Gabriel Morin has been cooking for 25 years, but he is now celebrating his most recent accomplishment -- operating the Mirror Lake Diner for one year. Located on Main Street in Kamas, the diner lies at the gateway of the Mirror Lake Highway.
"I've been cooking since I was 14," Morin said. "[Opening a restaurant] was the right progression -- it was the next step for me."
Morin is from Maine and grew up in a very small town where he said the only place to work as a teenager growing up was a "dairy shack" which sold burgers and shakes. Those were his formative cooking years where he learned to make things such as ice cream from scratch.
While attending college, Morin needed a night job, which ended up being cooking as well.
"I had to learn how to make soups, sauces, how to butcher, how to budget," Morin said. "And that's when I really started to enjoy food."
Morin, who lives with his wife Betty in Francis, said he would drive past the space at 35 S. Main Street "again and again" with thoughts of opening a restaurant there. When a for-rent sign went up last January, he put in an offer and opened up on May 22.
Since then, Morin said the Mirror Lake Diner has served between 32,000-33,000 customers. He said his location is ideal, since it is right at the foot of State Road 150, which is booming with tourists in the summer.
"We have the locals and the tourists [come here]," Morin said. "The locals think we're expensive, but the tourists think we're cheap."
The diner's hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Morin has been in the process of formulating a new menu, which will allow customers to order both breakfast and lunch dishes all day.
The menu will boast classic diner favorites such as corned beef hash and steak and eggs along with more out-of-the-box dishes such as the Duchesne Tunnel B.L.A.S.T. (which stands for Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Sunflower Sprouts and Tomato). Morin will also create an option for customers to create their own burger with a variety of toppings.
There is also an ode to Morin's roots on the menu. Both the Maine Lumberjacks Toast and the option of blueberries on the Mirror Lake Cakes pay homage to the Pine Tree State.
"I'm from Maine, so we're really serious about maple syrup and blueberries," Morin said.
The diner also honors the beauty of the area as well, with photographs of Utah landscapes framed on the wall -- and also for sale -- courtesy of Charlie Lansche.
Morin hopes to provide more than food and service to diner-goers, however. With hikers, anglers, campers and more stopping at his restaurant before heading up to the Uinta Mountains, the diner will offer road, trail and campground information, as well as Forest Service pamphlets. Firewood will also be sold at the restaurant this summer.
In a best-case scenario, Morin said he will have a beer and wine license by the end of June, at which point the diner will stay open later for dinner. His restaurant can already expect more traffic this summer, especially when the Tour of Utah rolls into town on August 8. The race's Stage 5 finish line is slated to be in Kamas.
The Mirror Lake Diner is located at 35 S. Main Street in Kamas. For more information, call 435-783-0110 or visit mirrorlakediner.com.