TRADITION AND CREATIVITY ROLL TOGETHER – Chef Tim Carpenter
This winter and spring, take time to sit down with a tokkuri ﬁlled with warm sake across from Tim Carpenter and his team at Shabu. As Shabu’s sous chef, Carpenter adds to the artistry of freestyle Asian Cuisine on Park City’s historic Main Street. Enjoy daily specialty rolls that ﬁt in your hand along with classic sushi fare. Carpenter assembles traditional maki rolls with his own ﬂare and ﬂavor enhanced by the conversation and enthusiasm he has for the art of sushi.
Raised in Pennsylvania, Carpenter learned to cook by watching his dad. Carpenter’s father was his inspiration and the thing that most ignited his curiosity in the kitchen and culinary arts. He explains, “While my mother always followed recipes, I was entranced by my dad. He seemed to just make things up with what was around the house.”
In addition to his dad, Carpenter notes, “My grandmother was a hell of a baker. Watching her work her magic instilled an appreciation for it early on.” This admiration of the conscientiousness and creativity that is required in baking carries over into Carpenter’s sushi creations. As restaurateur and author Guy Fieri notes, “Cooking…is not just about ingredients, recipes and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.”
As a student of architecture, Carpenter realized that “My studies and my whole early life was only going to lead to a life at a desk and a computer.” With this epiphany, Carpenter changed his focus and began to pursue “this life in the culinary arts.” He enrolled at the Florida Culinary Institute where he graduated with an Associate of Arts and Sciences.
“I knew I had to forge my own path, which led me out West—here, to Park City. Going west was always at the forefront for me,” explains Carpenter. An outdoor adventurer, mountain biker and river rafter, Utah was an ideal fit for Carpenter. Initially, he notes, “I landed at the Mariposa at Deer Valley.” He became Head Chef and directed great change and growth for The Mariposa.
Chef Robert Valaika and the team at Shabu provided an opportunity for further development by directing Carpenter in the intensive craft of sushi. “I still feel very blessed for the schooling that I got from some very talented sushi chefs. Without that, I would never have found this new passion,” says Carpenter. For the last four years, Carpenter has been behind the sushi counter in a place that is “truly special.” Being a family owned and operated business, Carpenter credits Bob Valaika and his brother, Kevin Valaika with the unique atmosphere and warm culture.
It is said that a great sushi chef continually engages in the art of making sushi. Carpenter is constantly finding ways to elevate the flavors and tastes of raw and cooked fish. He shares, “I am still learning every day. I learn what people want, how to fabricate different fish and work with new flavor profiles.”
Additionally, being behind the sushi bar and engaging one-on-one with customers provides an entirely different perspective for Carpenter. He explains, “being out in front of guests and seeing the looks on satisfied faces truly makes this outlet one of a kind.”
At Shabu, there is camaraderie in the kitchen that is, in part, driven by Carpenter. He notes, “It is truly just motivating to learn and not be afraid to take chances.” The chefs in Shabu’s kitchen “grow together” as they push to try new recipes and creations. The team’s commitment to Shabu’s mission and culinary art is reflected in Carpenter’s mentoring. He explains, “Teaching in the kitchen is something very special to me. I have been lucky enough to work alongside many young culinarians and it feels extra special when you see it click for someone and they take off on their own adventure.”
In addition to his zeal for communicating with customers and perfecting his art, Carpenter is also extremely humble. He expresses his gratitude for all the chefs that helped him learn—especially the Valaika brothers for their vision with Shabu.
If he is not behind the counter at the sushi bar, Carpenter is forging his best life here, in the mountains and rivers of the West.
Whether a longtime local or winter visitor, be sure to stop into Shabu on Main and experience Carpenter’s culinary works of art. Shabu is open nightly and not surprisingly reservations are highly recommended.