More chefs than ever are heading to Sundance this year, hoping to use their celebrity status to get the festival’s entertainment and fashion-oriented crowd familiar with their restaurants back home.
It’s an ideal match since it can be a challenge to find a place to eat in Park City’s crowded, pricey restaurants amid the non-stop parade of parties and screenings. Park City entrepreneurs Kenny Griswold and Mimi Kim, and Los Angeles-based event planner Jeffrey Best are among those determined that Sundance festgoers will have better dining choices than in years past.
“Chefdance” was born after Kim gave her husband Griswold an ultimatum that she wouldn’t come to the festival because it was so hard to get a table that it amounted to a “forced Sundance diet.”
Eight years ago, the couple launched a series of private dinners with well-known chefs, and now those gatherings have become “everyone’s favorite thing at Sundance,” Kim said. She noted that unlike at noisy cocktail parties, it’s possible to actually finish a conversation during a private dinner.
Chefdance hosts 200 guests each night at Harry O’s on Main Street in honor of two or three films per evening.
Industry favorite Michael Chow of Mr. Chow’s is being honored with Chefdance’s Legend award on Monday. He’ll be cooking an Asian fusion food menu, including his popular hand-cut noodle show. “Top Chef” winner Brian Malarkey is cooking at Chefdance Friday, with Chicago’s Quality Social chef Jared Van Camp Saturday, Kerry Simon on Sunday, and Utah chef Jared Young on Tuesday.
The other culinary hotbed in Park City is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Lift, also on Main St. and running Friday through Monday.
Best is turning the ski lift cafe into the Food and Wine magazine Stella Artois cafe for this first time this year. Late night revelers will find Kogi BBQ tacos and beer from midnight to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday at the lift — though Kogi had to leave its popular foodtruck back in L.A.
“You can watch a trailer for a movie, but when it comes to food, the best advertisement is putting it in your mouth,” Best said. “There’s a group of influencers gathering in one spot for a few days — ultimately people choose restaurants by word of mouth.”
At the Lift, another “Top Chef” winner, Michael Voltaggio, is cooking Japanese bacon and eggs with congee and pork belly for breakfast and chicken shawarma for lunch on Saturday. Voltaggio, who is getting ready to open Ink restaurant on Melrose Ave. in L.A. later this year, compares cooking to filmmaking: “I’m an independent artist working on a passion project with a limited budget, hoping to share my art with as many people as possible.”
Chefs are hustling to bring their gourmet goods to Park City, which doesn’t have the range of purveyors found in larger cities. On Sunday, Ray Garcia of Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica is doing his signature Fig Dog with bacon-habanero marmalade; he’s been searching for duck eggs for another dish.Voltaggio rented a van to drive his ingredients from L.A., and Chow is flying in his signature sauces.
Targeting festgoers is a good fit for brands like the London Hotel, which sees a crossover between the hotel’s entertainment and fashion clientele and Sundance attendees. On Saturday night, chef Markus Glocker from the London New York is building a menu themed to the new Ralph Lauren Big Pony perfume at the House of Hope. He’s flying in sauces and special ingredients from New York for dishes including yellow fin tuna and bison tenderloin, with salted caramel truffles for dessert.