“This could be the foodie app.”

Man, you know what sounds good right now? A chili dog. Doesn’t that just sound so good right now? I think I need to go get one. But I don’t know where to go. I guess I could search Yelp for restaurants that might serve chili dogs, but I have no way of knowing if the chili dogs at those restaurants are good, because Yelp rates restaurants as a whole, and not by individual item.

Also, wouldn’t it be great if when we tried new restaurants, there was some way to know what dish we should order? Sure, we could ask the waiter, but that is just one opinion, and wouldn’t it be better to have lots of opinions? WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!

It doesn’t have to be this hard. That’s something Grubinary cofounders Lauren Montellete and Ethan Welborn realized, and they decided to do something to make finding good food easier. So they created Grubinary.

Grubinary is an app that finds great food near you. “There are so many apps out there that focus on finding great restaurants near you (Yelp, FourSquare, etc.), but none of them truly hone in on finding great food dishes,” explains Montalette. “With Grubinary, you can search for “bacon cheeseburger” and Grubinary will literally give you all of the bacon cheeseburgers near you ranked by best rating first, that way you can find the best one near you.” Grubinary also allows users to search by restaurant and identify the best dish on the menu based on user reviews.

“This could be an asset for people who are really starting to get into food,” Welborn says. “And it could really help restaurants in the area.” Not all food at a 2-star restaurant is 2-star food, Welborn says. There are hidden culinary treasures in seemingly unremarkable establishments all over the valley. Grubinary will help those treasures be found.

“I would really like to see Grubinary used in the food-finding culture of Salt Lake,” Welborn says. “The real goal is to see if we can impact at least one community.”

The Craft of The Craft(s)

“This is about our craft. It’s about why we do what we do.”

Today, Culinary Crafts released the second episode of their YouTube series The Crafts, and the world got a little hungrier.

I personally have been salivating since watching Episode 1:

And I’m afraid by the time I get through all six episodes, I’ll have consumed everything in my house and possibly lit a few things on fire. Because the series makes me not only want to eat all the things, but it makes me want to try every technique I see.

Culinary Crafts has long been Utah’s premiere catering company, and these videos are founder Mary Crafts’ way of both leaving a legacy and ushering in a new, promising era for the business. “I want these videos to launch the next generation of Culinary Crafts. I want the world to know Culinary Crafts is in just as good of hands in the second generation as it was in the first.”

The leaders of that second generation are Crafts’ sons Ryan and Kaleb, both of whom are featured in the videos, and both of whom share their mother’s passion for food. “It’s time to let them lead now and let them experience all those things that I’ve experienced,” she says.

But don’t panic. Mary isn’t going anywhere. She’s stepping back, not stepping away. “I’m more excited about what I’m doing today than I ever have been,” she says. Which helps explain why someone so busy would take on a task as daunting as producing six high-quality, insanely entertaining videos.

It’s not something you can just pull together in an afternoon. For each shoot, Crafts and her team block out the entire day, get all their chefs in one room, and try their best to line up their shots. But despite all their organized efforts, sometimes there’s just no telling what food is going to do. So they keep the cameras rolling. “Once the eggs go in the mixing bowl, the only way to get them back out is to start all over again,” Crafts explains. “We let ourselves be real. We show vulnerability and excitement. When you’re passion driven, mistakes don’t matter. They carry you on and make your passion greater.”

“This is about our craft. It’s about what we do,” Crafts says. With the largest off-premise catering company in the state, 13 Best of State titles, and one international catering award, Crafts has proven that Culinary Crafts is more than just the food they make and these videos are evidence. “The passion, love and creating an experience for those around us is what carried us to where we are now,” she says. “We don’t sell food. We sell life experience.”

Watch for the next four videos in months to come. If you think you can handle it.

AF-based Four Foods Group Raises $35M In Funding

We do something unique in the restaurant business by bringing a platform of tools and years of business operations and financial experience that enable our restauranteur partners to grow rapidly, while mitigating the usual pitfalls associated with meaningful expansion.

$35,000,000 is a lot of funding. In the food industry, $35,000,000 is an unheard of amount of funding. Until now.

American Fork-based Four Foods Group, a restaurant concept incubator and accelerator company has raised $18 million from Opus Bank, $12 million from Red Bridge Capital, and more than $7 million from other private capital providers.

“Four Foods Group is unlike anything anyone else has seen,” says CEO Andrew Smith. He’s right. The Four Foods Group model is revolutionary in that it makes franchise owners partners in a business. Each partner receives equity, instead of the traditional profit sharing or bonus programs most other restaurants offer. “I wanted the people in my restaurants to feel the way I do,” says Smith. He explains the feeling of waking up in the morning realizing the success of a business rides on the actions of its owner. The quality of a restaurant is better when those running it have some skin in the game.

And that’s why your turkey artichoke panini is delicious no matter the Kneaders in which you order it. How tragic is it when your favorite restaurant becomes a chain and you visit the second or third or 59th location and the food is not very good and the tables are dirty? There are few things more tragic. Kneaders has avoided this saddest of restaurant fates thanks to Smith and the Four Foods Group.

Gary and Colleen Worthington opened the first Kneaders in 1997. The restaurant quickly grew a cult-like following, because it’s freaking delicious. The Worthingtons had built four locations and were working on their fifth when Smith approached them and negotiated exclusivity. Smith quickly turned a small chain of mom and pop shops into a regional powerhouse. Of the 52 Kneaders locations, Smith owns 43 with partners. These partners are people Smith considers like-minded and those interested in being owners, not amateurs. “Our model of having owners in the store provides better stores,” Smith says.

The next step for Four Foods Group is expanding their model to more brands. In fact, the contract will their first new brand is expected to close soon. “I know the model is going to work,” Smith says. And I agree. Because not only does Four Food Groups help partners own their business, it also helps them buy land, build stores, and set up operations. “We do something unique in the restaurant business by bringing a platform of tools and years of business operations and financial experience that enable our restauranteur partners to grow rapidly, while mitigating the usual pitfalls associated with meaningful expansion,” says Smith.

The $35 million will fuel FFG’s ability to help quality brands grow and thrive in Utah and beyond.

It’s Okay To Enjoy Food: The Story Of The Park City Culinary Institute

Understanding the science of cooking changes your life.

“Understanding the science of cooking changes your life,” says Laurie Moldawer, founder and director of the Park City Culinary Institute. The institute offers an 8-week program where students attend classes four days a week taught by notable, award-winning chefs. The program is shorter and more affordable than other culinary programs, costing just $8,900 compared to an average of $11,000 in most other parts of the country. “It’s an amazing value,” Moldawer says.

But it’s not just the price tag that makes the Park City Culinary Institute attractive to up-and-coming chefs — it’s also the quality of instruction. Instead of employing professional educators, Moldawer hires executive chefs. “They’re actually experienced chefs,” she says. These chefs know not only how to prepare delicious food, but how to navigate the food industry as well. Understanding every aspect of the industry is necessary for Park City Culinary Institute graduates because the program has a job placement rate of nearly 100%. Those who have completed the program are now working in the top Utah restaurants. “If it’s a high-end restaurant, our students are there,” Moldawer says. Additionally, raises for graduates have been as high as 17% compared to their salaries before starting the program.

Moldawer herself is a culinary school graduate. She took six months off from her career to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She then returned to her job in New York to help build a law firm and double its revenue. Eventually the time came, however, for her to leave New York, so she drove west. “When I drove into Park City it was just really different,” Moldawer says. “There was just something magical about Utah. Something about the air.” So she made Park City her home and continued working remotely for the law firm she helped build.

Then, one day, while she was attending a Park City leadership program, the topic of economic viability arose. With a very seasonal ski and tourist industry, the city was struggling in the offseason. The consensus was that a culinary school could attract visitors year round. The city just needed a director. Moldawer stepped up to the (dinner) plate, and, using her personal law firm salary, founded the Park City Culinary Institute, which became profitable this year.

One of Moldawer’s initial challenges was trying to start a culinary school in a culture that does not believe in indulging or enjoying food. “People are taught that thrift is more important than the experience of enjoying high-end food,” Moldawer says. In actuality, as Moldawer explains, investing in a culinary program can help the home cook save money in the long run. “The more you understand, you not only use the items that you would have thrown out, you know what to do to make everything you cook last longer,” Moldawer explains, then adds, “It’s okay to enjoy food. It’s an experience that deserves time and attention.”

The upside to native Utahns being slow to sign on is the diversity of students. People come from all over the world to enroll in the institute. “It’s really developing as a destination for people around the country,” Moldawer says, citing the proximity to local farms and producers as part of the draw, a draw she expects to increase. “People are going to want to come from around the country to experience our school and Utah.”

Published 5/2/2016

Lemon And Sage And Other Simon And Garfunkel Lyrics

We want our store to be like a year-round, indoor farmers’ market that provides fresh, quality food to the community.

I want to apologize for what’s about to happen. I’m going to geek out pretty bad. I’m going to call Shannon Källåker a genius and imply that she deserves a nobel prize in every category. And I’m sorry, but I just can’t help it. Because Källåker is opening a culinary incubator and it’s maybe the best idea I’ve ever heard, including my own idea: drive-thru grocery store.

What’s a culinary incubator? “It’s a place where someone can get their food-based business started,” Källåker explains. This someone could be a farmers’ market vendor looking to get distribution. It could be a baker hoping to get into the wedding business. It could be a home cook wanting to make some money on the side. All of these people need a place to cook and help getting their business off the ground. “We want to help people a little bit, help them find their place and the things they need to do to start their business,” Källåker says.

When the Lemon and Sage building is completed this summer, it will include eight kitchen stations and professional equipment, all licensed, that cooks can use to produce their products. The building will also include a storefront where members can sell their goods. “We want our store to be like a year-round, indoor farmers’ market that provides fresh, quality food to the community,” Källåker says, then adds, “Anyone, not just people using our kitchens, can apply to have their products featured in our store.”

In addition to a licensed facility in which members can cook, guidance for launching their business, and a storefront where they can sell their products, members also benefit from the Lemon and Sage marketing efforts. “We’re offering services that include social media promotion of members’ businesses and profiles on our website,” Källåker says.

This whole brilliant endeavor started when Källåker’s daughter decided to live in Italy as a foreign exchange student and needed to raise money to get there. Källåker, an avid homecook, suggested they make food to sell for a fundraiser, but upon looking into the rules for a home kitchen, learned that the requirements were difficult if not impossible to meet. No kids or pets in the kitchen. The kitchen must be inspected. And so on and so forth. It’s a real bummer for those who like to cook, would like to make some dough (get it?), but also have, you know, a family living in their home. So Källåker and her husband got to talking and decided that a kitchen incubator was “a really cool idea for a business.” They were 100% correct. So they started putting their ideas together and then started construction on their facility located in historic downtown Springville.

“We hope that it catches on,” Källåker says. “We hope that we can help a lot of people to realize their own ambitions and get them up and running.” Lemon and Sage offers a tiered membership plan. Members can rent a kitchen for as much as 80 hours a month or as little as 20, or rent kitchens at a drop-in $30 an hour rate. Källåker is offering discounted start-up pricing for the first six months to help members get their business off the ground. “We’re open to anyone and open to their ideas,” she says.

So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go live my dream and move to Springville, and someday, when Martha Stewart asks me where I got my start, I’ll say, “Lemon and Sage Artisan Kitchens, Bakery and Market.”

Published 4/5/2016

The Tasty Touch Of Laziz Foods

We want to be a local food producer of Middle Eastern food and bridge the cultural pallet between east and west.

When he was 18, Moudi Sbeity left Lebanon to attend Utah State University. He soon found himself feeling what every dorm-inhabiting college freshman feels at one time or another: hungry and homesick. Making food that reminded him of home seemed like the best remedy for both ailments, so Moudi called his mom and she walked him through the process of cooking traditional Lebanon dishes. One of those dishes was hummus. “It’s a cultural heritage for me,” Sbeity says. The hummus he learned to make was smooth, light, and creamy.

A few years later, Sbeity started making hummus for his friends, then began selling hummus to colleagues, until finally Sbeity and his then partner, now husband Derek Kitchen applied to the Salt Lake City Farmers Market. The two used what little money they had to package their hummus in old cream cheese containers and attack a “hummus” sticker to each. Despite the humble presentation the hummus became increasingly popular and it wasn’t long before Sbeity and Kitchen were approached by distributors looking to sell the spread. Creating Laziz hummus, as well as muhammara, a sweet red pepper dip, and toum, a garlic spread, became Sbeity and Kitchen’s full-time job.

A humble Sbeity is hesitant to call his hummus the best, but says, “Other people are the judge of whether or not your product is good based on if they buy it.” If Laziz’s exponential rise in popularity is any indication, the product is very good.

What makes the Laziz hummus different is the traditional process Sbeity and his team use to make it. It’s the traditional process used in the Middle East. They soak dry garbanzo beans overnight, then remove most of the skin before blending. “it’s a creamy, pure, hummus,” Sbeity says. “It’s just simple hummus,” he adds, and explains that they don’t add any flavors to the spread.

The purity of the hummus made only with natural ingredients makes the product impossible to sell online. The hummus, muhammara, and toum, are, however, available at many stores and farmers markets around Utah. Laziz muhammara and toum are the only muhammara and toum available on local grocery store shelves at this time.

Sbeity and Kitchen will be opening a deli this summer located at the corner of 900 S and 200 W and hope to continue to expand their product line soon. “We want to be a local food producer of Middle Eastern food and bridge the cultural pallet between east and west,” Sbeity says. That’s a bridge you can cross at home with the spreads, or in their deli within a few short months.

Published 2/25/2016


A lot of people have been waiting for a new food source, they just didn’t know what it was.

As Pat Crowley, founder of Chapul, held his first cricket up to his mouth, he squirmed. It was a psychological barrier, one he knew that was nothing more than a creation of culture, and one he knew he needed to get over. So he popped the cricket it. “I was surprised,” Crowley says. “It was good. It tastes just like popcorn.”

No, Crowley didn’t lose a bet and no, he was not a Fear Factor contestant. He was just a guy concerned with the sustainability of earth’s water recourses. For good reason. Currently we as a human species are taking and using more groundwater than we have available to us. Much of that water is used in agriculture, so in order to reduce our water consumption and ensure that future generations have an adequate supply of water, we need to start changing the way we eat.

Crowley was aware of the water sustainability problem, but he wasn’t aware of the solution. Until one day he heard a Ted Talk about eating insects, a far more efficient source of energy that requires far less water to grow and harvest than traditional agriculture. Crowley had found the solution to our water sustainability problem. But with that solution came another problem: convincing Americans it’s okay to eat bugs.

When it comes to food, we ‘muricans need a slow, dip our feet in, feel the water, make sure it’s safe and not disgusting introduction. Sushi chefs gave us the California roll first, with the rice on the outside, because we were afraid of sea weed. Then, once we all realized that Sushi is transcendent manna from heaven above, the chefs were free to feed us all the seaweed and raw fish in the world.

Crowley and his company are following a similar model for cricket consumption. “We’re trying to make it easy for people,” Crowley says. Part of making it easy means removing the visual aspects of the insects. So the Chapul teams grinds the crickets into a flour and uses the flour in their energy bars. They also recently started selling protein powder.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign and making the rounds at local farmers markets, Crowley appeared on Shark Tank in March of 2014. He walked away with a $50,000 investment from Mark Cuban, and an agreement that Cuban would fund all purchase orders and only require repayment once Chapul was paid by the buyers. This agreement has helped Chapul avoid cash flow stress and keep up with production.

Chapul currently produces around 30,000 bars a month and just last week launched into distribution with the largest natural foods distributor in the country. As it turns out, Crowley isn’t the only one that realizes we have a sustainability issue on our collective hands. “A lot of people have been waiting for a new food source, they just didn’t know what it was,” Crowley says. Those people can thank Crowley for making waves in the food industry, all from a grassroots beginning in a tiny Salt Lake City Kitchen. “We’re creating an international movement,” Crowley says. “It’s been fun to put it on the map.”

You can find Chapul products online or in a number of stores.

Published 2/19/2016