The Food Network is in town this week, getting tasty sound bites from some of Utah's eating establishments.
"The Best Of," a half-hour Food Network program, seeks the best food, restaurants and culinary trends across America. The show's co-host, Jill Cordes, is in Utah shooting segments on Guru's Restaurant and Rico Mexican Market in Salt Lake City, Deer Valley, The Point Restaurant at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Stein Ericksen Lodge. Each will be featured in episodes to air separately sometime during the summer, Cordes said, and they may possibly all be used together in an Olympics package.
The program airs on the cable Food Network channel Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m., 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at noon.
"Salt Lake City caught our eye because of the Olympics, and it's a place where the natural beauty goes hand-in-hand with the culinary world," Cordes said Saturday morning, during a break from the taping at Guru's Restaurant, 912 E. 900 South.
In each episode, Cordes and her co-host Marc Silverstein profile places and people in five different states who are making their marks in a given category. Guru's is slated to run in a "best of charitable chefs," story. Cordes interviewed owner Kevin Hall, who refers to the young employees at this restaurant as "partners" and pays them to do four hours of community service per month. (Cordes also spent a few minutes with author Richard Paul Evans because Guru's helps fund his charity, the Christmas Box House.)
Then, the cameras moved back into the kitchen while chef Rick Moreno showed Cordes how to make Cilantro Lime Pesto Pasta, one of the restaurant's signature items. All the while, customers were streaming in, placing orders and watching the filming with mild curiosity.
"If this were a weekday, we're so busy during lunch that it would be impossible to try to do," said Deven Moreno, Guru's co-founder and the chef's brother. He said the show's researchers read about Guru's through articles in Forbes and Restaurant News.
"We were flattered that they would want to come and interview us," he said. "It seems people are really attracted to the story of people going the extra mile and getting involved in the community."
He said they chose to demonstrate Cilantro Lime Pesto Pasta is a menu favorite because, "Women just love it, and it becomes addictive for them."
Saturday afternoon, the program focused on Rico Mexican Market as one of Utah's "Best Hidden Treasures."
While the cameras rolled, owner Jorge Fierro showed off the hundreds of Mexican products available from his store and catering business.
His store offers a wide variety of imported and freshly-made products, including from-scratch salsas, hand-rolled tortillas and burritos and more than a dozen different kinds of beans.
His Seafood Chile Relleno, a shrimp-and-crab-stuffed chile served on tomato sauce with capers, was spotlighted. He said the show's researchers first contacted him in November about his 3-year-old business.
Fierro said he was a law school student in Mexico when he decided to immigrate to the United States.
He learned English while taking busboy and dishwashing jobs in restaurants, and he worked eight years for Intermountain Health Care before starting his market and catering business.
"This is wonderful exposure for me because there are several products that I want to market nationally," he said.
On Sunday and Tuesday, the TV crew headed to Park City, where Cordes skied at Deer Valley and did segments on the resort's Mariposa Restaurant and Snow Park Lodge for a "best of winter retreats" segment. Pastry chef Letty Flatt demonstrated her Chocolate Snowball dessert from her cookbook, "Chocolate Snowball," for a "sinful desserts" story.
"I've always sent them press releases about what's going on here," said Christa Graff, Deer Valley's public-relations spokeswoman. "They contacted me in October, and I sent them a copy of Letty's book. We've had other national television exposure, but never on the Food Network, and never specifically on Letty, so we're really excited about it."
On Monday, Cordes was scheduled to try buffalo pot stickers at The Point Restaurant for a "best of lite delights" story.
The Point, located at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, has built a reputation for offering healthy, low-fat foods. Since buffalo meat is known for being lower in fat and cholesterol than most red meats, The Point also has buffalo chili, buffalo tortellini and sliced buffalo meat on its menu.
Wednesday, the crew will wrap up its trip with a "Best Room Service" story at Stein Eriksen Lodge.
"It's so NOT a cooking show," she said of the program.
"It's the story behind the restaurants, the people who run them, and the community, and food kind of weaves it all together. I'm not a chef, I don't cook, I work for a story-telling show, not a cooking show."
Cordes said it's one of the most popular programs on the Food Network, the only 24-hour television network devoted exclusively to all things food — cooking, dining, entertaining and eating.
The Food Network reaches cable and satellite audiences of more than 50 million homes.
It is distributed across the U.S., Canada, Australia, Korea and the Philippines.
CILANTRO LIME PESTO
7 ounces chilled cooked pasta (such as linguine)
1 1/2 ounces cooked, cubed chicken
4 ounces of Cilantro Lime Pesto Sauce (see recipe below)
1/4 ounce asiago cheese
1/2 ounce sun-dried tomato, chopped
Fill pan with pasta; add cooked chicken and sauce. Heat together for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into desired bowl and add asiago cheese and sun-dried tomato. Serves 1 to 2.
CILANTRO LIME PESTO SAUCE
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted almonds
1 ounce chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup asiago cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup chicken broth
Blend all ingredients together in food processor or blender — Guru's Restaurant, Salt Lake City and Provo