Salt Lake City is a surprising microcosm of culinary creativity. Whether it be born-and-raised Utahns or international transplants, many chefs here are award-winning, diverse individuals who serve up dishes to delight any palate. From longstanding local favorites to newly-minted, nationally-lauded establishments, the restaurants these chefs spearhead span everything from fried chicken to sushi, taking new-to-town taste buds on a spectacular ride.

Chef Milo Carrier

New Chefs

Milo Carrier of Arlo

Chef Milo Carrier’s demeanor sits in direct contrast to the intensity of a commercial kitchen. He expresses himself with a calm directness: “I like to take quality ingredients and present them simply, but with intention,” he explains. Chef Carrier is the driving force behind Arlo Restaurant, which partners with local farms and maintains a whole-animal butchery program to produce clean, contemporary dishes on a sustainable, seasonal rotation. After training at the Culinary Institute of America and spending time as sous chef of a James Beard Award-winning restaurant in San Francisco, he returned home to SLC. Chef Carrier appreciates Salt Lake as a kind of clean slate for a chef’s creativity, where he and others can bring their passion to the plate for a receptive audience.

Tyson Peterson of Mar | Muntanya

Chef Peterson transports Spain’s Basque and Catalonian cuisine to the Wasatch Front at his restaurant Mar | Muntanya, located in the Hyatt Regency downtown. His career kicked off at Jean-Georges’ prestigious J&G Grill after completing a culinary degree from The Salt Lake Art Institute. Chef Peterson values innovation, encouraging culinary experimentation from his team. His menu is a product of learning from Spanish chefs and is supported by relationships with local artisans and farmers.

Chef Neza of Salt and Olive

It is no small feat to start as a dishwasher and eventually become a chef for some of the best Italian kitchens in Salt Lake City. After learning from the likes of Chef Valter Nassi, Utah’s venerable and beloved Italian Maestro, Chef Neza opened Salt and Olive in the heart of downtown. This fast-casual dining experience offers everything from to-go coffees and wood-fired pizza to a full cocktail bar and reservation-only fine dining. 

Chef Peggi Ince-Whiting

Long-Time Chefs

Peggi Ince-Whiting of Kyoto Japanese Restaurant

Chef Peggi Ince-Whiting defines what it is to have a relentless work ethic and fastidious dedication to her craft. She can be credited with bringing sushi to the mainstream culinary vocabulary of Utah over the course of her four-decade-long career. Chef Ince-Whiting trained under a master in Tokyo before returning to Utah and opening Park City’s first sushi bar. Despite the challenges of being a woman in a particularly male-dominated culinary niche, she says, “I think I have the advantage of loving what I do. Most people don’t get to love their job as much as I love mine.” Chef Ince-Whiting now runs Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, one of the oldest Japanese establishments in Salt Lake City.

Nick Zocco of Urban Hill

This innovative New Mexico-born chef is making waves in local and national culinary circles as a James Beard Foundation Best Chef Semifinalist and winner of Outstanding Restaurant of the Year 2024 from Salt Lake Magazine. Chef Zocco spearheads the team at Urban Hill, a high-end downtown establishment. After distilling his culinary perspective at venues like Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, Chef Zocco is known for bringing the bright, earthy flavors of his home state to any menu he designs.

Manoli Katsanevas

Manoli Katsanevas of Manoli's

Chef Manoli Kastanevas has deep roots in Utah’s culinary history. In 1978, his uncle opened Crown Burger, a Greek-American burger joint with a longstanding, loyal following where he began his culinary journey at age thirteen. Following his family’s “tough love” style of training, he obtained a culinary degree from Salt Lake Community College. In 2015 he opened Manoli’s, reimagining Greek classics with seasonal ingredients and boasting a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Hospitality in 2023.

Viet Pham

Well-Known Chefs

Viet Pham of Pretty Bird and Forage

Despite having a veritable trophy case of culinary accomplishments under his belt, Chef Viet Pham approaches each day with humility and an awareness that there is always something more to learn. An Iron Chef Champion, two-time winner of Beat Bobby Flay, three-time James Beard nominee and Food and Wine’s Best New Chef, his accolades are brought about by lifelong curiosity and extraordinary drive. “There’s a place for me in all aspects of cooking. At the end of the day, I just want to cook good, delicious food without a narrative, without pretentiousness,” Chef Pham says, when asked to define his cooking style. His most recent project is Pretty Bird, which serves up addicting fried chicken with the perfect balance of sweet and spice.

Briar Handly of Handle and HSL

Chef Briar Handly’s single-minded focus on producing intricate, ingredient-driven plates has paid off with an illustrious rise in the culinary world, garnering multiple James Beard nominations. He went to the New England Culinary Institute before making Utah his home. His first restaurant, Handle, opened in 2014 in Park City, showcasing his signature style of bold, bright flavor with unique textural play - and HSL opened in Salt Lake following the initial restaurant's success. Improvisation is vital to his method, while centering ingredients made and foraged in Utah.

Hiro Tagai of Koyote and Purgatory

Born in Takasaki, Japan and raised in Utah, Chef Hiro Tagai has honed expertise in many facets of his heritage cuisine. He designed the menu for Purgatory, a casual cocktail bar featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. In 2016, he moved back to Japan to work in the ramen industry with hopes of opening his own shop. This dream came to fruition with Koyote Ramen in the Marmalade District of Salt Lake, opening in February 2024 to great acclaim.

Creative Chefs

Lavanya Mahate of Saffron Valley

To open a successful restaurant group is one accomplishment, but to take that success and craft it into a culinary institute whose goal is to support refugees is another level of giving back. Chef Lavanya Mahate is emblematic of what it means to not only be dedicated in the kitchen but also to one’s community. “I want to be resourceful with time, the ingredients and my energy,” she says while discussing her journey to open Saffron Valley Indian Restaurants and their sister business Bix Bakery and Cafe. Lately, she has been putting her energy behind RISE Culinary Institute and received the 2024 Blue Plate Award for Community Service from Salt Lake Magazine.

Tommy Nguyen of The Pearl

Chef Tommy Nguyen is the kind of chef who will greet you at the door, seat you at a table and even run your plates to the dish pit. He’s all in with extraordinary humility in every kitchen he’s a part of. Chef Nguyen has earned immense respect from his peers over a nearly two-decade career. He worked under local sushi titan Takashi Gibo for 15 years before helping to open a number of Salt Lake’s favorite eateries. Chef Nguyen’s most recent restaurant, The Pearl, pays homage to his mother’s Vietnamese home cooking alongside well-crafted cocktails.

David Chon of Bar Nohm

At the intersection of Korean and Japanese cuisine in Salt Lake City is 2024 James Beard nominee Chef David Chon. Drawing inspiration from the foods he grew up eating in South Korea and during extensive travel throughout Japan, Chef Chon’s goal is to highlight the individual brilliance of both cuisines without a fusion approach. He presents small plates with an unwaveringly dedicated vision at the newly revamped Bar Nohm, a collaboration with Water Witch, one of Salt Lake’s best cocktail spots.

If you told someone that Salt Lake was a relatively small city, the quality and dedication of its culinary scene would make it hard to believe. There is something for everyone in this valley and the variety only continues to grow. Take a minute to check out some menus and give yourself the gift of a night out on the town.