Since 1991, Jose “Ernesto” Rocha has been a fixture in the food scene in and around Park City. Ernesto notes that as the food industry in Park City has “grown up tremendously;” he grew with it. Thirty years later, Ernesto’s wide warm smile, creative culinary art, and enthusiasm for food welcome locals and guests at the new Black Rock Mountain Resort.

Ernesto came to Park City to save money to return to college. Fortunately for Park City, he found his passion and stayed. Starting as a dishwasher, Ernesto watched what was happening around him. He explains, “From my station, I could see what others were doing. I offered to help.” Within weeks, 19-year-old Ernesto was promoted.

On a trip home, Ernesto noticed the girl across the street had grown up. He asked her out on a Tuesday. They married the following Saturday. Ernesto and Dalia have been married for 27 years. Together, they have three children.

Ernesto’s passion for learning grew along with the culinary community in Park City. Working with the finest chefs in hotels and country clubs, he notes, “I was always looking for the best chef. I was hunting for people with better knowledge. New chefs came to town with new ideas and I learned from them.” Since then, Ernesto’s culinary talent, creativity and style can be seen in all of the finest restaurants along the Wasatch Back.

“A restaurant is an experience,” notes Ernesto. “You have to make it fun. Fun for the guests and fun for the employees.” Stemming from his vast experience, Ernesto’s menu is eclectic. He explains, “I love the influence from different cultures. I love colors. I love textures.” However, “I like to focus on what we have here.”

Committed to supporting local ranchers, farmers, and growers, the kitchen at the Overlook Restaurant at Black Rock Mountain Resort is filled with fresh Utah products, including cheeses from Gold Creek Farms.

Chef Ernesto’s menu changes seasonally, but always includes farm fresh ingredients from local vendors. When planning the menu, Ernesto first connects with his vendors for a preview of what they will have available.

“The weather also determines the menu,” says Ernesto. “Moving into winter, we have heavier and heartier meals because people are hungry aft er skiing and being outside in the cold.”

Ernesto’s must-have ingredient is jalapeño peppers. He recalls, “In 1991, it was impossible to find jalapeños in the kitchen.” He watched the jalapeño go from being nonexistent in cooking to being a staple ingredient on pizzas and in cocktails.

Black Rock Mountain Resort, the Overlook Restaurant, and the On the Rocks Bar are brand new. Ernesto notes, “it is near Park City, but it is also in the middle of nowhere.” He’s right. It is a quick drive from Park City, Kamas, or Heber. Centrally located it fills a need for both locals and guests.

Ernesto designed the menu to be family-friendly with a wide variety of food so that people do not have to drive into Park City, or so that folks can escape from Park City.

As someone who essentially grew up in the Park City culinary world, Ernesto tells the next generation, “Take advantage of all the opportunities in Park City. There is so much to learn. And, love what you do.” It is evident from the taste of his food to his natural and easy smile that Ernesto loves what he does.

SOURCEJulie Hooker
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