Foodies attending Catersource’s Art of Catering Food conference Aug. 9 to 12 got a taste of Salt Lake City’s rising food and beverage scene. The event marked Catersource’s first Culinary Hands-on Experience in partnership with the Utah Valley University Culinary Arts Institute. Local food vendors, culinary walking tours and mobile kitchens were just a couple of the items on the agenda.
Approximately 500 chefs from catering companies and 75 attendees joined the 4-day event, which mostly took place at the Rice-Eccles Stadium—the main stadium for the 2002 Winter Olympics, located on the University of Utah campus. Not only did the stadium have a large enough kitchen (managed by Culinary Crafts) for the group, but its location at an elevation of 4,637 feet also offered outdoor dining experiences with mountain views from the concourse. In between educational sessions at the stadium and offsite excursions, the group stayed at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center and Holiday Inn Express Salt Lake City Downtown.
Salt Lake City’s burgeoning foodscape—chef-owned restaurants, craft breweries and urban wineries—is a large reason the group chose this location, says Diana Brasch, CMM, event director for Catersource Magazine, Conference & Tradeshow. Four classes—Butchery & Charcuterie; Technology in the Kitchen; Wow Desserts that Work for Caterers; and Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free Menu Items—were presented round-robin style with students split into four groups, says Brasch. Watching a butchery demonstration and trying a hand at bacon curing were just a few takeaways for attendees.
Three afternoon activities kicked off the first day of the event. The Taste of Utah session introduced attendees to local food vendors such as salt, cheese and honey companies. Other attendees explored the city’s food by foot via a guided cultural and culinary walking tour (organized by Visit Salt Lake), which included a tour of the new Culinary Crafts facility.
Another culinary tour took attendees to the Timpanogos Harley-Davidson retail facility, which recently opened a kitchen for die-hard Harley customers. Utah Food Services also came to the dealership to show off its mobile kitchens and Marley’s Gourmet Sliders food trucks came to provide food for the event in the dealership parking lot. As if that wasn’t enough, attendees were encouraged to partake in a pub crawl that evening. Brasch says the event team created a map of eight different bars that attendees could walk to from the hotels.
The Western culture of Salt Lake City came out on the second-to-last night of the event at This Is The Place Heritage Park, which highlights Utah’s early settlement days. Attendees were encouraged to wear boots and buckles for a barbecue hoedown culinary affair. The event’s culinary journey started with a bite at the Bowery as the Ugly Valley Boys played American Roots music. Bucking bronco riding and lasso twirling—even a shoot out—also kept things lively. As the night began to unwind, guests moseyed down to The Garden Place for dessert, a photo booth and line dancing. Brasch says that all of the food served at the event was local to Salt Lake City.
“Attendees had this image of Salt Lake being a non-fun city when it had no drinking laws—they were pleasantly surprised that it has such a foodie experience,” says Brasch. “It’s also a very clean city, very easy to get around, and they loved the stadium and having the event there because the views were amazing.”