Running a restaurant in Jell-O country

Running a restaurant in Jell-O country

When Clinton Fowler agreed to head up the food and beverage management of a Radisson Hotel restaurant in Salt Lake City recently, he faced a little challenge. Namely, to bring farm-to-table fare to people who downright love potluck dinners at church, and who consume Jell-O like it’s a staple.

Copper Canyon Grille Tacos
Photos by Trevor Hooper and courtesy Clinton Fowler

Nothing against the delightfully wiggly and fun snack food, he says, acknowledging that most everyone loves a little Jell-O. But, he adds, Utah is a unique dining demographic, which challenges his restaurant Copper Canyon Grille to be both on trend, and respectful of time-honored traditions.

“Utah is unique,” Fowler says. “It’s different. As diners, they’re very conservative in their platings, and as a state, Utah is home to diners who consume more Jell-O than any other state in the country.”

Hired six months ago to “right the ship” at the Copper Canyon Grille, Fowler explains in this week’s Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand how he and his executive chef of seven months are sinking their teeth into rebranding their restaurant.

Boxerbrand: How is the Copper Canyon Grille reinventing itself?

My role is to right the ship. I’m the fifth manager in three years. Part of the reason for the turnover has to do with having the right people on board. Now that we feel everyone’s in place, we’re rebranding the entire thing. Working with our executive chef, who’s been here for seven months, we’ve completely redone the menu, focusing on Southwest and Mountainwest cuisine. We’re focusing on offering locally sourced produce, from vegetables, to fish and meat products. For example, we feature elk chili, a buffalo burger, or salmon and trout, because we have them in abundance here. We’re situated so that we can offer regional fare without having to drive more than a day to bring it in.

Boxerbrand: Please say more about the challenges?

Being an in-hotel restaurant, we have a unique challenge to attract the local community. Utah as a whole has been behind in food trends that are going so well in places like Portland, for example. In Portland, the buy-local movement has been around for 15 years. But it only caught on in Utah in recent years.

And the tastes in Utah have remained pretty conservative in their platings, centered around trout, lamb and beef.

Boxerbrand: You’ve made major menu changes to serve travelers and locals.

We’ve made major menu changes while we keep in mind that foie gras isn’t going to be on the top of a Utah menu.  Our burgers are. Our chef is really focusing in on the excellent ingredients we have in Utah and doing amazing things with the state’s honey, apricots, and peaches, for example, and incorporating them into dishes.

Boxerbrand: What else has Copper Canyon done to infuse Utah into its experience?

We’ve begun working with local farmers doing great work producing wonderful carrots, lettuce and herbs. That part of the buying local trend is really starting to grab traction here in Salt Lake City.

Our biggest change is taking our restaurant off the grid of major US food suppliers and honing in on locally inspired cuisine.

Boxerbrand: How do you attract people to the door?

We have a great location! We’re one block away from an arena where the Utah Jazz play. So, we participate in marketing related to those events. We also do a lot with Facebook and Twitter, and a public radio station to promote our brand and restaurant. And, we’re also very serious about bringing our wine list into the modern age. We’re adding wines with a minimum rating of 90 percent. And our wine menu features information about the vintage, listing ratings, region and tasting notes. And we’ve hired a mixologist to create new cocktail products. This is what distinguishes us. We’re on the leading edge of that as hotel restaurants go.

— Copper Canyon Grill uses Boxerbrand’s Metallic Tones in its menu cover presentation. Thank you!

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