Fall is here in our beautiful valley, and with the changing leaves come some pretty noticeable changes at Wildfire Smokehaus at the Zermatt Resort in Midway.
Once mostly known for its finger-licking good wings, nachos and casual cowboy atmosphere, Wildfire is ready to be known for living up to the “smoke” in Smokehaus.
“I’ve tried BBQ all over Utah and we are striving to be the best,” asserts Sam Phelan, Wildfire’s new executive chef. Hickory smoke now permeates almost every entrée on the new menu. “I’m confident we are headed in the right direction.”
Smoking the Fall Away
This time of year lends itself to hearty recipes and familiar comfort foods — dishes new Food and Beverage Manager Michael Oren and Chef Phelan have anticipated since coming onto the Zermatt scene. They have worked hard to revamp and improve everything at Wildfire — from the recipes, rubs, menus and methods, to even the smoke itself.
Oren, a BBQ connoisseur, brings his love and knowledge of low and slow Texas-style smoking methods to the table. Earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, he quickly realized he wasn’t meant for a cubicle. He decided to stick to food and beverage instead, and has been managing restaurants for the past 20 years.
A stickler for quality control and having the right systems in place, Oren believes the most important part of his job is “putting a great, quality meal in front of people.” To do so, he’s implemented improved policies and procedures, and has shared invaluable trade secrets acquired over the course of his long career in the industry.
Chef Phelan, originally from Alabama, received his culinary training in Vermont and has over 10 years of fine dining experience under his (now cowboy) belt. After building a house in Heber three years ago, Phelan now calls the valley home and looks forward to putting down roots.
On the culinary side, Phelan is excited about including more flavors that add a fresh, bright contrast to the powerful intensity of his smoky BBQ. His menu features all new salads and an incredible fried green tomato appetizer — the perfect complements to tender pulled chicken and perfectly-sauced pulled pork, premium spicy chopped beef, St. Louis ribs and 18-hour smoked brisket.
With good ol’ sides such as potato salad, cornbread muffins, Rancho beans and house-made pickles, Wildfire brings the best of the BBQ world to the Heber Valley.
It’s All About the Food
Like many of our fellow newcomers, Chef Phelan loves the open space and quieter lifestyle the valley offers and dreams of one day starting a family here. He is excited to grow with the community and feels that the Heber Valley has only just started raising the culinary bar — especially with BBQ.
“We want people to come in and see for themselves that our BBQ is different than before,” says Phelan. “You can actually taste the smoke.”
Since moving here six years ago, Oren has made life-long connections and plans on being in the valley for a long time. He’s excited to be a part of an emerging food scene that has people buzzing.
“In a few short years, I can see us being on par with Park City,” Oren explains. “I want to keep people here in our valley, instead of driving somewhere else. Our valley is growing whether we like it or not — might as well have great food.”
Our valley has seen numerous changes and will continue the balancing act of keeping things “the old way” while embracing exciting new transformations. Wildfire Smokehaus’ passionate team is determined to adapt as well, and will continue to deliver delicious Texas-style BBQ to our beloved valley.
“Wildfire” sound familiar? You may have heard the popular 70s song by the same name, sung by Michael Martin Murphy. This is no coincidence, as Murphy has frequented Wildfire over the years and has close ties to the joint. A regular performer at the Heber Valley Country Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Murphy will be taking the stage again this year for the gathering’s 25th Anniversary. If you miss his performance, you may just see him at his namesake restaurant… If you can tear yourself away from your mouth-watering plate of BBQ, that is.