New PCMR food and beverage director celebrating
January 6, 2007
When Christopher Rybak was a boy both his parents worked. They would leave him at his grandmother’s house during the day. In that house, his inner chef emerged.
Rybak began as food and beverage director at Park City Mountain Resort in September.
"My grandmother watched me while my mom and dad both worked and as a kid I started cooking in the kitchen and had a knack and a love for it," Rybak said. "We’re in this country of fast food and things, but my family was very good about sitting down together for a meal once a week. It was instilled in me that it was important."
From those lessons learned while he was young, Rybak discovered food was more than just food to him it’s an entire experience, and more.
"Food is celebration," he said. "You have to eat to maintain life, but we’re lucky here in this country to be able to sit down and celebrate and I think that’s what a lot of our guests want to do. I really get a lot of pleasure out of it."
Rybak went to culinary school in Ohio and earned his certification as an executive chef before working for 21 years at Keystone resort in Colorado.
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"I am a certified executive chef by trade," he said. "Through the American Culinary Federation you do a hands-on cooking test and a written test with additional and background educational classes and certain criteria you have to meet a long the way."
At Keystone, he said he was in charge of "a gamut of things from all the food and beverage on the mountain as well as a four-diamond restaurant and a family restaurant, a fondue restaurant and others."
Wanting a change of scenery, he came to Park City to run all of PCMR’s on-mountain dining, which includes Legacy Lodge, Summit House, Snow Hut, Legends Bar and Grill and Kristi’s Coffee House.
"I was looking to move on," he said. "I did it just for a change, to broaden my horizons, take on a new challenge and add a new chapter of my life and career. Moving to Utah as a state wasn’t really a factor. I moved here because I was offered a great position with a great company and that was my focus. I’m pretty career driven and want to challenge myself every day. This just makes sense."
Of the five main establishments Rybak is in charge of, three are lodges offering everything from typical mountain food to more sophisticated tastes. Each lodge has similar menu items, but each also has a specialty.
"In those places we serve everything you’d expect to see on a ski mountain like burgers and chili fries," he said. "But then at each establishment we try to have a focus, like at the Snow Hut we have a roast turkey platter that makes you think of Thanksgiving when you get it. At Legacy Lodge we feature our fish tacos and our salad bar, while at Summit House we key in on the burrito station that is very good and very value driven."
Although he could change the menus if he desired, Rybak said everything will pretty much stay the same. He said he has a staff that knows what they’re doing and he isn’t going to mess with it.
"Right now I have a great chef who has been with the resort for several years as well as a great crew," Rybak said. "There are no monumental changes I want to make in any way. My focus is to raise the bar a little bit, dot the i’s, cross the t’s and give the guests what they want."
Kristi’s is the meeting place on the mountain, he said, with families and friends gathering to grab a mocha before heading out into the cold. He also said it’s a great place to warm up and enjoy a sandwich.
"It’s pretty much your full-service coffee shop," he said. "You can come in, rest by the fireplace and grab a latte. We also offer great pastries and sandwiches."
Legends is the premier restaurant at PCMR and it’s also a private club. He said its menu diversity makes it strong, but keeps it inviting to anyone and everyone.
"It’s a full-service private club and restaurant where we offer a sit-down dining experience," he said. "Our wait staff is dressed in ties and we’d like to think our guests can come in to get anything from a steak to pasta to a salad. On the private club end of Legends, we offer one of the best après ski experiences at the base of the mountain."
For someone who covers almost every type of food all in one location, Rybak said he doesn’t favor French, or Italian or burgers, but just enjoys the experience of food in general, which is one of the reasons he said he doesn’t need to change much.
"My feeling, and one of the reasons that I came here, was that I felt that my insights and thought on the ski-area food industry was much in line with what they were looking for here. My desire here is to run good business and make people happy. You can get that doing any type of food, you just have to do it very well."
Although he admits the lift ticket is the main thing people come to the mountain for, he thinks of the food and beverage side as second to none. In order to get people to come, he said, you need good skiing. In order to get them to come back you need good food.
"My feeling is that, yes, you’re coming here for the skiing, but you return for everything else along the way," he said. "It starts when you pull up in the parking lot and ends when you drive away. It’s everything in between people come back for and adds to that downhill skiing experience."
Selected by his peers as Chef of the Year 2000 in Colorado, he said he can’t compare Keystone to Park City, although he quickly admitted he is extremely happy where he is.
"They’re too totally different animals," he said of the two resorts. "You’re going from Big Brother to a lot of room to grow. They’re both great operations in their own way. But I’m enjoying myself. I have fun every day. I believe in the company and I know that we’re growing and moving forward. That’s an exciting thing."