Park City is a world-renowned outdoor activities mecca, and it also home to an array of celebrated restaurants, resorts and art galleries.So, why not a distinguished cooking school?
That’s Laurie Moldawer’s vision. She is the founder and director of the new Park City Culinary Institute.
“The goal is to help Park City become a world-class destination for people who are interested in the culinary arts,” Moldawer said during an interview with The Park Record. “The ultimate goal is to become a training ground for high-end restaurants throughout the Rocky Mountains including establishments in Park City, Vail, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. ”
The institute’s first class will be held at Treasure Mountain Inn on Feb. 23, with award-winning cake decorator Toba Garrett.
Other classes will include the upcoming Japanese Kaiseki course on March 3, and held in the kitchen of Temple Har Shalom.
Kaiseki is a meal consisting of a sequence of small dishes of food that are artistically arranged, Moldawer said.
“We want to offer everything across the board,” she said.
To do that, Moldawer is modeling the Park City Culinary Institute programs after Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.
“Le Cordon Bleu has a professional program that covers everything from basic technique to intricate, elaborate, fun and decorative ways to prepare food that go beyond a three Michelin-star restaurant,” she said.
Michelin rates restaurants on a scale of zero to three stars, with three being the highest. The ratings concentrate on not only the quality and mastery of technique in the food presented, but also its personality and consistency, Moldawer said.
“I think our professional program should head in that direction, because it offers a robust calendar of recreational programs that include 1,500 classes a year for more than 26,000 students,” she said. “I want to model our recreational programs after that and have dawn-to-dusk programming seven days a week.”
A recreational culinary program is a session than runs anywhere from two hours to one week where students learn something with foods they haven’t used before, Moldawer said.
“They can experiment with new foods, different ingredients and new techniques,” she explained. “They may be introduced to ethnic foods, like when we start with our Japanese programming and we’ve lined up some international instructors try to bring a world flavor to the school.”
The classes will be open to students who are recreational, serious amateur and professional cooks.
“They will all attend the same class together, and they will be suitable for all levels, because there will be time for the instructors to work with each student,” Moldawer said.
When Yamamoto, who attended the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, Japan, comes to teach the essentials of Japanese Kaiseki, his wife Miyako will create appetizers on the side.
“So, after the class, we’ll enjoy dinner with sake,” Moldawer said.
In addition, the Park City Culinary Institute will arrange food-book authors such as Harold McGee, who penned “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” to give lectures.
“Harold will be coming out with a new book next year, and he promised to come to Park City, so that will be something fun,” Moldawer said.
Other plans including tours of artisan cheese-making facilities, local farms and ranches.
“We will offer robust programming beyond just the regular, hands-on cooking classes,” she said.
Eventually, Moldawer would like to expand from the temporary settings of Treasure Mountain Inn and Temple Har Shalom to a permanent facility, preferably in Old Town, but right now the biggest challenge is finding high-quality instructors for the sessions.
“There is a ton of talent all over, including in Park City, but we want to make sure we bring in people who not only know how to make these wonderful dishes, but also someone who is entertaining and has some showmanship in order to teach a high-end culinary class,” Moldawer said. “I want our classes to be fun, but also technical, so no matter what level the student is, they can still take a class.”
Moldawer’s attraction to the culinary arts came later than for most people.
“I knew nothing about food and never cooked at home, and when I was in college, I actually tripped over the open oven door in our house and was quoted saying, ‘We have an oven?'” she said with a laugh.
After her divorce, Moldawer took a year off of work as an accountant at Ernst & Young to move to France and enroll at Le Cordon Bleu.
“I got to intern with the Michelin-starred chef, Roland Durand, at Restaurant Passi Flore, and came back to New York to my accounting job,” she said. “Even while working as an accountant, I would work at a restaurant.”
When she finally left the accounting firm, she attended the Institute of Culinary Education for four weeks.
“I wound up interning with renowned cake decorate Colette Peters and have catered part time from there,” she said. “When I moved to Park City, I was so amazed at how supportive people have been and after taking a City Tour to Las Vegas, decided it was time to open a school here.”