Edible Salt Lake City: Foodie Town on the Verge
Traveling as part of a film crew can be a lot of fun because you get a lens into a world you wouldn’t necessarily see as a tourist. Though there’s usually no time for drawn out meals or sightseeing, the story you are trying to tell can give you a perspective on a city that completely surprises you.
That was the case for me in Salt Lake City. During our Urban Food Expedition we were focused on places in the United States that qualified as “food deserts.” South Salt Lake City does have an overabundance of fast food joints and lack of supermarkets, but Salt Lake as a whole is definitely a foodie town on the verge.
We spent a lot of time in South Salt Lake because it is home to most of our characters in the film, i.e. newly arrived refugees from around the world. These families struggle with assimilation to a new environment like any newcomer would, but what was extraordinary was that through programs like IRC’s New Roots, they are taking their expertise in farming and gardening, often fine-tuned in their home countries, and not only feeding themselves but helping to transform Salt Lake City’s cuisine across the board.
What makes Salt Lake City so unique is this injection of diversity from around the world combined with its extraordinary connection to nature. Refugees are using the fertile soil to introduce daikon radishes, amaranth, roselle, and a myriad of produce that not only represents new material for Utah’s culinary community, but also brings produce front and center.
For the chefs we visited, organic and local are now assumptions, not marketing strategies. Instead, chefs like Ethan Lappé of Caffe Niche, are pushing this model forward, insisting that it’s a combination of the decrease in time from farm to table and his personal relationships with producers that makes his food unique. According to Ethan, “I’ve found that you can really, truly taste the difference between eggs that I buy from my local guy that we helped build the coops for that I have this great relationship with. I think you can really taste that in food and that’s what drives me.”
It was great for me to see Salt Lake City capitalizing on its unique assets to create a cuisine that is specific to its location and constantly transforming heritage.
Check out Behind the Scenes: Edible Salt Lake City for a look inside Salt Lake’s food scene.