Marketplace: Partnership thrives at Vessel Kitchen
Restaurateurs combine backgrounds to create Kimball Junction eatery
April 21, 2017
In January of 2016, Nick Gradinger, Brian Reeder and Roee Levy had no idea each other existed.
Months later, though, they became business partners. And less than a year after that, their venture is thriving. They opened Vessel Kitchen in Kimball Junction in August and say the success of their experiment to offer fresh food in a fast-casual environment has made them grateful they joined forces.
"One of the coolest things is the dynamic between us," Reeder said. "This has been a very cool thing to see because we all bring such different perspectives."
The idea for Vessel Kitchen began with Gradinger, who had experience in the food and beverage world but had stepped away to pursue other career opportunities. After moving to Park City, he began looking at the dining landscape and felt there was an opportunity to carve a niche as a fast-casual restaurant dishing up farm-to-table cuisine at an affordable price point.
But without world-class skills in the kitchen and lacking a strong background in numbers, he knew he needed help to make his vision a reality. That's how Reeder, who is the assistant director of finance at Montage Deer Valley, and Levy, a skilled chef with experience in cuisine from around the world, became involved. Both immediately latched onto Gradinger's idea and used their expertise to get Vessel Kitchen off the ground.
"One by one, we all kind of formed this cohesive unit that contributed to everything you see in the restaurant," Gradinger said. "We all have our different skill sets and contribute in a variety of different ways."
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Added Reeder: "The name, the brand, everything behind it made a lot of sense. I immediately saw some things I think we established like, 'Ok, let's go in this direction.' And it was as much a creative exercise as it was a financial one. That kind of allowed me to start flexing a little bit of that creative side instead of just the financial stuff. It immediately resonated."
Gradinger, Reeder and Levy were rewarded for their efforts almost immediately. According to them, the restaurant ran out of food in three of the first four days after it opened in August. And the crowds haven't stopped coming since. They say Parkites appreciate their culinary philosophy, which includes using as many ingredients as possible from local farms, and have returned time and again.
For Levy, the support has been particularly gratifying. He was eager to start Vessel Kitchen because he had worked in a variety of restaurants, but never one that was both affordable and offered a menu full of food he'd want to eat day after day.
"This was a shot in the dark to do that," said Levy, who teamed up with Gradinger and Reeder by responding to their ad on Craigslist. "And we hit it."
Levy, who is from Isreal, set out to create a diverse menu incorporating flavors from several regions. Offerings include options such as avocado toast, breakfast burritos and a Mediterranean plate for breakfast and dishes like lemon feta chicken, chicken thyme, beef flatbread tacos and chickpea stew for lunch and dinner. Nearly everything on the menu is priced at $11 or cheaper, and they hope patrons feel emboldened to try something different every time they come in.
"We want you feeling better walking out the door than you did on the way in," Gradinger said. "Not too heavy, not burdened by feeling like you just stuffed your face. We want you to feel like you have fuel and energy for the rest of the day."
The trio has been encouraged by the success of the restaurant so far. They're hopeful hungry Parkites will continue to visit for years to come. After all, they say, they designed Vessel Kitchen for them.
"We wanted this to be a restaurant for locals," Reeder said. "We don't want this to be a seasonal restaurant that makes its money during peak season, then shuts down or slashes pricing. We wanted to open the doors on a restaurant that was built for locals and that we'd see them three or four times a week. … We wanted to make it something we could stand behind."
1784 Uinta Way