Galen Zamarra has a great smile. You might not be able to see it too often these days —as it’s typically hidden under a mask — but trust me, it’s there. And, as the executive chef at Yuta, The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection’s restaurant in Wanship, Utah, there is plenty to smile about.
Wanship is a laid-back, sleepy place that has never exactly been known for its cuisine — with the possible exception of the much-loved and much-missed Spring Chicken Inn. But with the creation of The Lodge at Blue Sky — one of the glittering gems in the Auberge Resorts Collection — Yuta has become a world-class dining destination with a world-class chef at the helm.
Galen is a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef who worked in 3-star Michelin restaurants in France with the likes of Alain Passard and David Bouley before opening his own French-inspired restaurant in New York City called Mas (Farmhouse) in 2004. Just a few years prior, in 2001, Galen was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Mas started out slowly but gained momentum, ultimately garnering a 2-star New York Times review from Frank Bruni and an eighth best restaurant in New York City rating by Zagats. Sadly, a fire broke out at Mas in 2016 and, even after extensive repairs and reopening, the restaurant never quite regained the traction it once had, New York diners being a notoriously fickle bunch.
The good news is that closing Mas freed Galen to pursue other adventures, and when he was recruited to become executive chef at The Lodge at Blue Sky, he and his wife, Katie, and two children decided to relocate to Utah.
Beehive State food lovers should be grateful.
The Lodge at Blue Sky — in which Yuta restaurant is situated — is the eye-popping centerpiece of the expansive ranch. Somehow, the architects and designers managed to combine rustic themes like horses and cowboys with ultra-contemporary decor to create spaces that are warm and inviting, yet thoroughly sleek and modern. One such space is The Bar, where you can settle into a comfy couch and sip on a signature cocktail (I recommend the Horse Thief). The proceeds from each Horse Thief cocktail sold is donated by Blue Sky’s co-owner, Barbara Phillips, to the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, which aids in the rescue of abused, abandoned, and neglected horses.
After you finish your drink, wander a few steps over to Yuta restaurant to enjoy a meal on the sprawling terrace with vast mountain views — or select a table in the beautifully appointed dining room. Like everything else at The Lodge at Blue Sky, the look is super snazzy, but the vibe is warm and welcoming. Whether you’re dressed in a custom-made designer dress or blue jeans and cowboy boots — you’ll fit right in.
Galen’s cuisine strongly emphasizes local, preferably organic ingredients from the on-site Gracie’s Farm, as well as ingredients from artisan purveyors and neighboring farms. Fresh produce plays a key role in many of Galen’s dishes, ranging from the sunchoke puree that kisses the artichoke-crusted rack of lamb; the cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, and avocado that grace his octopus aguachile negra; or the spaghetti squash, pearl onions, watercress puree, crispy leeks, arugula, and candied olives that contribute bold flavors to Yuta’s grilled swordfish skewer.
Yuta means “mountaintop” in Ute. And, near the top of a mountain in Wanship, at Yuta restaurant, you’ll discover refined, local mountain cuisine that is worthy of the highest surrounding peaks.