker. So for me, the Village Baker brand means family. It’s for families by families,” Watko said.

“I don’t know if anything has really changed since the original location,” Watko said. “But I think it’s not about what’s changed, but more so how do you consistently replicate what the original location did so well.”

With their slogan being, “It’s the Bread,” it’s no wonder why so many people find themselves as another one of their daily customers.

However, with the popularity that comes with the Village Baker’s bread also comes the responsibility to keep their recipe consistent across all franchise stores.

The Village Baker bakes its special, homemade honey bread fresh every morning. Thick slices are used for sandwiches. The bread also is sold by the loaf, attracting flocks of repeat customers daily.

Watko said customers’ favorite bread is honey white, followed closely by honey whole wheat and two types of cinnamon-flavored bread that are baked only on Friday and Saturday. With 13 different flavors, customers definitely have their favorites.

“It’s comfort food,” Watko said about the bread. “At its core, its grandma’s recipe. People love the bread because it’s a good balance between wholesome and nourishment, but at the same time it’s like cheat day.”

When asked about the repeat customers at the original location, Burnett said, “Oh yeah. I usually see my regulars almost every day. They might skip a day or so, but a lot of them I see at least four to five times a week.”

With so many people in love with the brand and the bread, it was scary for McCleery to franchise his stores because it opened the door for that brand to lose its reputation and taste.

“When you know that your customers are depending on your food to taste the same and offer the same experience at all locations, it was a challenge for a small mom and pop store like ours,” Watko said.

In order to provide the same experience to all customers across all locations, it requires the brand to stay consistent as well.

“Our brand represents years of hard work, with a lot of great people demanding a quality experience and taste,” McCleery said.

As far as the future of the Village Baker and their bread goes, McCleery has high hopes for his family-branded bakery.

“I imagine in 10 years, the Village Baker will have grown to more than 20 new stores across multiple states,” McCleery said.

Plant-based dining takes root downtown

Story and photos by Allison Oligschlaeger

SALT LAKE CITY — To any unsuspecting omnivore, the new Cinnaholic on 700 East looks like any other bakery. The only hint to the contrary is the two-inch tall, health-department mandated “V” in the corner of the glass serving case, discretely indicating the restaurant’s open secret.

Everything at Cinnaholic, from its custom cinnamon rolls to its coffee offerings, is egg-, dairy- and gluten-free. The franchise’s menu is extensive, boasting 20 flavors of frosting and even more toppings. Each option is entirely vegan.

Not that their marketing strategy reflects that — “the whole franchise, we don’t lead with ‘vegan,’” says Kurtis Nielsen, owner of the recently-opened Salt Lake City location. “The concept plays to everyone.”

Nielsen, a veteran of the health food industry and recent adopter of the plant-based diet, attributes the strategy to the business’s reliance on walk-in customers.

“The vegans are going to come — they have limited options, as we all know,” Nielsen jokes.

Those with little exposure to vegan food may pass it up as less appealing, “substitute” fare, requiring a more tailored marketing approach than the store’s vegan customers.

Cinnaholic’s approach isn’t unique in the fast-growing industry of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. In fact, much of the sector’s recent growth can be attributed to a new focus on acquiring omnivorous customers.

“You don’t have to be vegan to appreciate the food,” says Joslyn Pust, duty manager at Zest Kitchen and Bar. “It’s more than salad, it’s more than fake meats. That’s the biggest thing we try to convey to people.”

Since opening in 2012, Zest has enticed brunchers and barhoppers of all dietary persuasions with upscale vegetarian entrees and a zany cocktail menu. Rather than pushing the meat-free angle, Zest’s marketing strategy focuses on the food’s organic sourcing and health benefits. In fact, Pust estimates only a third of the restaurant’s staff is vegetarian or vegan.

“I think that honestly speaks to how accessible our food is, and our drinks as well,” Pust says.

While Salt Lake City’s vegan establishments of yore — like Sage’s Cafe and Vertical Diner, opened by veteran restaurateur Ian Brandt in 1999 and 2007, respectively — focused on meeting existing demand for plant-based food, their newer counterparts are committed to extending it. The last five years have seen a veritable explosion of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, nearly all of which practice some degree of “omnivore outreach.”

 

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Buds, a vegan sandwich shop popular with University of Utah students, was founded in 2012 in hopes of rehabilitating the meat-eating public’s opinions on veganism and vegan food.

“They just wanted to show people that you can get good food and it doesn’t have to contain animals or byproducts of animals,” says Buds employee Emma Broadbent. “It doesn’t have to suck, you know? Vegans don’t just eat salad.”

Buds founders Alex and Roxy expanded their cruelty-free restaurant network in September with BoltCutter, a South-American inspired restaurant and bar, and MONKEYWRENCH, an adjacent dairy-free ice cream and espresso shop. MONKEYWRENCH barista Molly Jager, a senior at the U, said the shop is rebounding from a quiet opening as Gallivan Avenue-area professionals discover MONKEYWRENCH’s morning coffee offerings. The store’s variety of dairy-free milk and cream options make it particularly popular with lactose-intolerant customers, Jager said.

Unlike the staff at Zest, the crews at both MONKEYWRENCH and Buds are made up entirely of herbivores. Jager is the only vegetarian employee at MONKEYWRENCH; the rest of her coworkers are vegan.

“It’s interesting and cool being around a group of people who are really passionate about what they work with,” Jager says. “Everyone is very dedicated to it and very vocal about it and it’s cool to see that excitement.”

Additional recent newcomers include dinner restaurants Seasons Plant Based Bistro and Veggie House, both 100% vegan. Seasons positions itself as upscale Italian dining, while Veggie House purports to meld the best of “fast” Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food.

“We’re proud to watch our city’s taste buds continually expand,” said Nick Como, Director of Communication for the Downtown Alliance. “The opening of several new vegan restaurants downtown proves downtown is truly for everyone and has something for every taste.”

While the recent crush of such establishments may seem sudden, Pust says it’s been a long time coming.

“The community has grown exponentially just since I’ve worked at Zest,” she says. “In the past two years it’s exploded.”

Jager attributes some of the community’s rapid growth to trendiness — “It’s kind of an Instagram thing now,” she says — as well as to an increased cultural focus on physical and environmental health, which she says “goes hand-in-hand” with eating less meat.

Nielsen says the rate at which people are adopting veganism and vegetarianism is perfect for entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the craze. While flashier food trends like gluten-free and low-carb were quickly adopted by corporate giants, the relative slow burn of plant-based diets allows smaller producers and restaurateurs to dominate the scene, he says.

While Nielsen does believe the mainstreaming of veganism is inevitable, he hopes it’s a while off.

“It’s going to happen, but I hope it happens slow, because it’s fun as a smaller player to be able to get into something like this and be successful,” he says. “For example, if Cinnabon was doing this, I wouldn’t have the opportunity.”

Nielsen is optimistic about Cinnaholic’s future in Salt Lake City.

“I think it’s a great market for it,” he says. “We’re off to a roaring start.”

 

(Read Allison’s reflection blog about this story here.)

Caputo’s on the University of Utah campus

Story and slideshow by PARKER SCHLAF

When walking into the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building located near the center of the University of Utah campus, you are met with quiet tones and students hard at work. Rounding the corner of the lobby you start to get a whiff of Italian seasonings and warm rich coffee. Tucked right around that corner is the modern Italian deli counter of Caputo’s. A man at the counter looks up and shoots a smile to the next student in line.

Approaching the counter, the student next in line was met by an employee. After pondering the chalk-written menu, the customer approached the counter again and told him he would take a half of a Roasted Reds sandwich and a half portion of pasta salad. Simply nodding his head, the Caputo’s employee completed the order and hollered, “Half  a red and half pasta!” The student then stepped back and met with the other students waiting for their food to be prepared.

“Half of a red and half pasta salad!” gets shouted out over the counter by the man who took the order. Students were quickly being shuffled through the line, grabbing their food, selecting their drinks and heading off to find a table.

The Roasted Red sandwich, stuffed with roasted peppers, came in a deli basket lined with a classic red-and-white checkered paper. It was dressed with olive oil, Italian seasonings and other vegetable toppings. The pasta salad was accompanied by carrots, green peas, cauliflower, zucchini and then tossed in an olive oil and Italian seasoning. All of the ingredients used in this and other dishes at Caputo’s are either local or imported.

Sean Rorke, 27,  talked about working for the Caputo’s company and said it has been a great gig and that he loves it. He said, “Before working here, I worked for three years at the downtown location (located at 300 South and 300 West). Totally different ball game [here] than the downtown store.” He then talked about how he enjoyed working on a university campus versus another Caputo’s location. He said he preferred the faster workplace environment that the university location demanded and also the slight differences in the breakfast/lunch menu. Rorke did note that a nice additional benefit the university location offers is the break he gets for the weekends, as most of the campus is shut down from Friday evening until Monday morning.

“Better ingredients. I don’t even have to say anything else. We do a lot of local foods and whatever we don’t get locally, we import. We don’t skimp on any of our ingredients,” Rorke said, as he continued to talk about some of the benefits of eating at the Caputo’s on campus and why he thinks it would be beneficial for students to eat here compared to some of the other options. Rorke said Caputo’s is a perfect place to dine on campus, if you don’t already have a meal plan through the U and can afford to spend the extra dollar or two.

Tony Caputo has been running a successful locally-owned business for over 20 years. Having opened his first fresh market and deli in downtown Salt Lake City in 1997, his business has now grown into three other markets and delis spread over the Salt Lake Valley. The largest market he still owns and cares for is near his original deli and market located on 300 South and 300 West. Caputo added his most recent location to the U’s campus in 2008. Caputo recently cut back to working part time, he wrote on his blog, but he is still deeply involved in his company and local community.

Being a firm believer in providing only high quality ingredients to the local community, Tony Caputo has changed the fresh Italian market and deli scene of Salt Lake for the better. Joelle Bleiman, a 20-year-old student at the U, agreea. “It’s one of my favorite places to eat on campus when I want some real food!” Being the avid Caputo’s customer that she is, Bleiman also said the pasta with red sauce is the best thing to order.

Samantha Fox, a third-year student at the U, said, “I’m only 20. I love easy access to local foods with a decent price.” She then added how efficient the employees are. Compared to other quick stop options on campus, Caputo’s provides local and nutritious options for students. Having a Caputo’s location on the U’s campus is fortunate. Both Bleiman and Fox have been to other Caputo’s locations, but would agree the accessibility and all around “vibe” of the university location makes it the best one.

Salt Lake businesses giving back

Story and slideshow by ABIGAIL SABIR

As consumers, we have the power to influence our community through our consumption. We can contribute to philanthropic efforts that local businesses are making, giving a purpose to our spending. This can make a difference in how we choose to consume, as well as change our perspective on spending hard earned money.  In the Salt Lake Valley there are many companies that are making noteworthy efforts to give back to both local and global charities.

Even Stevens, Cotopaxi and Stonehaven Dental are three companies that give to charity in various ways. Each company strives to make a contribution whether local, statewide or international.

Even Stevens currently has 20 locations throughout six states and for each shop opened it pairs with four different nonprofits. Sara Day, co-founder and cause director for Even Stevens, said in an email interview, “We knew we wanted to open a cool, localized sandwich shop that gave back in some way.” It first started selling sandwiches in Salt Lake City in 2014 and the downtown location at 414 E. 200 South donates to YWCA Utah, Volunteers of America, The Good Samaritan Program and Rescue Mission. Day said that as of December 2017, Even Stevens will have 80 nonprofit partners.

Each month 54 cents of each sandwich sold is put into an account for the chosen nonprofits that each location is partnered with. Those nonprofits then use the funds to buy sandwich ingredients or operational supplies, according to the cause page on the Even Stevens website. The website also provides monthly articles about its current work, and as of November 2017, 2 million sandwiches have been donated, equal to over $1 million allocated to its nonprofit partners.

With a passion for addressing the food insecurity that 1 in 8 Americans face, Day said in an email that the founders “wanted to be more than just another sandwich shop.” She also said, “I see Even Stevens growing and expanding across the entire U.S., right now we are focusing on the West Coast but want to take our product and program everywhere!”

Cotopaxi’s mission is to improve the human condition worldwide. It is an outdoor gear retail company with a location at 74 S. Main St. in Salt Lake City. Cotopaxi, according to its website, is a certified B corporation, which means it is a business that uses its force for making a positive impact on the global social, economic and environmental condition. Its products are also produced sustainably with close attention to detail and with Cotopaxi-exclusive llama fiber insulation in various products.

Loretta Beaty, who runs the impact sector and is the customer experience executive for Cotopaxi, believes it has a “good model for doing good.” Each year, Cotopaxi donates 2 percent of its annual revenue to various nonprofit organizations around the world that make an outstanding impact on humanity.

In 2016, the nonprofits that Cotopaxi donated to were located in Myanmar, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. It has yet to choose all of the grantees for 2017 but the program-tailored donations will make an impact in people’s lives throughout the world based on its past achievements, highlighted on the website.

Cotopaxi’s 2016 impact report gives information on the work done. Among the reports from international grantees, it told of The Global Good Project and the Questival Adventure Race. The Global Good Project works in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to satisfy the diverse needs of refugees around Salt Lake. The Questival Adventure Race incorporates all local citizens for an adventure race based on service, teamwork, fitness and adventure.

Stonehaven Dental has also crossed national boundaries and done extensive local charity work. Dr. Eric Tobler, president of and dentist at Stonehaven Dental, and Mary Hegerman, marketing/human Resources director, discussed Stonehaven’s community involvement in an email interview. That involvement includes being a part of a national organization called Dental Care for Children as well as hosting and being a part of local humanitarian efforts.

The dentists, dental assistants, support personnel and even a University of Utah dental student have gone to Mexico for humanitarian trips with the Dental Care for Children organization. Stonehaven has been taking trips for six years but the organization holds monthly trips to Mexico, Haiti and Southern California.

With locations in Salt Lake and Utah County, Stonehaven Dental’s local humanitarian work includes the Stonehaven Smiles event. It gives free dental care to the community each May. Tobler and Hegerman said that it been going for 10 years, serving nearly 1,500 patients. They also noted the effort that each dental office makes to be involved with local school programs, and there have been scholarships given to local high school students in the past.

According to Tobler and Hegerman, the staff at Stonehaven Dental has taken over 20 international trips and have either held or participated in nearly 60 local humanitarian days. As the president of Stonehaven Dental, Tobler stressed how important giving back is to the whole Stonehaven team.  

Each of the local businesses previously mentioned has its own model for doing good, so just by buying a sandwich, a backpack, or even going to the dentist, we can each give back to the local and global community.

Howdy Homemade in Salt Lake City employs individuals with special needs

Howdy Homemade opens in Salt Lake City, churning up the workplace and employing individuals with special needs.

Story and gallery by JASMYNE REYNOLDS

Zach Morris, an employee at Howdy Homemade, said that to him, Howdy represents family. Morris said he was on vacation when he received a call from Will Nielson, a longtime friend, asking if he wanted to work at an ice cream shop.

“I fell in love with the place,” he said.

Will, co-manager of the Salt Lake City shop located at 2670 S. 2000 East, said his younger brother Jack Nielson was struggling to be placed in a job after he graduated out of the public-school system. Will said that for someone like Jack to get a job, it can take up to two years.

This is because Jack, like Morris and each one of Howdy’s hard workers, has some kind of special need.

Heidi Nielson, Jack’s mother, said her son had few options.

“We didn’t know where he was going to go,” she said. That’s when she and her husband, Chris Nielson, learned about an ice cream store that employs individuals with special needs, called Howdy Homemade. The Nielson family flew to visit the original store in Dallas, and just like employee Morris, they fell in love.

“When we first went into the store, I was amazed,” Heidi said. “You went in with the knowledge that there were special-needs employees, but when you walked out you had completely forgotten.”

After talking with founder Tom Landis, the family decided to bring the model home with them to Salt Lake, where the opened a Howdy Homemade of their own.

On opening night, Sept. 2, 2017, the line of customers trailed out the door.

“One thing we did not expect was the community coming together like they have,” Heidi said. “Families come and sit for hours.” Heidi feels as though the customers have taken Howdy on as “their ice cream store,” and said it has become a relationship-building place.

With 24 unique flavors and a warm “Howdy!” welcome every time you walk in, it’s easy to see why employee Morris says the best part of his job isn’t even his favorite Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip flavor. Instead, it’s “being around a happy place, and being away from the outside world.”

That world often places individuals with special needs behind the scenes of workplaces, such as in the back of the store where no one sees them. “We just want the public to know how awesome they are,” said co-manager Courtney Kirk. “They don’t have any setbacks. If anything, they’re amazing at certain things and that’s what makes them such good employees.”

Will says he’s seen firsthand that workers with special needs are capable much more than perceived. “A lot of times people think, OK what are the limitations or liabilities associated with that disability, and we need to change our way of thinking,” he said. “When I hear autism now, I think they have great retention skills, they’re hard workers, and they love showing up for things.” Will says Howdy’s employees with Down syndrome are the most fun loving, caring people he’s ever been around.

“People with special needs, they don’t have disabilities, they have capabilities,” Kirk said.

Patrick Cronin, another employee at Howdy, said the favorite part of his job is that “everyone is nice.”

Kirk said she has seen the employees grow from when they were first hired, due to the response from the customers. “The community has been awesome in just coming in and really talking to them when they are being served,” she said. “Their social skills are improving from people interacting with them, and it’s only been a few months.”

Will has also noticed a change in his employees since Howdy Homemade opened. “They feel a lot more fulfilled,” he said.

Most have told him that if they weren’t there scooping ice cream, they would probably be sitting at home doing nothing. “This place has given them a purpose, something to look forward to,” Will said. “They wake up and they know that they’re going to be interacting with people.”

As founder Landis said, “You’ll come for the ice cream, but you’ll stay for the people.” 

Carssen Damon, a University of Utah student who is a customer, said, “I don’t even like ice cream, I just love the employees.”

With big smiles on their faces, Morris, Cronin and the rest of Howdy’s heros offer generous-sized samples and a little piece of change in our community and in the hearts of every person who walks through the door.

“Whether it’s someone with special needs or just someone out on the street, you never know what that person is struggling with, and we just have to be patient with each other,” Will said. “There’s power, and there’s a lot of magic that comes from inclusiveness.”

 

 

Immigrants with pockets full of dreams

Story and slideshow by MARIA HERNANDEZ

A reckless 20-year-old. Lying inside a car carried away by a loud train. He couldn’t make a sound. Breathing was already dangerous. Standing up at the wrong moment meant the end of his adventure. Hours passed, and Manuel had nothing but himself in the darkness of that summer night. With nothing in mind but the American Dream, Manuel lay patiently in the car, waiting for the right moment.

This is the story of Manuel Valdez. A motivated entrepreneur who came to the United States with nothing but the clothes he had on, and his pockets full of dreams.

His Life in Mexico

Valdez lived his whole life in Zacatecas, Mexico. Raised in a big family of seven children, mother and father. They all lived together on a small ranch, living from selling what they grew on their farm. Valdez has a passion for horses, cars and farming, like most people in his family. However, Valdez was also passionate about adventure. He had finished high school and continued to pursue a technological degree in Mexico. But after graduating as a technologist in electricity, Valdez struggled to find a job. He knocked on many doors, only to find disappointment. Employers kept rejecting him because of “lack of experience.”

“Ironic. How did they expect me to gain experience when they wouldn’t let me work?” Valdez said.

It was a hot evening, and after so many rejections Valdez couldn’t stop thinking about his future. Ramiro, his best friend, made a surprise visit from the U.S. “Manuel, let’s go north,” he said. “Your life and the life of your loved ones will change.” This wasn’t the first time Valdez heard the so-called pláticas, or talks about America. But this time, the idea kept echoing in the back of his mind. Adventure’s flame had been turned on in Valdez, and nothing now could make it stop.

Crossing the Border

Full of courage and passion, Valdez decided to leave everything behind and come to the United States. Through contacts, Valdez found himself sneaking into a new car that was transported by a train into the United States.

First try.  Caught.

“I went with Ramiro, and they caught us in Chihuahua trying to board the train to El Paso. They drove us on a truck to the opposite side of the city just to be mean,” Valdez said, laughing. “They really thought that was going to stop us from trying again. Silly immigration.”

Second try. Caught again.

Third time was the charm. The friends made it. After two days and one night in the train, they finally had arrived to Los Angeles.

New Adventure in Los Angeles

Valdez started working on a lime farm in Los Angeles. He worked long hours and earned 30 cents per box of limes. He would collect around 18 boxes per day. “Those hours were hell, man. I knew how to work the land, that was all I had been doing back home. But the pay was terrible there, and after all the fees they charged, I ended up with just enough to pay rent,” Valdez said.

Salt Lake City

Tired of strenuous hours of work, Valdez was ready to quit. Why was he struggling here when he could be comfortable at home? Wasn’t this the land of freedom and opportunity? In search of new adventures, Valdez moved to Salt Lake City, where some of his relatives lived. He started working in several restaurants, at least three jobs at a time. After work, he would also ride his bike every night to the Rose Park neighborhood on the west side of the city to take an English as a second-language class. And then he’d cycle home to the block of 400 West and Main Street to get ready for a new day.

Citizenship and New Challenges

Through his hard work, Valdez gained his citizenship through the amnesty decree. He could now not only pay taxes, but also enjoy their benefits. He could go back home and take presents to his nieces and nephews. He could finally live a life free of fear and uncertainty. This only inspired him to keep going, to work even harder and for longer hours. To save enough money to start building a stable life.

After several years of hardship and long work hours, Valdez learned English and made enough money to go visit his mother in Zacatecas several times. Some of his brothers followed him to the U.S., and life was almost stable.

A New Business Proposal

While in between jobs, Valdez met Susan Harris, a businesswoman who wanted to start a new business together. Harris saw Valdez’s potential and knew he was the guy she needed. Harris contacted Valdez and following this phone call, Valdez’s life changed.

After many discussions, Harris and Valdez started a Mexican restaurant. A very small shop in Cottonwood Heights, a neighborhood in southeast Salt Lake City. Valdez, with some of his brothers who were in Salt Lake too, created the recipes, decorated the place and did all the finances to start this new business. Little did they know that 23 years later, Lone Star Taqueria would be one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Salt Lake Valley, with hundreds of customers desiring the family’s famous fresh fish tacos. Lone Star Taqueria was even featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Drives by Food Network, and has appeared in several magazines.

“I had heard wonders about this place, but I always thought it was overrated. What could you expect from a hole-in-the-wall place?” Lora said, one of Lone Star’s regular customers or amigos, how they are called by the employees. “However, when I did come, my world changed. Lone Star has the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, and I’m from California! It is authentic and always fresh. I come here at least three times a week, and they treat me like family!”

Testimony from a New Adventure

In 1994, the same year that Lone Star was opened, another adventure came into Valdez’s life: His son Antonio Valdez. “I grew up at Lone Star. My dad would pick me up from daycare, bring me to the restaurant and put me in a tomato box so I wouldn’t crawl away. I remember seeing my dad working so hard and still being there for me, and since then I have admired that man to death,” said Antonio, 23, who recently graduated from Utah State University and works as an internal auditor for Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Today

“It has all been worth it. I see my children being successful, and it feels good, you know. Laying down on that train, every lime I picked up in LA, every plate I washed in restaurants; every sacrifice was worth it,” said Valdez, when reminiscing about his life. “I’m glad I jumped on that train and waited in that car. Life is stable now, and I hope it continues to be.”

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Veganism finds permanence and thrives in Salt Lake City

Story and slideshow by ZAINA ABUJEBARAH

Salt Lake City is seen as an up-and-coming concrete jungle that houses multiple subcultures in its alternative underground scene. One of the most prominent since the late 1990s has been the vegan community.

By definition, veganism is “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Ian Brandt, owner of two of the city’s vegan staples — Vertical Diner and Sage’s Cafe — was a pioneer for plant-based eating. It all started in 1998 with a food cart. Brandt would set up shop at local farmers markets, concerts and other special events around downtown.

“I always liked the idea of engaging with some sort of business that was connected with people where there was a human element involved,” Brandt said during a phone interview. “There was a need for more plant-based restaurants at the time. A few dishes were available here or there, but there weren’t many options, even in the country, for plant based eating.”

Brandt said the idea caught on quickly here, after bigger states like California and New York established the plant-based trend.

Between 1998, when Vertical Diner opened, and 2010, there was growth in the vegan community. Even so, patrons yearned for more than just kale salads and wheatgrass shots.

Roxy and Alex decided to take their love for animals and apply it to opening their own compassionate sandwich shop, Buds. (Roxy and Alex asked that their last names not be used; they felt that a focus on their identity shifted attention from the vegan movement and their message of compassion.)

It wasn’t until they opened Buds (509 E. 300 South) that they discovered just how big the community was. There was a big demand for food that not only tasted good but also left a positive impact on the environment.

“We really wanted to show people that veganism can be accessible, affordable and approachable. We wanted to make food for people and have them be blown away by their food,” Roxy said during a phone interview. “We are people fighting for the same things they (other vegans) are fighting for. That’s the amazing thing about Buds — it opened up the doors to an entire community.”

The success and popularity of Buds inspired Roxy and Alex to take on another project. In the summer of 2017, the business partners launched two new projects, Boltcutter and Monkeywrench, in the Gallivan Center.

Boltcutter serves classic, comforting, south-of-the-border favorites like carne asada tacos, nachos and “elotes,” while Monkeywrench offers delicious coffees and gourmet ice cream.

“Mexican cuisine has always been my absolute favorite. It lends itself to veganizing those items so easily,” Roxy said.

Alex added, “Ice cream is something that translates easily to non-vegans. It’s a dairy staple but it’s easy to sell for cheap and it makes a bold statement to people that think that they need dairy to have ice cream.”    

Roxy and Alex stress that eating mindfully isn’t just for the vegan community. They both are impressed by the variety of people they see at their establishments.

“I would never guess that certain people were vegan,” Roxy said. “A vegan doesn’t just fit that classic stereotype. Conscious people have realized that their actions directly affect everything around them.”

It’s these compassionate ideals that motivated Alex and Roxy, as well as another Salt Lake City local, to embark on a culinary quest. Andrew Early, owner of the soon-to-be-diner, Mark of the Beastro, has his sights set on catering to the “greasy spoon,” comfort-food niche.  

Early grew up in a household that encouraged hunting and eating meat, but he turned vegetarian in high school. However, it wouldn’t be until he made a few major life adjustments and went through rehab that Early would change his eating habits.

“I decided that if I was going to change my life, why not change it completely?” Early said. That was the beginning of his activism for animal rights.

The Mark of the Beastro, located on 666 S. State St., which started as an idea among three friends, has been in the works for 10 years. “Back then, the vegan restaurants sucked,” Early said. “There was a big lack.”

Though it’s just Early running the Beastro on his own, he still pushes the same ideals he had 10 years ago. He wants to serve good quality comfort food that can fool any non-vegan in the Salt Lake Valley while creating a communal space for the community.

“A lot of what I serve are the things I would want,” Early said. “People want vegan food for two reasons, the commitment to the cause and healthy eating.”

Early tries to accommodate those who want healthier options, but his main focus is to serve those who choose veganism because it is the “right thing to do,” but don’t want to miss out on their favorite foods.

This focus is showcased through his grease-heavy, classic diner-inspired menu that features numerous breakfast items like French toast, breakfast sandwiches and garbage hash, as well as hearty dinner options, soups, salads, desserts and anything a diner-dweller could dream of veganizing.

The vegan community is flourishing in Salt Lake City, and the local business owners want to encourage the well-being of the animals and promote a healthy lifestyle for plant-based eaters and carnivores alike. By working hard every day, these and other restaurateurs provide various options and solutions to support a conscious lifestyle and a diverse community.

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Organic Farmer Speaks to University Students

By Colton Stanger

David Bell, a certified organic farmer from Salt Lake City gave a talk at the University of Utah annex building last Tuesday on the process, as well as the challenges and benefits of organic gardening.

Bell Organic Farm, run by Bell and his family is located inside the Salt Lake City limits.  Along with growing many of the typical vegetables that can be found in a grocery store, David grows 35 variations of carrot, tomato, pepper, beats and peppers.

“I cut one open, and I feel like I’m holding a sunrise in one hand and a sunset in the other,” Bell said, referring to one of eight types of heirloom tomatoes he grows on his farm.

Bell grows everything naturally.  That means no pesticides or chemical treatments like nitrogen and growth hormone.  The food is all harvested by hand, and the land, which they lease is maintained to certified organic standards.

To be certified organic requires 50 to 80 hours of paperwork, constant essay writing on the planting, cultivating and harvesting process and personal inspection as mandated by Food and Drug Administration.  The fees required also take up about two percent of Bell’s annual revenue.

“I’m proud to be certified organic,” Bell said, grinning over his folded hands.

The organic process does require more labor, and Bell manages to get all he needs by letting people come out and work, paying them with portions of the food they help to grow.

“It’s amazing how many highly educated people we get who are either tired of being in an office, or don’t want to fill out another unanswered job application who come out and work under the sun, for food,” Bell said.

David sells most of his produce through his website http://bellorganic.com and a system called a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Basically a customer pays an annual fee, a little over four hundred dollars and during the summer and fall months customers go to a local delivery point and pick up fresh produce.

“We pick in the morning and deliver in the afternoon. I don’t see it getting any fresher than that,” Bell said.

Most of the attendees of the lecture were members of the university’s student organization SPEAK (Students Promoting Eating disorder Awareness Knowledge).  SPEAK is an organization dedicated to a healthier more environmentally friendly way of life and works to spread awareness about things like local farming and organic living.

“It’s amazing that such fresh produce is available at such reasonable prices,” said Allison Steward after the lecture, a grad student in health science and a member of SPEAK.  “With a lot of stuff at the store you can’t know what you’re eating but here you do.  And if you have any doubts you can go there and grow it yourself.”

“I think it’s a cool way to get healthy food and a good sense of community,” said Megan Madsen, a social work major at the university and also a member of SPEAK.

“Farming is hard, but its worth it when you look at a piece of food and say, ‘I made that.’  It makes me feel like I contribute,” Bell said.

Bell Organic delivers from late March, early April all of the way into November.  They have pick up locations in Salt Lake City, Park City and many more between there and South Jordan.  For more information on the farm and its process, or to sign up for the CSA go to http://bellorganic.com.

Holly, Russell & Veganism

by RYAN LITTLEFIELD

Russell and Holly Nix were married on August 19, 2011, a union exemplified by their passion for and belief in veganism.  A couple fairly new to the vegan lifestyle, the inspiration that influenced their diet change were simply videos and books.  Veganism has changed this couple’s lives, although it took time to implement the strict regimen.  Follow the journey Holly and Russell took as they started the transformation that changed their lives for the better with a culture that is quickly becoming a trend.

Inspiration That Started it All

It all began with a video on YouTube concerning animal cruelty.  Holly said the video was about, “How cruelly animals are treated . . . by taking their meat into your body you are also taking in all of their pain, fear and suffering.”  This visual ignited an impression that really stuck with her and she became a vegetarian the very next day.  More research into factory farming and animal cruelty ensued and two years following the shift into vegetarianism, the transition into veganism began.

It took about one year for Holly to fully convert to eating vegan.  For the beginning of her transition, “I started removing animal products from my diet and replacing them with vegan substitutions,” she said.  “I learned to cook vegan recipes and to be vigilant about checking ingredient lists. I started paying attention to cosmetics and other products I buy that test on animals or contain animal products.”  Since her transition, Holly has been fully vegan for two years.  Her influence inspired her partner, Russell, to begin a similar journey.

Russell had read books in the past such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser, but they didn’t have enough of a lasting impression to cause a change in his lifestyle or diet.  Vegetarian friends also positively influenced him, but didn’t force a change.  It wasn’t until Russell met Holly that an alteration began – he read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer and experienced, “The accumulated knowledge just suddenly hit and I stopped eating meat.”

The transition for Russell into veganism began after watching a video exemplifying the conditions many cows are kept in: Conklin Dairy Farm by Mercy For Animals.  Russell said, “I couldn’t eat cheese without seeing pictures of animal abuse in my head. So in the same way that meat symbolized suffering, dairy did too. I just gave it up cold turkey and I haven’t been tempted to go back.”

For Russell, the transition from vegetarian to vegan took a split second, “I ate cheese before I watched the Conklin Dairy Farm video; I stopped immediately after.”  He attributes the immediate change to his firm belief in his actions.  He truly believes in what he is doing as he has been fully vegan since September of 2011.

Veganism Changed Their Lives

“Since going vegan, I’ve lost about thirty pounds. I feel healthier and more mentally alert,” said Holly.  Russell has also seen physical changes, losing about 40 pounds since giving up meat, 30 of which resulted from the transition to vegan.

Not only has their physical health been drastically affected, their social health has reaped the benefits as well.  Holly said, “I’ve found a wonderful community of vegan friends in Salt Lake and Provo who are strong and interesting and I look up to them a great deal.”  Even those who do not share her vegan lifestyle are kind and supportive of what she believes.  Russell said, “It’s made me feel closer to Holly because we share this important belief system . . . Veganism has helped us connect in a way that we wouldn’t if we were both omnivore.”  Holly agrees, “Veganism is a little bit like religion for Russell and I. It brings us together. Having a vegan partner makes living a vegan lifestyle so much easier.”  As the couple mature and change through their vegan lifestyle, aspects surrounding their diet modification have also been affected.

Holly has been motivated into animal activism, encouraging other types of activism including feminism, fighting racism and politics.  The biggest change Holly has seen has been through family interaction.  Food is the center of most of her family’s gatherings, “I get a lot of jokes directed my way because I’m now the weird girl that brings her own food to Thanksgiving dinner.”

She has also seen a change in her mother, “She makes a concerted effort to cook vegan food when I come over and she is always interested in learning new recipes.”  The change Holly has seen warms her heart as it not only shows the compassion she has for her daughter, but also encourages her to think more about her own diet and health.

For Russell, “Cooking is easily the first thing that changes,” when transitioning into a vegan diet.  He began cooking more than ever when he became vegan.  Russell also immediately noticed how important food is in social gatherings and holidays.  “When I went vegetarian, I separated myself from the culture of omnivores; when I went vegan I stepped even further away,” he said.

Russell relates how he used to play Dungeons and Dragons with a few friends that would rotate who brought dinner every game-night.  After giving up meat, he felt alienated – there always had to be two pizzas, one of which was vegetarian.  Then he turned vegan and he couldn’t participate in dinner-sharing at all, “It was too much of a hassle for everyone involved.”

“When I went vegan, it wasn’t something I was just trying out.  It’s how I will eat forever,” explains Russell.

It Takes Time to Be Vegan

The transition for anyone to vegetarian or vegan takes time and preparation.  “Being vegan just takes time,” said Holly, “time to research foods, recipes, restaurants and to plan and cook meals. I’ve learned to simplify those processes and there are lots of resources to help. I’ve also learned how to deal with parties and gatherings and it all becomes very natural feeling.”  Some of those resources included local bloggers like meggieandben.blogspot.com and amanda-eats-slc.blogspot.com who review vegan options regularly throughout Utah’s restaurants.

Forgetting to pack a lunch usually leads to starvation, according to Russell, when there are very few fast food places that serve vegan foods.  Holly said, “It’s easier, faster and cheaper to grab a hamburger from McDonalds or heat up some Top Ramen than it is to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes and devote the time it takes to learn to cook them and make them delicious.” Russell supposes his beliefs are what keep him vegan, also relating that the temptation to cheat and eat a cheeseburger may be too much for someone who doesn’t truly believe in the foundation of their diet. Holly believes those without motivation, a low income or who is limited in food choices from eating restrictions would struggle with a vegan lifestyle.

It isn’t easy either, Russell said, “The biggest problem is giving up all the food routines. Anytime we eat out, we have to ask a bunch of questions. People don’t always know what vegan means, so we have to be very specific or end up getting inedible foods. Servers are often uninformed or just lying.”  The transition to veganism for Russell was easy, a split-second decision; for Holly, it took almost a year to change.  Together, the couple progress with their veganism lifestyle and beliefs.

Everyday Vegan Meals

For Holly breakfast is usually a variation of oatmeal, with blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, raisins or almond milk.  With more time, “I’ll make pancakes, french toast, or tofu omelets with fake sausage,” she said.  Snacking on fruit helps to curb her major sweet tooth before or after meals.  Russell usually begins his day with coffee and cinnamon raisin oatmeal with bananas.

Lunch consists of leftovers or a sandwich with veggies, tofurkey, hummus or peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread.  Snacking on almonds is a regular occurrence for Russell.

There are many recipes for dinner dishes such as chili, pizza, soups, casseroles, pasta, salads, curries, lentils, marinated tofu and roasted vegetables; one of the couples’ favorites is vegan pho.  “I would say about half of our dinners are vegan versions of stuff we’ve been eating our whole lives.  The other half is from vegan cookbooks or blogs.  We use a lot of spices in our cooking because it’s a low-fat way of adding a bunch of flavor,” said Russell.  Holly deems, “I firmly believe I can veganize any recipe and make it delicious.”

Holly and Russell

The reality is the veganism lifestyle Holly and Russell live by has affected their lives in a variety of positive ways.  Holly said, “The things that make veganism great are the food, the vegan community and the friends I’ve made! I have also loved the opportunities I have gotten to work with animals because they are definitely the reason I do this.” Russell’s favorite part is the food.  He loves to cook new foods, try eating new foods and discovering new recipes.  “It’s also a treat to find out what junk food is vegan.  I will eat a thousand Oreos and not feel any regret,” he stated.

Russell and Holly are continually adding to their vegan lifestyle with creative recipes and a growing community.  According to this couple, joining the vegan lifestyle is simple: it just requires a change of heart.

Organic Farming Promoted by SPEAK

by RYAN LITTLEFIELD

A red plaid shirt, worn khaki pants and a straw hat all accompanied with dark, sun-tainted skin describe a typical appearance for David Bell, an ordinary local farmer.

Bell is the owner of the organic-certified farm Bell Organics in Draper, Utah.  Although managing an organic-certified farm is difficult, organic food tastes better, is more nutritious and is available locally through Community Supported Agricultures (CSAs) according to Bell in a speech he gave for Love Your Body Week at the University of Utah last Tuesday.

Love Your Body Week at the University of Utah is promoted by SPEAK (Students Promoting Eating disorder Awareness Knowledge).  SPEAK strives to celebrate bodies, be aware of both positive and negative attitudes and focus on healthy relationships with food.

Several members of SPEAK attended Bell’s speech on organic food, including health promotions majors Megan Madsen and Allison Stewart.  The speech on organic farming drew Madsen, Stewart and other members of SPEAK because of their interest in organic gardening and how organic food affects the body.

“I’m proud to be certified organic,” said Bell as he related his certification to a gold star.  In reality, it takes over 2 percent of Bell’s revenue to maintain his organic certification.  Utilizing crop rotation to manage pests and prevent depletion of nutrients in the soil is necessary.  Crop rotation helps to steer clear of fungicides, pesticides and chemicals that facilitate maintaining organic-certification. Managing the crops, schedules and rotations can be tricky when gardening year after year.

“Worms are diabolical,” said Bell when relating his adventures in farming.  Worms are commonly used in vermaculture as they are “a very concentrated form of compost,” according to Bell.  He would love to incorporate vermaculture into his organic gardening, but realistically it is too expensive.  Despite how hard it is to sustain an organic farm, Bell is happy to be organic.

When it comes to organic foods, “We plan 35 different vegetables alone,” said Bell, including orange, white, red and even purple carrots. Fruit, however, Bell prefers to leave to the orchardists.

“Local fruit has 75 percent less pesticides than commercial fruit,” and that eating organically truly is healthier, said Bell.

According to studies done by both the University of Washington and the University of California-Davis in 2003, eating organic food is healthier, containing more antioxidants and fewer pesticides.

“Fresh-picked, everything tastes a lot better,” said Bell.  Bell is passionate, even sentimental about his vegetables, especially the juicy tomatoes.

“You put something like that on a plate and people think you’re ingenious,” Bell said.

Bell’s tomatoes are harvested and given out to members of his CSA up until the end of December.  Reasons to get involved with a CSA, Bell said, include going on a food adventure, expanding your palette and becoming a better chef.

It is necessary for consumers to discover their needs, explains Bell.  Most consumers look for poison-free and sustainability in foods, which is not always simply organic.  Bell recommends consumers to check out http://www.utahfarmscsa.com if they are interested in an organic CSA like Bell Organics, or go to http://www.localharvest.org for more information concerning other CSAs in the Salt Lake area.

The Happiest Place On Earth Just Got Better

By: Bradley Hunsaker

As a man who grew up close to the big barbeque states of the South, I have had my fair share of good meats over the years.  Some will even say I have become very picky when it comes to how I take my barbeque.  There is one thing that never disappoints every time I have the chance to get it though.  The giant turkey legs of the Disney theme parks.

Now I know what you are thinking, can’t you get those at any renaissance fair or medieval times restaurant?  The answer is yes, but they are just not as good.   It may be the way Disney smokes the meat or the type of wood they use but there is a unique flavour and tenderness to Disney turkey legs that sets it apart from all others.

When you first purchase the drumstick whose size can only really be described as that of a newborn baby’s head you feel a sense of accomplishment for men everywhere that they even make a slab of meat this big.  In fact, once you tear open the foil and wrapping surrounding the leg it gets you immediate attention; admiration and questions from the men asking where you get such an awesome meal and looks of disgust and awe from their wives wondering what animal this possibly could have come from.  Despite it probably being smoked overnight and brought into the park early that morning, the smell and taste of the meat is very warm and fresh.

The meat itself is very tender and juicy which is a hard accomplishment for something this size.  A lot of giant turkey legs can be very dry from having to be smoked so long to ensure the meat is cooked.  I can only guess that there is some sort of basting process mid-smoke to ensure the meat stays juicy which in turn helps its tenderness.  The taste is very traditional when it comes to barbeque.  There seems to be no added spices or rubs to the meat, just the natural flavour of the turkey and the subtle yet ever so tasty smoky flavour that comes from the wood they chose to use.  The combination of taste and texture is what keeps you eating despite the nagging thought in the back of your mind that you are going to have to go on rides with an overly full stomach of turkey goodness.

As far as price goes, it is your normal theme park expense.  One turkey leg will usually run between $8-$9 but that is around the same cost as any other meal in the park and I can guarantee this will fill you up just as well.  The legs can be found in Disneyland, Calif. and Disney World, Fla. and possibly other Disney locations around the world.  Don’t take my word for it though, next time you find yourself in one of the parks have a go at one and I can promise you won’t be disappointed.

STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT ORGANIC FARMING FOR LOVE YOUR BODY WEEK

by Andrew S. Jones

SALT LAKE CITY – A local organic-certified farmer stressed food quality and color when considering nutrition to a group of students at the University of Utah annex building Tuesday, Feb. 28 in commemoration of Love Your Body week.

David Bell is the co-owner of Bell Organic, a local organic farm that has been situated in Draper, Utah for the last fourteen years. Wearing a light dress hat and exposing his chest through an opened plaid shirt, Bell shared how his lifestyle and food appetites have changed since being a famer and the impact simple things can have on students.

Bell was invited as a keynote speaker in a week’s worth of events called Love Your Body, Love Your Land week, presented by a student committee that collectively identifies themselves as SPEAK. SPEAK is an acronym that stands for Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge.

“Guess what, fresh-everything tastes better,” Bell said while passing around a tray of two large Spanish tortillas made only of freshly-grown produce from his farm. He said his rule-of-thumb centers around fresh ingredients and that freshness equates to better nutrition and taste.

While the ambient sounds of crunching and hearty swallows filled the room, Bell spoke openly about his experience becoming a farmer and the impact it has played on his and his family’s lives. What started out as a small 4-by-8 foot all organic garden in the backyard of Bell’s Sugar House area home, turned into a half-acre plot he and his wife Jill purchased when they decided to go into the business of farming together. The plot used to be an old dairy farm in Draper, Utah. These decisions came about while Bell was between jobs and without any prior farming experience.

“I had heard that a half billion people in China were being fed by one-half acre farms,” Bell said, before explaining how he felt Salt Lake County could sustain something similar just fine with the available resources, population, and perceived demand. The venture has since become a success. Now just over 25 acres in size, the farm also hosts a community supported agriculture program (CSA) that feeds more than 150 households every week during the farming season, all while following federal regulations to maintain an all-organic crop.

Bell also shared that there are plenty of side benefits to farming that he enjoys besides just the fresh food. He particularly enjoys being in shape and staying tan throughout the season while admitting that his weight fluctuates by as much as 20 pounds offseason.

“In the offseason I work as a real estate agent,” Bell said, just before jokingly stating “I have both the most overcompensated and undercompensated jobs in America.”

“While SPEAK is focused on body, this year we also wanted to include your land; hence the title and Mr. Bell,” said Brittany Badger, a graduate student studying health promotion and education under Reel. This is Badger’s third year being involved with SPEAK and Love Your Body week. While taking a sigh of relief after the day’s event and presentation, when asked what she thought of the tortilla, there was no hesitation. “It was amazing,” she said, “It may have been the best thing I’ve eaten.”

“This is the tenth anniversary of SPEAK and Love Your Body week,” said SPEAK founder and faculty advisor Justine Reel, Ph.D and assistant professor in the Department of Health at the University of Utah. “It started off with just four students who wanted to get involved,” she said while elaborating on how she feels the endeavor has evolved into a successful medium to reach out to students struggling with eating disorders. Reel also explained that the Love your body, love your land events share the same week as the National Eating Disorders Awareness week and therefore makes the events even more significant and in-line with the group’s mission.

According to the SPEAK homepage, the group is made up of many diverse students who promote self-esteem, self-efficacy, healthy body image, and healthy eating habits. Their mission is to promote awareness of eating disorders and body image issues through educating diverse populations, developing strategies for prevention, providing resources for treatment, and conducting relevant research.

For more information about SPEAK, visit http://web.utah.edu/speak.html

City Creek Center Helping Small Businesses Downtown

By Erica Hartmann

SALT LAKE CITY- The doors of the new 700,000 square-foot mall, City Creek Center, have been open for about a month now, but the traffic hasn’t seemed to slow down yet! City Creek seems to be the “face-lift” that downtown Salt Lake City needed. The hoards of people excited to see the new center have made City Creek’s grand-opening a success and have also helped the existing stores and restaurants in the area.

            Many things have attracted shoppers to the new center. An impressive retractable roof (something entirely new to the United States, the only other exists in Dubai), a brand new sky bridge that crosses overtop Main Street, as well as a handful of new stores to the Salt Lake area (Michael Kors, Brooks Brothers, Pandora, Porsche Design, and Tiffany & Co. just to name a few).

            The stores have made money like they couldn’t believe. Kaleb Larsen, an employee in the men’s department of Nordstrom said, “It’s been non-stop busy. The first day we opened we made our entire day’s sales goal in the first hour, and it hasn’t seemed to slow down much from opening weekend. It’s been great for me since I work on commission.”

            It’s been a similar story at the smaller stores in the center as well. Suke Wilkins, one of the managers at Banana Republic said, “On an average Saturday we’ll have 2,700 people in the store, that’s more than we did at Gateway in an entire week. It’s been crazy, but a good crazy.” Wilkins also said, “We’ve hired on about five more people since opening the new store, we need more coverage and are making the money to be able to hire more people. It’s great!”

            Everyone is excited to see the new mall and the shoppers seem to be willing to spend the money needed to at these high-end stores. Many people questioned whether or not the higher price-point stores would do well in a market like Salt Lake, but so far, they seem to be fairing very well. Jenn Smith, a sales associate at Tiffany & Co. said, “most days we have to form a line outside the store because so many people want to come in. A lot of people are just curious and look around, but there have been a lot of buyers as well. Business is good so far.”

            With the new mall placed smack-dab in downtown, questions were raised about how the locally-owned and smaller business on Main Street would be affected. William Lewis, an employee of the sandwich shop Gandolfos, located on Main Street a few blocks south of City Creek said, “We’ve always been busy with the all the businesses and high-rises located so close to us, and City Creek definitely hasn’t hurt business. We’ve seen an increase on Saturdays.” He also stated, “The food court is nice at City Creek, but it’s always so crowded, I’ve heard a lot of people come in saying they had to get away from all the people.”

            Eva’s, a popular restaurant on Main Street has also seen an increase since City Creek opened. Nicole Wallace a waitress at Eva’s stated, “We’ve seen a lot of shoppers come down here for a bite to eat. I think the Cheesecake Factory is really the only sit-down dinning option for shoppers over there, and I’ve heard there’s always over an hour wait. We have much better, locally-grown food than the Cheesecake Factory, and we can usually seat people right away.”

            There is one other restaurant besides The Cheesecake Factory located at City Creek, called Texas de Brazil, but you’ll have to spend much more money to dine there than you would at most restaurants located on Main Street (and most likely the food will be better and you won’t have to wait at the restaurants on Main).

            City Creek is a new and exciting place to come visit and it seems to be helping all the small businesses around this enormous new mall. Luckily for the small, delicious restaurants located on Main Street, the eating options at the mall are limited and super crowded, causing shoppers to venture a few blocks south for a bite to eat.

            So come down and spend some money (most likely a lot considering the price-points at most stores) while also supporting the older, smaller shops and restaurants on Main Street. Downtown Salt Lake is definitely becoming a place to visit with many different things to offer!

The NBA Lockouts Impact on Salt Lake City Businesses

By Steven Blomquist

The NBA Lockouts Impact on Salt Lake City Businesses

The labor disagreement between the NBA and its players not only put the NBA season in jeopardy, but also raised concern in many small market areas about potential decline in revenue.
“The NBA lockout is not only affecting the players on the court but Salt Lake City businesses who rely on the Jazz fans for business” said local business and Jazz fan Mark Maybee.
Energy Solutions Arena can hold more than 19,911 fans. With the great influx of people coming downtown, many come early on game night to go to local restaurants, shop at stores and ride TRAX. All of which will see the effects.
Vincent V. Fonua, who has worked for the downtown Crown Burger for 3 years, said, “Crown burger and other restaurants will be for sure be affected by no Jazz season. It’s a usually are busiest part of the year.”
“Around 5 p.m. for about 2 hours we get a major rush,” right before the game starts around the corner from the arena. “It is great business for us. We do very well during Jazz season,” Fonua added.
“I have been a Jazz fan all my life. Going to games is a tradition I have with my brothers. We would always go Crown Burger to eat before the games and since the lockout I haven’t been to there,” said Jazz fan Mike Plant.
It’s not only the restaurants who suffer; it’s all those who rely on people coming downtown for games to make their business go.
Torry Austin, a local cab driver, said, “It’s not just restaurants that are seeing the effects. It’s parking revenue, it’s transportation revenues, it’s taxi cab rides.” Austin who has been a cab driver for over 20 years said, “Jazz season really allows me to make ends meet through the winter.”
Salt Lake is not the only city that has seen the effects of the lockout on the local economy. Fourteen other small market cities such as the Indianapolis, Memphis and Portland have also seen effects.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was one of 14 mayors in October who sent an open letter to league owners and players pleading their case for a season to take place for the sake of the local economies.
“It has created a huge strain,” Becker said. “I’m sure there are people who these part-time jobs at the arena make a difference in their ability to make end’s meet.” He added, “There are going to be economic casualties.”
On Nov. 26, the NBA and its players agreed on terms of a new collective bargain agreement. After missing all the preseason games and first 6 weeks of 2011-2012 play has been slated to start on Dec. 25.
While the NBA players celebrate their new deal they are not the only ones jumping for joy.  Local businesses also celebrate the end of the lockout, with the hope to make up for the lost profits

City Creek Center Marks the Beginning of a New Salt Lake City

Story by: Spencer Peters

The long anticipated wait for the opening of City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City is finally in the home stretch. The wait is down to a mere three months until the March grand opening, which will mark a new phase for Salt Lake City economy and its development as a major metropolitan area.
Announced in October of 2006 by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, City Creek Center, will offer over 800,000 square feet of shopping, restaurants and office space over 23-acres in downtown Salt Lake.
In addition, there is an underground parking garage offering 56-hundred parking stalls which has already been open to the public and the residents in the four residential towers which were a focal point of this massive project.
Chase Carpenter, City Creek condominium owner, said, “Having seen this project evolve over the past five years, it’s exciting to see it come together in its final stages.”
To help live up to expectations, Taubman Centers Inc. announced, via press release on Sept.  13, 2011, the first 20 retailers moving into the 800,000 square foot structure – all of whom are new to the market. Along with anchor stores Macy’s and Nordstrom, the shopping center will be opening nationally recognized names, such as Coach, Brooks Brothers and Tiffany & Co.
There are also a slew of unique features on the project, including a fully retractable glass roof, a sky bridge over Main Street and a re-creation of City Creek, the snow-fed stream that once flowed through the city.
Current Nordstrom employee, Ashlin Gunn, said, “They really are pulling out all of the stops to make this new location special…there is a lot of excitement in the air for the potential this new store will bring.”
One interesting fact that stands out significantly about City Creek it’s the only major shopping mall to open in the United States next year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Being able to build through a recession, high unemployment rates, and a diminishing housing market can seem like a daunting task, but not for the LDS Church.
No loans were taken out, nor was any public money sought. The $1.5 billion budget for the development was generated through church-affiliated businesses and years of putting reserves aside, which allowed them to build through a recession, according to Dale Bills, spokesman for City Creek Reserve Inc.
Assistant Dean at the David Eccles School of Business, Brad Vierig, said, “It’s simply amazing what they were able to put together during the recession…City Creek is going to have an extremely positive effect on the Salt Lake City and Utah economy.”
Hundreds of jobs have already been created for construction workers and developers with another 2,000 on the way once the project is completely finished., according to Linda Wardell, retail general manager for the project.  City Creek is estimated to contribute $1 million a day for the local economy.
City Creek Center is only the first piece of the puzzle for the future of Salt Lake City living and the visions of its metropolitan future. The LDS Church and the Salt Lake government have created their “Downtown Rising Project.”
Downtown Rising is a concept that was introduced in 2006 as a way to build off of the success of the 2002 Winter Olympics and the idea of turning Salt Lake into a “global community.”
In addition to City Creek Center, developers have drawn up plans for various other community buildings, including a Global Exchange Place, Performing Arts Center, Public Market and a Metropolitan Sports and Fitness Center. All of these projects are highly dependent if City Creek lives up to its vaunted hype.
March 22, 2012 will mark the official and highly anticipated grand opening of the new City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Approximately 80 stores and restaurants will be opening their doors to the public. It will mark the dawn of a new economic era for all of Utah.  (660)

Greek City Grill

Story by Rachel Thomas

If you’re in the mood for authentic Greek food at an affordable price, Greek City Grill is the place for you.  Bob Daskalakis opened the restaurant in 2009 and can usually be found at the restaurant energetically turning out orders.
Although the restaurant may be small, the menu is anything but lacking with traditional food from gyros, spanakopita and souvlaki, to the not so traditional pastrami topped burger and halibut and chips. However, you can confidently order anything from the menu and not be disappointed.
To get this great tasting food you may have to look twice.  The restaurant is located on the corner of a small strip mall right off the freeway. Most Greek restaurants are noticeable by their blue and white colors representing the Greek flag.  Greek City Grill has no traditional Greek markings and is in turn often missed. Don’t let its location stop you from going, because once you get there the food is well worth the confusion.
Greek City Grill may be most famous for their gyros. In 2009 they were selected “Best of the Best” Gyros by the Salt Lake Tribune. Not only is Greek City Grill getting recognition by Utah food critics, it’s also caught the attention of some prominent figures in the community.  Dereon Williams, the former Utah Jazz player, is a big fan of the restaurant and even has a gyro named after him, the D-Will special. The D-Will was customarily created by Williams himself, and if you’re in the mood for something not on the menu just ask and the cooks are usually willing to put together just about anything.
The meat at Greek City Grill is freshly carved, perfectly seasoned and unbelievably moist.  One of the best parts about the restaurant is that the kitchen is so close you can watch your meal being prepared right before your eyes. Although the meaty gyros and souvlaki are considered the stars of the restaurant, the sides deserve to be spotlighted as well.
Greek City Grill offers you a variety of sides with your large portioned entrees. The sides you can chose from are fries, lemon rice, traditional Greek salad, fresh cooked zucchini and a cup of flavorful hummus. Each side is a delicious additive to an already perfect meal, but the standout of them all has to be the lemon rice.  People often return to Greek City Grill just to get an order of this fluffy strong lemon-flavored rice.
If the food descriptions haven’t convinced you, maybe the pricing will.  A gyro itself costs less than $5.00, and the largest combo meal costs less than $9.00.  If you’re looking for big flavor and low prices go check out Greek City Grill located on 6165 Highland Dr Salt Lake City, UT 84121.

In Pursuit of the Perfect Spaghetti Sauce: The Nature of Choice and Happiness

Story by Laura Qualey

Many consumers rarely take a second thought to wonder why one product may have so many variations. Malcolm Gladwell, a New Yorker staff writer, popular blogger and author of four books, has been known to expose the understanding of many things that often remain unknown to the public. What was exposed today? The story of one man’s pursuit to change the way the food industry approaches creating foods that will please the general public.

Gladwell retold the story of renowned psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz this morning and his major contribution to the food industry: the reinvention of spaghetti sauce.

Moskowitz, throughout his career had been approached by companies who asked him to help create a better (or different) product to satisfy their customers.

Moskowitz shattered the assumption that asking a consumer what he or she prefers is the best path to creating a great product. After conducting experiments with perplexing data, Moskowitz discovered that the best way to make the consumers happy was to “group data into clusters.” Gladwell concluded that Moskowitz saved Campbell’s by grouping people’s taste preferences into three categories: plain, spicy and chunky.

After Moskowitz advised Campbell’s to create three new Prego sauces to satisfy its customers, it was reported that over ten years Campbell’s made $600 million in profits off the extra chunky sauce alone. Gladwell’s main point during his presentation: “When we pursue universal principles in food, we don’t just make an error, we do ourselves a disservice.” In short, embracing the diversity of human beings finds a sure way to happiness.

Salt Lake’s ‘Little Chocolatiers’ take many steps toward a successful business

Story and slideshow by CARLY SZEMEREY

“I think there are some similarities with us and Steve Jobs,” Steve Hatch said in a phone interview. “We are both very picky about our businesses.”

Hatch, 41, is one of the owners and founders of Hatch Family Chocolates. Along with his wife Katie Masterson, 41, they are working hard to make their business successful.

After Masterson and Hatch were married, they knew they wanted to start a business at some point. However, these two didn’t know what kind of store they wanted. They weren’t sure if they wanted to open a coffee shop, a bakery or something else.

With a bit of background in chocolate-dipping, Hatch thought a chocolate factory might be a good option.

“My family dipped chocolates all their lives,” Hatch said. His grandmother dipped chocolates and taught his father, who then went on to continue this tradition for many years. He would do it as a hobby and give these chocolates to friends and neighbors. Then, after he retired he began selling his specialty treats at boutiques.

With this experience and tradition, Hatch and Masterson felt confident that this was the business they wanted to go into. So they got to work.

First, Hatch and Masterson searched for a suitable location. They toured several buildings before finding the right space to start their business. “It just fell into place,” Hatch said.

The next step was to prepare for the business aspect of the company since Masterson, who received her culinary degree at CHIC — Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago — had the baking side covered. Hatch enrolled in some business classes at Utah State University and the University of Utah to aid him in this preparation.

They opened their shop, Hatch Family Chocolates, on April 19, 2003. The shop at 390 E. 4th Ave. was small, because they didn’t know if their business was going to be successful.

To boost their business, Hatch and Masterson starred in their own TV series on TLC called the “Little Chocolatiers.”

The series followed Hatch and Masterson through their days at work and described the effort that is put into their products and creations.

After just 12 episodes the couple found themselves with a growing business.

“[The national coverage from TLC] absolutely helped,” Hatch said. “[It] brought in new faces from all over the country.”

With the boost in customers came an increase in sales, which led to some new complications. After four years their 4th Ave. location was beginning to become too cramped. The need for more space, combined with the fact that Hatch and Masterson didn’t own the building, led to their decision that it was time to move.

They began looking for another store, searching from Sugar House to Pioneer Park. The couple didn’t know what to do because they “loved the mom-and-pop shops in the big-city feeling” that the Avenues neighborhood offered them, Hatch said.

Fortunately for them, a grocery store located at 376 E. 8th Ave. was for sale. They felt that this was the perfect location, so they bought the property.

“It helped moving to a bigger shop but was also scary,” Hatch said. With the move came increasing costs, the process of starting all over again and a loss of customers. Moving caused some customers to think that Hatch Family Chocolates had gone out of business, since Hatch and Masterson relied only on word-of-mouth advertising.

“I was convinced that the store had just went out of business,” said Vickie Edmunds, a customer of Hatch Family Chocolates. “I was overjoyed when someone finally told me that they had just moved locations.”

Megan Murdock, a regular customer, said, “I prefer the new location. It’s a lot bigger, which is nice for loitering afterwards.”

Relocating allowed them to refocus their efforts on their business and continue dipping all of their products by hand every day. The freshness is now one of the main attractions of Hatch Family Chocolates and keeps customers coming back.

Not many shops hand dip or make their candy from scratch anymore, Hatch said, but that is exactly what Hatch and Masterson do and will continue to do.

“We want to keep the high quality of our [hand dipped] chocolate and products,” Hatch said. So changing to machinery is not in the cards at the moment.

Aside from their delicious and fresh products, the owners of Hatch Family Chocolates are also known for their great customer service.

“People walking into the doors are the most important thing,” Hatch said.

“My employees probably think that I am picky and strict because I can be in the middle of a personal conversation and if someone walks into the shop I will drop the conversation and turn all my attention to the customer,” he said.

This attention to service has worked well for Hatch and Masterson.

“The customer service there is great and I always feel well attended, especially when the owners are present,” said Murdock, who loves Hatch’s chocolate-dipped bananas with peanuts.

Hatch and Masterson are content with the current state of their business. The store is still evolving and things keep changing but, even so, they want to remain a local spot and do not want to lose the neighborhood feel.

They have recently incorporated an online store to their website and in the future they are considering bottling their caramel — one of the customers’ favorite treats at Hatch Family Chocolate — to be available for purchase.

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