Juniper Grill aims to be place where everybody knows your name
Written By Anna Moore
Article originally appeared on ParkRecord.com.
“Sorry to interrupt, but Mrs.Taylor would like the salad you made her yesterday,” says a soft-spoken server at the Juniper Grill of Red Ledges Clubhouse.
Although Daniel Thompson, the restaurant’s head chef, serves more than 500 members of the private community, he remembers each ingredient in Mrs. Taylor’s special salad and lists them off.
“Yes, I remember she’s on a diet, make sure there’s absolutely no cheese,” says Thompson, who prides himself on remembering his patron’s tastes.
Although clubhouse dining can carry a reputation for being boring and uninspiring, Thompson and his staff aim to never stop improving and personalizing the Juniper Grill menu. At the age of 33, Thompson is in his 10th season at the golf-centric private community in Heber City, and constant innovation is the main ingredient in his success.
Born in Panama City, Florida, (a.k.a. the Redneck Riviera) Thompson was raised on buttery grits, hand-picked tomatoes and catfish fresh from the pond. As a child, his mother taught him how to cook Southern comfort food with love. To this day, his mother’s yellow squash still tastes like home.
When Thompson traded Florida sand for Utah snow in 2009, Red Ledges was still under constriction. It’s hard for him to believe that he “began cooking out of a trailer on the golf course,” as he sits in the swanky dining room of the Juniper Grill, overlooking the Wasatch mountains.
In this increasingly mechanized world, Thompson is passionate about taking the time to personalize service. By greeting guests by name, they feel like an “extension of family,” he said. It’s important because, “my kitchen is their dining room,” he added.
Each year, 50 to 60 percent of the Juniper Grill’s dishes are tweaked to keep the flavors fresh and members enticed. Making traditional dishes fit into the outdoor lifestyle of club members is key.
“Our house burger is actually in a wrap, so guests can take easily take it golfing,” Thompson says.
He said 95 percent of what is served is made on sight, or sourced locally. The kitchen buys produce from Lee’s Grocery Store down the street, and Pierre French Bakery in Salt Lake delivers fresh bread each morning.
Another way Red Ledges aims to innovate clubhouse dining is by holding special programs and themed dinner parties. Whether it’s a Saint Patrick’s Day party with green beer and corned beef, or a sampling of curries from around the world, there’s always a reason to celebrate food. Last Fourth of July, for instance, Thompson traded his kitchen garb for a Colonel Sanders costume while preparing a fried chicken picnic for 600 guests.
“Guests love a reason to get together in costume,” he says. “It’s just a fun place to be.”
Peering out onto the frosted peak of Mount Timpanogos, the lunch crowd at the Juniper Grill quietly chats and clinks their salad forks to their white plates. There’s a calm welcomeness that permeates the room.
“Dining is about enjoying the finer things in life,” says Thompson as he sits among the sunny tables. “It could be a PB and J as long as it makes you feel good.”
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