Local Icon Adolph Imboden Shares His Story

Adolph Imboden founded the first and oldest fine dining restaurant in Park City where he’s hosted premiere athletes, film stars and loyal locals for over 45 years. Mountain Express Magazine sat down with Adolph recently to learn more.

Adolph, you’ve had quite a circuitous route to get to Park City. Tell us about your journey.

In Europe, you were expected to learn a profession. My father died when I was five, and my stepfather didn’t think much of ski racing as a career, so at 16, I apprenticed at the Hotel Palace in Gstaad, Switzerland. I also taught skiing at St. Moritz to celebrities, countesses, princes and even the Shah of Iran. After military service, I moved to Canada where I worked in a Swiss lodge—we worked grueling hours and were expected to do EVERYTHING for only $300 a month. I’ll never work for a Swiss again!

What happened next?
I went to Bermuda and worked as a chef. It was great—I swam all day, then worked the night shift. After a year I decided I wanted to go to America, so I got a green card and moved to Mt. Snow, Vermont to teach ski racing. It felt good to be back on snow, but I wanted to see some “real” mountains, so I moved to Vail, Colorado where I worked at Pepi Gramshammer Lodge.

Vail seemed like an ideal spot. What made you keep coming west?
In 1971, I got a call from a former client who said they needed a food and beverage manager at Park City Resort. I said, “Where is Park City?”

Haha! Why did you decide to strike out on your own?
I took that job and worked 16-hour days, seven days a week. But anyone in this business eventually wants their own place, so in 1974, I opened Adolph’s White House, the first fine dining restaurant in Park City. Th ose were hard days, and the off seasons were long, but if your name’s on the door, you have to be there. I moved the restaurant to Park City Golf Course for 20 years before moving into my current space.

Judging by all the signed photographs on the walls, you’ve built up quite a following.
Yes, I’ve always had contact with the ski team, and I’ve enjoyed cooking traditional European dishes for visiting teams from Switzerland, Austria and the many friends who’ve supported me.

What’s your favorite dish?
Growing up in Switzerland, we ate a lot of veal. I also enjoy rack of lamb, but I’m starting to eat more salmon.

Do you cook at home?
Breakfast is an important meal, but I don’t cook much at home. I have a beautiful, pristine kitchen, but I come here to the restaurant to eat.

What do you do in your free time, other than play the spoons?
(chuckling) I only play spoons on special occasions. I like to garden, and I really enjoy road biking—I try to do that every day. I started scuba diving four years ago and take dive trips to Aruba, Cozumel, Belize, etc.

What’s next for you?
My dream was always to have a hotel/restaurant, but now, at this stage, I don’t know if it will happen. I’ve thought about creating a cookbook/memoir. I’m taking my grandson hiking in Switzerland, and some day I’d like to lead European skiing and hiking tours. We’ll see…my goal is to stay fit and active. Everything has always led me back to skiing—it’s the sport I
love most.

by Corinne Humphrey