The Gateway Grille in Kamas sold to Park City chef | ParkRecord.com

The Gateway Grille in Kamas sold to Park City chef

Sean Wharton, founder of The Gateway Grille, hands the new owner Shane Baird a culinary torch in a mock "passing of the torch." Baird said he plans to give the restaurant to energy while keeping with its roots.

The Gateway Grille and owner Sean Wharton's name have been staples in the culinary scene in Kamas since the restaurant first started serving its fare in 1997.

Now, Wharton will no longer be the head of the restaurant. Shane Baird, a chef at St. Regis Deer Valley, and his business partner bought the restaurant and are taking over.

Wharton grew up in Park City and started working in the culinary field as a line cook in 1985 at Deer Valley Resort. After 14 years in the industry, he was ready to open a restaurant of his own. He decided to venture out to Kamas and open The Gateway Grille.

The restaurant had humble beginnings, as Wharton brought fine dining recipes to town but had to rely on yard sales to supply the plates and silverware to serve the food on. As one of the first high-end restaurants in the area, he said he also had to educate the community on how to properly tip at a restaurant with higher-priced meals.

“I am really happy that I am handing it off to somebody that is super competent and will probably be able to take it to that next level that I would want to take it to myself,” Sean Wharton

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But he loved the people and the sense of community.

"We are a heartbeat of the town," he said. "You have people in there coming in for coffee every morning and you hear what's going on."

Wharton said one of the things he loved most about the restaurant was being able to serve a broad range of guests. One of his favorite memories is when he looked in the dining area and saw pig farmers in their overalls sitting back to back with a woman from Deer Valley with a mink coat.

"I looked at the dynamics and was like, 'Those farmers would never feel comfortable going into a Main Street restaurant in Park City," he said. "It would be out of their environment. So, to be able to provide something like that for them was pretty cool."

It has been both fun and challenging to see the Kamas Valley change, too. When he opened The Gateway Grille, he said there were a little more than 100 restaurants in Park City and the surrounding area. Now, he estimates there are more than 300. The increased competition for labor and attention has made it difficult for Wharton to keep up with the changing market.

He said he has been considering leaving the restaurant for the last couple years, and when his chefs left to pursue positions at other restaurants with wages Wharton could not compete with, he decided it was time.

Wharton plans to move to Cedar City with his family. He worked as the director of food and beverage at Brian Head Ski Resort last winter, and said he hopes to find another position in the culinary industry once he arrives.

While sad to leave the Gateway Grille behind, he said he is excited to pass it onto Baird, who Wharton has known for several years. Both worked at 410 Bank Street Restaurant in New Jersey and have mutual friends, Baird said.

"(Baird) is a culinary expert," Wharton said. "I am really happy that I am handing it off to somebody that is super competent and will probably be able to take it to that next level that I would want to take it to myself."

Baird and a business partner became the new owners on Aug. 15, but Wharton said he has been working with them throughout the transition.

Baird said he hopes to give the restaurant new energy and new blood while maintaining its roots.

Wharton said he is proud of what he was able to do with the restaurant and that it was able to support him and his family over the years. He is eager to see it continue to thrive.

"I've done really well and I am happy," he said. "It's been a good ride. I have no complaints."