The Bill White Restaurant Group boasts eight restaurants in Summit County and an employee roster of over 400, making it the largest independent restaurant group in Utah. After 30 years of serving locals and tourists, we were hungry to find out more about what makes the BWRG an integral part of the Park City economy. Fortunately, Beth Rossi, Communications and Programs Director for Bill White Restaurants, Farms, and Ranches was ready to dish.
Welcome Back! During the shutdown, I heard that the BWRG was donating food to non-profits. Which organizations did you choose, how did you choose them, and what was the impact?
Immediately upon the shutdown, we hosted a centralized food pantry for all of our amazing employees at our Billy Blanco’s location. We consolidated all of the food and essentials from our restaurants, and we tried to help our employees in whatever way we could.
We work consistently with many non-profits, hosting fundraising events for them here at our headquarters/farm location for our Non-Profit Benefit Farm Dinners and events- like Peoples Health Clinic, Sundance Institute, National Ability Center, Stein Eriksen Endowment, Peace House, to name a few. Our dinners are focused on seasonal ingredients from the farm, as well as other locally sourced proteins and products.
We also work closely with Christian Center of Park City to provide food to their food pantry from our Farm/Ranch and also through our food supplier vendors, as well as take their food waste to our compost and to feed animals.
Looking back, how did the BWRG begin? Who is Bill White, and why did he choose Park City to begin his food mission?
Bill White was born and raised on a cherry farm in northern Michigan. He first experienced the restaurant business at the age of twelve, cooking French fries at a drive‐in in his local town. By age seventeen, he was running the entire kitchen operation and overseeing a staff of thirty at a steakhouse that grossed 2 million dollars a year.
At age 22, he enrolled at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. A year later, Bill was offered a job teaching culinary arts at the Center International de Glion, a hotel school located in the mountains above Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Through his travels, he recognized the need to return home to the United States and further his business knowledge. In 1991 Bill decided to try the mountain life and moved to the growing ski town of Park City, Utah. He started at the Olive Barrel Food Company at Deer Valley, which featured a popular from-scratch Mediterranean cuisine.
The BWRG has not only one restaurant, but nine different enterprises, from Pan-Asian to Italian to a bakery and a farm, why such a variety? How does this affect the way the BWRG operates?
We are a pretty well inter-connected company. While each property has its own identity and ambiance, there are a lot of ways we interact together. Specifically, the Bakery provides all of the bread, desserts, and ice creams from scratch to all of our restaurants. We also have certain properties that make the pasta, sausages, cheeses, etc. and provide them to the other ones as well. Then, the Farm/Ranch operation provides supplies to properties as well for special items, like our eggs, meat, and produce. At the same time, the Farm/Ranch takes the kitchen scraps from the restaurants for our compost and to feed our pigs and chickens.
Bill quickly understood the need for more restaurants in the up & coming growing mountain town, specifically on Park City’s, then much sleepier, Main Street. So, his business ventures began with the purchase of the Alpine Prospector Hotel in 1992. After a major renovation, he reopened it as his first restaurant, Grappa Italian Restaurant in January 1993. The momentum generated from crowds of happy customers and celebrity endorsements led to Bill opening a second restaurant. In 1996, Bill opened Chimayo, an eclectic Southwestern restaurant. It received rave reviews and is still considered the most popular among Bill’s eight restaurants today.
What is the mission of Bill White Farms? What is unique about how restaurants, the business, and the farm all operate?
Over time, the Bill White Farms property grew into a much bigger desire to feed and educate the community. He saw the necessity for a place in the community where children, adults, and other non-profits alike, could come to learn about being more connected to their food, the environment and deepen their connection to the earth. So, the Bill White Agriculture, Education, Sustainability Center, a 501c3 non-profit, was formed with a mission to help with this ever-growing need he saw. To help meet the growing needs of the operation, Bill transitioned the main growing and operations to the new Bill White Ranches on Old Ranch Road, in the heart of Park City’s agricultural corridor. Today, the Ranch is home to over 400 chickens, 3 greenhouses, several outdoor gardens, an indoor microgreens operation, beehives, a tree farm, and even a 100,000-gallon organic fish farm, which allows for hydroponic growing all year round. The Ranch is also an ever-evolving experimental operation, as Bill and his team work to develop new and revolutionary methods to help feed others in a more sustainable, efficient, and healthier way.
As Bill grew the Farm, he learned more over the years about agricultural practices. With the growing need to establish more methods to help Park City meet its ambitious sustainability goals of being carbon neutral by 2030. Ultimately, he hopes to shift the paradigm and combat the destructive and unhealthy practices of factory farming.
Which BWRG restaurant is best for families? Couples? Special Occasions? Late-night?
I would say that all of our properties purposefully meet all of these categories, minus late night, we don’t really have anywhere that is ever open past 10, minus Sundance parties. But for sure our more casual lunch and dinner locations are more popular for families- Blanco’s, Sushi Blue and Windy Ridge Café and our finer dining locations are more popular for special occasions, the private booths at Wahso are especially popular for couples and anniversaries, etc.