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Hotel Utah — and its restaurant — hails 100 magical years

Published June 1, 2011 4:32 pm

Anniversary • New cookbook hails culinary legacy of celebrated downtown spot.
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On June 9, raise a glass — preferably filled with soda — to the regal old gal at the corner of South Temple and Main in Salt Lake City.

That's the day the original Hotel Utah, now The Joseph Smith Memorial Building, turns 100.

It's a centennial worth celebrating, especially when it comes to Utah's culinary history.

In the 100 years since she opened in 1911, millions of meals have been prepared, served and enjoyed within her majesty's white walls.

"Back in the day, it was the No. 1 hotel in Salt Lake City — there was no other hotel like it," explains Pedro Mauricio. Like many before him, Mauricio started working at the hotel as a teenager. He liked it enough to stay, working his way up from dishwasher and banquet server to the job he has today: executive chef of The Roof Restaurant.

"When I started, I was only a kid, 17 or 18," Mauricio said. "At that time, I didn't know I would be in the kitchen that long."

In honor of the building's 100th anniversary, Mauricio and the other chefs from Temple Square Hospitality have compiled a cookbook, Recipes from The Roof, (Deseret Book, $26.99). The book contains 95 favorite dishes, from the deep-fried pickle appetizer at the Garden Restaurant to the baked chicken cordon bleu at The Roof.

The Hotel Utah hosted dozens of famous visitors from around the world, and it was for many years considered "the Grande Dame of hotels" in the Intermountain West. John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Liberace, Warren Burger, John Glenn and Ella Fitzgerald slept and dined at the hotel, according to the Utah History Encyclopedia.

"For most of the twentieth century, the Hotel Utah not only serviced travelers but anchored the community as well," historians wrote. "Everything that was anything was held there."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed the hotel in August 1987 to turn it into office space.

Even though the hotel opened in 1911, its popular 10th-floor restaurant — which offers spectacular views of the city — didn't open until 1914, according to historical information in Recipes from The Roof.

Initially, the restaurant was called The Roof Gardens. Later it was renamed The Starlite Gardens, as it offered open-air dining, live music and dancing. The restaurant was enclosed with glass windows during later renovations.

No matter what the restaurant was called, it offered a unique dining experience, explained Megan Nylander, who helped compile the cookbook for Deseret Book.

Today — as they did back then — diners "come for special events, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and special moments," Nylander said. "That's why it's magical."

Plenty of Utahns seem to agree. For the past month, fans of the building have been posting their favorite food and other memories on the anniversary website, HotelUtah100.com.

Tim Bueneman has fond memories of the hotel because his father, Gerard Bueneman, was the executive chef for more than a quarter-century.

"I grew up in that hotel," Bueneman wrote on the website, "and I am sure I was often a pest to many in the kitchen. My father met my mother at the hotel when she was a waitress in the Coffee Shop. I have so many fond memories of the beautiful Roof Garden and the other gorgeous rooms in the hotel. My father personally served several U.S. presidents at the hotel."

The Hotel Utah has been part of Joanne Milner's family since 1919. Her grandfather, Antonio "Tony" Furano, an Italian immigrant, was first hired as a chicken butcher and worked his way up to be the "saucier" or "king of soups and sauces." Through the years, family birthdays, weddings and anniversaries were all held at the hotel, she wrote.

Michael Heslop remembers eating in the hotel basement in 1969, while serving as a missionary for the LDS Church. Back then, he said, the Missionary Training Center was where the east side of the Conference Center now stands.

"The food was very good, which helped make up for the elbow-to-elbow dining with hundreds of other missionaries," he wrote. "We were not given much time to eat, but I do remember how good the food was and how organized the hotel staff was able to feed so many in a short time. The good food helped me get through a time of stress and homesickness caused by being a new missionary."

Danny Edwards worked at The Roof restaurant from 1993 to 2007. "Every once in a while I got to cook dinner for President Hinckley," said Edwards of Gordon B. Hickley, who served as LDS Church president from 1995 to 2008, when he died at 98. "He always wanted salmon, plain, no butter, and fresh veggies. Every once in a while, he would take the kitchen route to the freight elevators, and we would all stand there and wave."

kathys@sltrib.com —

Baked chicken cordon bleu with alfredo sauce


6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

12 thin slices ham

12 slices Swiss cheese

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups bread crumbs

6 tablespoons butter, melted


2 teaspoons melted butter

1 tablespoon diced onion

½ teaspoon chopped garlic

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

Pound each chicken breast with a mallet until it is about ¼-inch thick. Place 2 slices of ham and 2 slices cheese on each flattened chicken breast and roll jelly-roll style. Place in the freezer until frozen.

Place flour, eggs and bread crumbs in three separate shallow containers.

Dredge frozen chicken breasts in flour, dip into eggs and then coat with bread crumbs. Make sure the entire roll is covered evenly. Freeze again.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush melted butter on chicken and bake 30 to 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of each breast registers 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Add onions and garlic and saute 3 minutes. Add cream and milk, stirring with a whisk. When the mixture begins to bubble, add Parmesan cheese. Keep stirring until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 2 cups.

To serve, cut chicken rolls into wheels and drizzle sauce over top.

Servings • 6 to 8

Source: Recipes from The Roof: The 100th Anniversary of the Hotel Utah and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building






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