Utah Restaurants

Dynamic Duos—Utah Chefs

More often than not, it’s a solitary name on a restaurant’s menu that draws the crowds. It’s easy to see why, in this industry, a singularly executed vision goes a long way toward a seal of excellence. There are always exceptions to the rule of course, and sometimes two heads are better than one.

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Dynamic Duos Salt Lake City Chefs -- Jonathan LeBlanc and Amber Billingsley. Photo by Dung Hoang

Dynamic Duos Salt Lake City Chefs -- Angry Korean food

Ramsay, Keller, Waters. More often than not, it’s a solitary name on a restaurant’s menu that draws the crowds. It’s easy to see why, in this industry, a singularly executed vision goes a long way toward a seal of excellence.

There are always exceptions to the rule of course, and sometimes two heads are better than one. Here are two of my favorite restaurants in Utah—where there’s no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.

Peter Kim and Young-Ho Kang | The Angry Korean

The talent of the team at this South Jordan eatery comes together seamlessly on the plate, making for a modern take on classic Korean cuisine. The menu is a clever and canny fusion of American and Korean flavors, with dishes blending in unexpectedly delightful ways.

Case in point: newcomers to Korean dining will feel instantly at home with the restaurant’s mouthwatering take on the humble Philly Cheesesteak. While the jumbo-sized hoagie roll spilling over with melted cheese might look instantly familiar at first glance—peek inside and you’ll find Korean bulgogi beef—thinly sliced, marinated Angus beef. It’s a lip smacking umami-intro to a menu that’s riotously fun.

Don’t let those contemporary twists fool you, though. This is no dumbed-down cooking—far from it. Take Kim, for‌ ‌example, and the likes of David Chang’s much-lauded YC-based Momofuku on his resume, and not least, the Michelin-starred Danji, as well.

The cooking at The Angry Korean is deadly serious stuff. Heck, even the soy sauce is crafted in-house—how often do you see that? As a result, even seasoned fans of traditional Korean cooking will find lots to love here—pitch-perfect japchae noodles, freshly made mandoo dumplings, and kimchi that explodes with vibrancy.

11587 District Main Dr., Suite 300, South Jordan

Dynamic Duos Salt Lake City Chefs -- Jonathan LeBlanc and Amber Billingsley. Photo by Dung Hoang
Jonathan LeBlanc and Amber Billingsley. Photo by Dung Hoang

Jonathan LeBlanc and Amber Billingsley | Stanza

In contrast to my first two picks, one restaurant where two chefs do have clearly demarcated areas of expertise is this downtown Italian restaurant. LeBlanc, a graduate of Arts Institute Culinary School in Houston, joined the restaurant around two years ago. On his arrival, he promptly took to retooling a menu that had previously struggled to find it’s focus and feet. The impact was immediate and impressive.

LeBlanc’s day-to-day menu starts with a solid base of refined Italian dishes like house-made pasta and expertly cooked proteins. Nightly specials really show LeBlanc’s chops though—halibut with roasted eggplant and pepper puree, sauteed escarole. Garbanzo beans, anyone?

LeBlanc also makes a point of sourcing local ingredients where possible. In fact, one of LeBlanc’s earliest wine dinners at the helm saw him take a trip to a Tooele farm; taking matters literally into his own hands, securing an oxtail he couldn’t source by any other means, directly from the farmer.

On the sweeter side of things, LeBlanc is joined by Amber Billingsley. Billingsley might be one of the few chefs in town afforded the status of a living legend. I don’t throw that phrase around carelessly, either. Billingsley’s dessert work at both Stanza and Current (part of the same restaurant group) is executed with an almost ethereal touch. Billingsley takes the praise lightly though, simply joking, “I’m just happy people like eating the same stuff I do.”

Just like LeBlanc, Billingsley leans heavily into local product; and also starts from a solid base of Italian classics (think award-winning gelato). From there, special creations like Solstice chocolate mascarpone cheesecake served with a raspberry rhubarb compote and hazelnut biscotti crumble, mean that whenever you stop by Stanza, you’ll have a perfect meal from start to finish.

454 E 300 S, Salt Lake City

READ MORE STORIES ABOUT LOCAL UTAH CHEFS HERE.

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