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.)

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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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Park City’s Eating Establishment shares its secret to success

Story by LAUREN DEANE
Photos by LAUREN DEANE, JULI SALMI, MIRANDA BLAKE AND JORDANNA CHRIS

Juli Salmi, the head manager at the Eating Establishment (EE) in Park City, outlined three essential ingredients for a successful restaurant: great people, a working system and delicious food.

The EE was opened in 1972 and is the oldest full-service restaurant in Park City, Utah. In 2011, it was awarded the achievement of No. 2 best breakfast restaurant in Park City by tasteofparkcity.com.  It was also shown on the Rachael Ray Show, Rachael’s Vacation, on the Food Network Channel and was listed as a local’s favorite by skitownresaurants.com.

According to Salmi, the first vital ingredient for a successful restaurant is to hire hardworking people focused on communication. One of the most indispensable personalities of a restaurant is the owner. The owner has a huge part to play in the success of his or her company.

Salmi said part of the reason why the EE is so successful is because of the effort and heart the owner, Rick Sine, brings to his restaurant.

“He is constantly in and out of the restaurant. He feels it is incredibly important, as the owner, to be around the restaurant daily,” Salmi said. “He works multiple shifts a week as the host and is involved in everything the restaurant does. When he isn’t working he is constantly coming in just to chat with the staff, say hello, thank loyal customers and see if there is anything he can do to help during busy hours.”

Another key personality to any restaurant is in the management position. The EE has two main managers, Salmi and the kitchen manager, Craig Wells. One of the reasons why Salmi and Wells are an effective partnership is because they are in relationship; they have been working side-by-side at the EE and dating for the past seven years.

“We met at the Eating Establishment and soon after started dating. We are both into outdoor sports and started climbing the ranks professionally together,” Salmi said. “He went from the sous chef position, to the head chef and finally the kitchen manager. I went from a waitress, to a manager, to the head manager.”

Miranda Blake, who has been a waitress at the EE for the past six years, said, “We call them ‘the power couple.’ We all know that a lot of the success that has come to the restaurant is because of these two and their integrated work dynamic.”

Salmi appreciates her ability to communicate so easily with Wells. “We always bounce ideas of each other by talking about problems with our staff, the shipping [arrivals and issues] and anything else. It’s easy to communicate with the other manager when you live together,” she said with a laugh.

A successful restaurant also needs great employees in other roles, such as servers and dishwashers. Salmi said that the right employees will create a stable and successful restaurant.

Elizabeth Twilline has worked in the restaurant industry her entire life and has been at the Eating Establishment for the past 10 years. “One thing that I see in the EE that isn’t in other restaurants is the front of the house — the employees that interact with the customers — and the back of the house —the employees that do not interact with the customers — work incredibly together,” she said. “In some of my other waitressing experiences, the kitchen won’t talk to the servers and vice versa. This never creates a good work environment and it also makes it virtually impossible to make customers happy.”

Blake added, “The experience I have had here with the kitchen is completely different than anything else I have ever experienced. We yell, laugh, talk and work with each other.”

The average amount of years that an employee stays at the EE is in double figures, 10 years. Salmi said this statistic is practically unheard of in the restaurant industry. The EE is keeping employees so long they created a retirement program for its employees.

Salmi’s second necessity for a successful restaurant is a working system.

The system at the EE is different from most other restaurants, Wells explained. He said most restaurant systems function by having the kitchen do all the food-related work and the servers do all the customer-support chores. The EE’s system has some of those components with a “special twist.”

At the Eating Establishment, servers prepare items for customers that don’t need to be cooked, such as oatmeal, granola and fruit. Servers also “dress” dishes — they add hollandaise sauce to the eggs benedict and slices of lemon to create balance — before taking plates to customers.

“The kitchen is not responsible for making the food pretty, they make it delicious. The waitresses are in charge of the beauty in a dish,” Blake said.

Wells said it is an exhausting cycle for the servers, but it helps make them in charge of all the services they provide the customer. It also makes sure the kitchen staff is focused on the most important part of their job, the taste and quality of the food they are preparing.

Finally, Salmi believes that a perfect restaurant must have great food.

“The service and the system might be perfect but the most important part is what the public puts into their mouth,” Salmi said. “You need to make sure your food is undeniably the best thing they have ever tasted.”

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From Yugoslavia to America

Story and photo by MIA MICIC

“It has always been my lifelong dream to open my own deli and market,” Elvir Kohnic said. But those dreams came crashing down when the war broke out in the former Yugoslavia.

That war shattered the lives of thousands of people. Many lives were lost, homes were destroyed, families were ripped apart. The war broke out in 1991 because of religious groups, which divided Yugoslavia into three new countries. Today, those countries are known as Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. This war caused many people to leave and move to new places all over the world. Many families moved to the United States. Among those individuals were Elvir and Zeljka Kohnic.

The Kohnic family now calls Salt Lake City home.

Originally from Sarajevo, the couple immigrated to the United States in 1997. When they moved to Salt Lake City, they didn’t know anyone here, and didn’t know a single word of English. But they knew they couldn’t go back home.

“At that point reality sank in and we realized that this was our new home,” Elvir said in his native language, Serbo-Croatian. Even though they were far away from home, Elvir was not going to give up on his goal of owning his own deli and market.

Being in a new place and away from home made Elvir just fight that much more to open his own deli and market.

“The reason why I wanted to open my own market is so that I can share the cuisine and culture of the Mediterranean and Europe with everyone in Salt Lake City,” Elvir said.

Finally, in 2007 Elvir’s dream came true. He opened his own deli and market and named it Mediterra Mercato Deli and Market.

“It was probably one of the best days of my life because I had worked so hard for this all of my life,” Elvir said.

In the end, all of his hard work paid off. “I was so proud of him for achieving his goal,” Zeljka said with a big smile on her face. Being able to open his own market taught Elvir to never give up and to fight for what you want.

Mediterra, located at 3540 S. State St., has a very casual atmosphere that is perfect for dining with friends, family and co-workers. The restaurant offers a lot of authentic Bosnian food such as dolmas (stuffed grape leaves with rice and vegetables), sarma (stuffed cabbage with rice and meat), burek pita, (thin, flaky dough filled with meat), sirnica (thin, flaky dough filled with cheese), and spanakopita (thin, flaky dough filled with cheese and spinach), and also their most popular dessert, baklava. Also available are pizza, paninis, pastries, crepes, salads, soups and coffee.

“I like when I see people come in and enjoy some lunch and coffee with their friends,” Elvir said.

Mediterra sells imported products and ingredients from Eastern and Western European countries, including Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Greece. Customers may purchase different types of cheeses, oils, meats, peppers, soups, dairy products, chocolates, jams, teas, coffee and European drinks.

The interior of Mediterra makes patrons feel like they are in a European country. European music plays in the background and the walls are decorated with images from Europe. The couple try to incorporate as much of their culture as possible in their market.

“As I look back on my life through the years I have learned to never take anything for granted, and I feel very lucky that we got out of Yugoslavia safely and that we were given a fresh start in the United States,” Elvir said.

Elvir and Zeljka’s story proves that with determination many things can be achieved.

“We wish to cherish the past and look forward to the future,” Zeljka said.

Today, Elvir and Zeljka have a 13-year-old daughter, Sara, and live a normal life. He runs the deli and store full time, Monday through Sunday. Zeljka has another job but she comes and helps Elvir after she gets off work. They don’t deny that they have had many struggles to get where they are now, but if anything this has just made them stronger individuals.

“Sometimes I sit and think to myself about everything and can’t believe what people in Yugoslavia had been through and where we are today, and I am just so thankful for this opportunity,” Elvir said. “I got to make my dream come true of opening my own market. Sometimes it is really hard to believe.”