TAMARA STANGER IS EMBRACING UTAH’S HERITAGE IN COOKING
Native to Utah, Tamara Stanger started cooking and baking by herself when she was just seven years old. She explains, “I was in love with my grandmother’s old cookbooks.” With those cookbooks and a fully stocked kitchen, Stanger first started experimenting. When she wasn’t in the kitchen, Stanger spent most of her time hiking and exploring the wilderness around her. But, like the natural world around her, Stanger’s relationship with food grew deep roots.
In 2000, Stanger embarked on a new food journey in the neighboring state of Arizona. She helped open three restaurants and accumulated many accolades for her work with wild, historical and indigenous foods. Named “Best Visionary” by local publications, Stanger continued to take her passion for nature, culture and history into her kitchen.
While visiting her daughter in the summer of 2020, Stanger started foraging and exploring Mt. Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountain Range. It was there that she realized Utah might be missing some of the most beautiful and valuable connections between its food and wild ingredients.
When Stanger was invited to consult on The Lakehouse Restaurant in 2020, she explained, “It felt irreverent to just hand over those ideas to someone who may not understand my same passion.” In accepting her new role as chef, she decided to continue her mission to bring the rich history of the land and culture together through her unique and sensational recipes. Stanger also fell in love with the rich history and pride associated with The Lakehouse Restaurant.
Located on a breathtaking spot on Deer Creek Reservoir between Park City and Sundance, the restaurant is ideally situated for both locals and visitors to the Wasatch Back. It is the only privately owned restaurant within the stunning boundaries of Deer Creek State Park. Stanger notes, “The same family that built the Lakehouse still owns it and have put an incredible amount of work into its design and architecture.”
In addition to being host to magnificent views of the Wasatch Back and Mount Timpanogos, Stanger can find wild food on Deer Creek Island. The island is covered with acorns and black currants. She explains, “Food is culture. It can define an area and we have a unique history here that is unlike anywhere else.” Stanger’s Utah Heritage Cuisine embraces and celebrates that cultural history.
“Utah Heritage Cuisine starts with the indigenous people who first foraged, hunted and farmed this area. It is also characterized by the pioneers that settled here and the agriculture and controlled irrigation that yielded to a high production of farming of grains and vegetables. Mining, immigration and the exchange of international goods brought many foreign influences that helped shape Utah flavor. This is all inspiration for my menu and the stories behind the dishes I feature.” explains Stanger.
When asked about her favorite go-to comfort food, Stanger joked that after likely creating over a million pies by hand in her lifetime, she plans to still celebrate baking pies in retirement. Stanger also adores summer recipes because there are so many wild and local ingredients to include. This year’s summer menu will, according to Stanger, “keep evolving as we continue to educate the community and grow local connections.” Committed to supporting and sustaining local farmers and growers, Stanger’s table remains a tribute to her home state and the Wasatch Back.
Now that you have met the chef, visit Chef Stanger and her team at The Lakehouse Restaurant. They are open year-round for dinner and weekend brunching.