Restaurant Reveal: Tupelo Park City makes sure the restaurant’s cuisine is “ingredient-driven” | ParkRecord.com

Restaurant Reveal: Tupelo Park City makes sure the restaurant’s cuisine is “ingredient-driven”

By Monika Guendner

According to Matt Harris, chef and owner of Tupelo Park City, menu inspiration comes from the dirt.

"If I had to pick the one ingredient that gets me the most excited, it's vegetables," Harris said.

He continued.

"I find myself very inspired by vegetables, grains, things like that," Harris said. "It's usually a thought-out vegetable or a protein [that sparks the creativity of a dish]. I try to keep my stuff pretty clean, and that speaks to the ingredients."

Harris calls his cuisine "ingredient-driven."

"I source the ingredients, and then come up with a dish," he said. “So all the ingredients have somewhat of a special story, whether it be the trout from southern Utah, or the Maine crab."

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Every vegetable on the menu has a reason for its place on the menu too.

"I work pretty tightly with some farms, especially Mountain Song. I fell in love with their baby carrots," he added. That love inspired the spiced heirloom carrots appetizer, currently served with simply roasted carrots, a chickpea purée, and pickled chilis.

Allowing basic food elements to influence his dishes is one way Harris has added his culinary signature to familiar dishes. A self-proclaimed "simple guy," Harris didn't want a complicated menu.

"It's food for God's sake," he said of his creative comfort menu. "Everybody should be able to get it, appreciate it."

Harris's menu-building process, which comes four times a year with the change of seasons, is not so simple.

"I'm alway looking for something with my sauces," he said. While other chefs may gravitate toward a chicken or veal-based sauce, Harris tries to stay "completely outside the box."

The ultimate example of this may be his Utah trout dish. Its sauce is a broth made from herbs and burnt popcorn.

The popcorn helps give the dish a depth of flavor without using a protein-based stock, Harris said. The discovery was a happy accident.

"That's what happens when you burn the last bag of popcorn," he said. "It was a mistake and we thought, whoa, that flavor is super intense, It's a super nutty flavor and you don't even get the burnt after you put it in the heat."

"I'm constantly trying to thinks of way to use everything… a 'root to bud' [approach], asking how do we use everything?" he said.

Carrot stems transform into purees; over-pureed pesto becomes a pasta sauce; carrot tops become pesto, and whole-stemmed herbs, not just the leaves, infuse into a tea.

"It takes a little bit of creativity, but I think the end result is pretty cool. We come up with some interesting flavors, just by using stuff you commonly wouldn't," he said.

The motivation to use all parts of all ingredients came from years of noticing the waste that goes into food prep. Harris challenges himself to cook more sustainably and be better steward of the land.

The next step for Harris and his wife, Maggie Alvarez, is to begin farming about an acre on their land in Midway this summer.

The small farm will focus on growing a few vegetables and build specific dishes around them for the restaurant, Harris said.

Tupelo will alway be an ever-changing and ever-evolving concept, according to Harris, but the restaurant will remain his main focus.

Tupelo Park City is located at 508 Main Street. Open nightly for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and brunch is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 435-615-7700, or visit tupeloparkcity.com.