Restaurant Reveal: Teaching, skiing and service add respect to industry
April 13, 2018
Zane Holmquist is a paradox.
As Stein Eriksen Lodge's Vice President of Food and Beverage and Corporate Chef, he quotes his main philosophy as, "I'd rather do (fewer) well than fail at lot of things."
Yet piled on his proverbial plate are responsibilities such as overseeing more than $15 million in business over 11 kitchens, participating in Iron Man triathlons, chairing the board of nonprofit 3 Squares, representing restaurants on the advisory board to the DABC, training the next generation of chefs, personally advocating for all things Utah, and regularly speaking in public, including on television.
But that's exactly how Holmquist works, earning awards for his kitchens from Wine Spectator, the Four-Star Award from Forbes Travel Guide, Best of State, Salt Lake Magazine, and Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA).
The call of the kitchen came early to Holmquist, and he began washing dishes at a restaurant at age 12, graduated to cooking by age 15, and by the time Stein Eriksen Lodge was being built, setting his sights on being the executive chef there one day.
Perhaps the only interest he's had longer is skiing. His father was the first ski patroller at Brighton Ski Resort and Utah, and Homquist's namesake is his godfather, Zane Doyle, who built Brighton.
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"I started skiing when I was two. … I remember it was quite traumatic when I had to start going to school… I was skiing 100 days at two and three," Holmquist said. "The ski industry is really part of my family, and what we do. I have really fond memories of my mom making fondue (after skiing) in the 70s."
Those memories, as well as respect for another ski legend, are strong influences on parts of the menu, especially apres ski. And Holmquist is steadfast if people suggest changes.
"Stein Eriksen was the quintessential skier. He really was the thread tying American skiing and European skiing [together]," he said. "We keep a very traditional feel for apres ski."
Eleven kitchens make up Holmquist's realm, including the Glitretind and Troll Hallen at Stein Eriksen Lodge, Cena Ristorante and Lounge at The Chateaux at Deer Valley and the 7880 Club at Stein Eriksen Residences. More than half the department's income comes from the banquet service at each of the three properties, and during peak winter months, the staff cafeteria will feed more than 350 employees a day.
As much as Homquist prepares for each day's dining guests, he also works with the next generation of chefs and hospitality staff. His kitchens host high school students and externs from culinary schools.
"I tell my chefs, if you can't teach, you can't be a chef, and I soundly believe in that" he said.
"It's amazing when you cook for a group of guests, and they say this is the best meal we've ever had. … There's just this energy that comes from that, when you took such a basic thing, food and cooking, but you created an experience, a memory, these guests are going to have for years," he said.
"What's more exciting than that? When I can teach a young person how to be able to create that meal a thousand times and 10,000 times over the next 25 years," he added. "That's more exciting than the one time, and the one day, here."
Cooking has a history of teaching skills from cook to cook, rooted in part in the military, with its well-defined hierarchy, Holmquist explained.
"I felt very blessed for all the chefs and servers and managers who took the time to share their knowledge and skills with me. To me it's disrespectful to not share that," he said.
Holmquist tries to visit each of the kitchens every day, and oversees the menu of each of the restaurants, from the Italian styled items at Cucina to the Norwegian influence at Troll Hallen. And while his own diet for triathlon training may occasionally influence a dish, the process is highly collaborative with his executive chefs.
Although Holmquist is involved with many things, they are all rooted in, and revolve around, food.
"Food is really important to me. The food means everything. But what I do as a chef, I don't take too seriously," he said. "I literally laugh at loud every day and I have a great time with it.
"It sounds corny to say I have my dream job, but I really do," he added.
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