Two Utah Female Chefs on Cooking, the Restaurant Biz, and More
When we dine out in restaurants, we often first experience the tantalizing smell of food cooking in the kitchen as we simultaneously take in the ambiance of the dining room, fellow guests, and the eatery’s unique decor. Daily specials are conveyed by servers, orders are taken, beverages are delivered; and soon, colorful dishes of beautifully prepared and presented food are placed on the table before us. To our delight, the meal tastes as spectacular as it looks and smells. How does all of this happen? Where does it all start?
Most people would say, “it starts in the kitchen,” and for Peggi Ince-Whiting, partner at Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, and Amy Wanderly-Britt, owner of Pig & a Jelly Jar, you are partly correct.
“It is said that a recipe has no soul; but as the cook, you must bring soul to the recipe,” and these women do exactly that. They bring their soul into the kitchen, and the soul informs the recipes and dishes they have created. They don’t cook for themselves. And they didn’t have a goal of shattering the glass ceiling or even being featured in magazines or television shows, but what these two talented women have in common is that both simply followed their passion. It just so happens that their passion was and is food—how it tastes, how it looks, how it smells.
Amy Wanderly-Britt has been following her passion from a young age. She says that she’s been mentored by strong women her entire life. Beginning her career in the restaurant industry at 16, Wanderly-Britt entered the restaurant biz when she took a part-time job at McDonald’s. Born and raised a southern girl, she embodied hard-working values and respect for her elders; this eventually led her to a position as the youngest general manager in Memphis.
“In many ways, the Salt Lake Valley reminds me of my upbringing in the South; the people and the hospitality,” Wanderly-Britt says. Her laughter is contagious and she loves being a part of something bigger than herself. And since opening the original Pig & a Jelly Jar on 900 South in SLC, she’s added locations in Ogden and Holladay. Business is good.
“Change starts with the individual,” Wanderly-Britt mentioned when discussing her leadership style. In fact, she wouldn’t call herself a leader at all, but more of a life coach or trainer. “Women are maternal, whether we want to have children or not,” which she believes is one reason we are beginning to see more women moving into leadership roles in the restaurant industry and elsewhere.
Pig & A Jelly Jar
As she coaches her team at Pig & A Jelly Jar, she recognizes the responsibility of not only giving her employees the tools necessary to help achieve her own business goals but to help each team member reach his or her own personal goals as well. It is a selfless approach that both of these women chefs share and that both have found much success with.
Of course, a big part of Wanderly-Britt’s success comes from the overwhelming appeal of Pig & a Jelly Jar, and the comforting southern flavors there. The house-brined, double-battered chicken with waffles is a Pig classic, and the irresistible biscuits with sausage gravy make customers swoon. The stick-to-the-ribs fare is served up with a big helping of southern hospitality, all in a light-hearted, not-so-serious ambiance. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to linger for a while, sipping on a Pig & a Jelly Jar Pride Punch cocktail.
Peggi Ince-Whiting has been a sushi chef for over 40 years. Her passion for cooking started with a part-time gig at Hibachi Restaurant in Salt Lake, owned by her best friend’s family. They offered her a summer job, and the rest, as they say, is history. She has been cooking ever since.
Ince-Whiting’s summer job turned into a way for her to support herself during college. She was then called on a Mormon Mission to Tokyo, Japan, which was where she learned Japanese. Upon returning home to Salt Lake City, she worked as a tempura chef at the 47 Samurai in Trolley Square. There that she received the opportunity of a lifetime to go to work and to train under certified Sushi Master Inou at Tokyo’s Hama Sushi. Ince-Whiting jumped at the opportunity; and before she had finished her year of training, she had an offer to open Ichiban Sushi in Park City.
Ichiban Sushi was a favorite Main Street eatery in Park City for many, many years. It became somewhat infamous for Ince-Whiting’s popular Sushi Burn-off—an incendiary competition in which the winner was the person who could eat the most sushi rolls, all made with fiery hot sauces.
Kyoto Japanese Restaurant
Ince-Whiting retired from Ichiban after 19 years, and took several years off to spend with her children; and now that they are grown, she is back in the kitchen. In 2015, she became a managing partner of Kyoto Japanese Restaurant in SLC doing what she loves—preparing sushi and other Japanese specialties for an audience that loves her food.
Along with Kyoto sushi chef Marlene Noda, Ince-Whiting satisfies demanding customers with cuisine that ranges from cooked dishes such as Nabeyaki Udon and Beef Sukiyaki to creative cold ones like the Kinkaku Roll—a specialty featuring spicy salmon and avocado topped with crab, habanero fish eggs and spicy mayo.
Peggi Ince-Whiting and Amy Wanderly-Britt are just two of the army of talented, soulful women with successful businesses working in an industry that is less and less defined by men with each passing year.
Pig & a Jelly Jar
401 E 900 S, Salt Lake City
227 25th Street, Ogden
1968 E Murray Holladay Road, Holladay
Kyoto Japanese Restaurant
1080 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City
ANOTHER UTAH CHEFS ARTICLE FROM THE OCTOBER ISSUE IS FOUND HERE.