Food & Drink

Chef Joey Ferran of Cucina Wine Bar Experiments with Food

Executive Chef Joey Ferran’s mind is always thinking about his next dish on the menu at Cucina Wine Bar. He keeps a notebook handy where he can write down his ideas and even draw how a dish could be plated.


“Sometimes you have an idea when you’re cutting vegetables or doing a catering order that you want to write down to revisit later,” he explains. He also enjoys looking back at his ideas to see how they did or didn’t work. 

His professional inspiration for dishes at Cucina comes from many places, one being personal experience. “I like niche restaurants that specialize in Chinese, Ethiopian,” he says, and also points to gardening as another learning opportunity. “Growing your own garden helps you see what’s in season.” He’s grown Virginia Sweets tomatoes and herbs for garnishes in recent years.  

“My Instagram is filled with celebrity chefs — the big, heavy hitters that I can gather inspiration from,” he explains. I try to collect all the knowledge that I can and stay abreast of current trends — and try to create some of my own.”

Ferran has certainly drawn rave reviews from both customers and food media. Since joining Cucina, he’s earned a number of Best Restaurant and Rising Chef awards.

The accolades celebrate his ever-expanding palate and creative presentation to guests. Where else can you find grasshopper tajin but on his hybrid romaine salad that also features a guava-jalapeno dressing and dried sweet corn? Want to try freeze-dried black ants? Look no further than the levain bruschetta. “It’s like peppercorns with legs,” he says of the taste.

And just like the levain (similar to sourdough) starter, the unusual additions are not just for shock value — they have historical nutritional characteristics and add distinct flavors and textures. 

Cucina’s small plates menu pulls flavors from the Pacific Rim and across America. Yet much of Ferran’s recipe and flavor development technique comes directly from Log Haven’s Executive Chef Dave Jones, whom he worked under for nearly a decade as a sous chef.

“Dave Jones is a great guy, and you see a lot of what he taught me in my food,” beams Ferran. “Branching out on my own, I’ve learned that I have to dial things down from his standard because they are so big — a huge amount of ingredients in everything. I’ve learned some restraint.”

A quick glance at any of Cucina’s dinner menus in the past few years might cause one to question the restraint on paper, but what stands out about Ferran’s culinary offerings are the flavor details that each bite delivers. Sauces utilizing the rich notes of fruits and nuts are countered by herbaceous oils and fresh greens. Sweet is contrasted with salty.

Even “simple” items on the menu, like the oak & frisee salad surprise and delight diners with unexpected twists like grilled strawberries and a mint brandy cream. Crab cakes get a boost of color and freshness via “cilantro paint” sauce splattered below the luscious crab cakes dressed with chipotle mayo.

Highlighting quality, fresh ingredients are hallmarks that Ferran fervently adheres to, and he and his staff work hard to showcase that on Cucina’s menu. Mushrooms are a staple thanks to their versatility, and the current offering is the Lion’s Mane mushroom under a brick, celebrating shiitake mushrooms alongside baby bok choy. 

The stunning ahi tuna poke shareable pops with meaty red tuna, vibrant mango and fresh avocado, all made to be scooped up on a furikake cracker. The dish also features Guajillo, which Ferran feels pairs excellently with the mango. “Guajillo is probably my favorite chili,” he explains, “because it’s earthy, smoky, a little but fruity. It’s a nice, robust flavor. It lends itself in directions without being too nuanced in one direction.”  

Fresh pasta dishes are given special attention thanks to Ferran’s own entrepreneurial spirit prior to joining Cucina. He finds the art of pasta making very relaxing and enjoys bringing new pasta dishes to the table frequently for guests. Some years ago, he started a pasta-making company and, he says, “I learned a lot about putting different flavors into pasta and drying and storing them and I brought all that here.”

Born and raised along the Wasatch Front, Ferran is the next generation of chefs bringing interest and respect to the Utah culinary scene. Reserve a seat at the table and put his skills to the taste test.


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