The Hands Behind the Plate – Yuta, The Lodge at Blue Sky’s Signature Restaurant

From humble beginnings attending culinary classes while working in restaurants at nights in high school to cooking under Michelin 3-Starred chefs in France, to opening two award-winning restaurants—Chef Galen Zamarra is both a veteran and visionary to the craft. He is now the Executive Chef at YUTA, The Lodge at Blue Sky’s signature restaurant, where he spends his time artfully marrying his classically trained techniques and panoply of cultural influences with locally sourced ingredients to create the multi-sensory experience we hold in such esteem from The Lodge at Blue’s Sky’s signature restaurant. To learn more about the man behind the apron, I sat down with Chef Zamarra and picked his brain on his favorite topic—food.

WHAT IS THE FIRST MEAL YOU EVER PREPARED ON YOUR OWN?
My siblings and I cooked a lot when we were young, because my mother, who was a single parent, had to work mornings and nights. I remember the point where I wanted to consider cooking as a profession, so I decided to make dinner for a friend of ours, who was a chef, and I made her baked ziti. She didn’t like it, but was impressed that I tried and offered me a job.

WHICH CULINARY TREND WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISAPPEAR?
It’s not a trend, but in recent years people have a lot of restrictions with the food they can eat and instead of addressing the issues and focusing on fixing the causes, many people just accept it. As a chef, restrictions tend to take the creativity and artistry out of cooking.

WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE FOOD?
I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I eat a lot of candy. But I also really like burgers, and especially fast-food burgers. My kids like them too so we go to the favorites, Shake Shack, 5 Guys, In & Out…we like to eat.

ON THE OPPOSITE END OF THE SPECTRUM, WHAT IS ONE FOOD YOU HATE?
Celery. I generally don’t even have it in the restaurant or in my stock because I don’t like it. I like celery root and celery leaf a lot, but the stalks are…gross.

WHAT DISHES WOULD YOU SERVE AT YOUR OWN PRIVATE DINNER PARTY?
I love to entertain at home, and I prefer to cook more casual meals that are communal. My wife is southern and tonight we are doing a crawfish boil where we fry up crawfish from New Orleans. It’s an experience we’d usually invite people to share with us if we weren’t in a pandemic.

IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN ONE DISH, WHICH DISH WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I like making soups because it allows me to focus on the seasonality of foods and to cater to any level of cuisine from casual to high end. It’s also a great way to sneak some vegetables into your diet.