Meet Team Targhee: Chef Eric Gruber
“The first thing I talk about with my team is that we all cook every single day. We are not going downstairs and opening up a thing of ranch dressing. We are going to go ahead and make everything we possibly can.”
Yes Chef! Whether you are chowing down at the Trap Bar or enjoying the finer things in life at the Branding Iron, quotes like that from our new Executive Chef should get you excited about dining at Grand Targhee Resort. Eric Gruber joined Team Targhee at the end of the 2021 summer and has spent the fall preparing for his winter in the Tetons.
Before coming to the Wydaho area, Chef spent time in Big Sky, Montana, San Diego, California, and McCall, Idaho, working in various kitchens across the west. That variety of experience, whether in high-end hotels or luxury ranches, has given him more than enough skill to make dining at Grand Targhee a memorable experience. It has also given him an appreciation for how good we’ve got it here at the Ghee. It’s not corporate, it’s laid back, and there are plenty of opportunities for Chef to put his spin on the goods.
“There’s no limit to what we can do. It’s a blank canvas as far as us being able to create in order to grow the business. We’re not just buying boxes of food and putting it in the oven and then serving it because anyone can do that. We are going to be unique. I don’t care if it’s a potato salad or a beer and wine dinner in the Branding Iron. We are going to put the same amount of emphasis on every single dish. We are going to make sure that we are cooking, that we are tasting, that every moment in these kitchens we are engaged.”
Unique cooking, engaged staff, an emphasis on every single dish. All that sounds great, but what does that actually look like? What will be on the menu when you go out to eat at the Branding Iron? What can you expect? Well, you can be sure that the menu will always have new dishes and fresh takes with a creative Chef pulling the strings. You can also expect your meal to have a familiar feel to it when you ultimately do come back for a second, third, and fourth helping.
“If you come back in the summer, there’s going to be some staples to the menu that are always going to be here. We’re going to make sure there’s a consistency to that. I think about my favorite restaurants in tall the cities I’ve lived in and to be able to go back to some of those restaurants and order some of the same stuff I had 10 years ago that they are really known for. Not that we can’t be creative, and we can’t have those things rotate seasonally, but there are items like Bison Short Ribs, Fried Chicken, Chicken Fried Quail that aren’t necessarily a seasonal dish. Those are the types of things that I want to be consistent.”
Yes Chef! It is understood that the Branding Iron will be a must-stop this winter regardless of whether I hit the slopes or not. But what about the other dining options at Grand Targhee? How does a new Executive Chef impact places like Wild Bill’s and Snorkels? What if I just want a burger at the Trap? Don’t worry; Chef is making his presence felt throughout Targhee.
“Fresh ground beef for our smash burgers as opposed to frozen patties. For a $12 hamburger, it should be the best $12 burger you’ve ever had. That’s kind of the idea.”
And if you would please Chef, how exactly does that happen?
“We are going to do that through consistency, we are going to do that through quality, we are going to do that through good food and good service across the board.”
Convinced yet? The food alone will be worth the trip to the end of Ski Hill Road this year. Did we mention we also serve skiing here? You probably already knew that, though. So it’s been established that you should plan on enjoying some food on your next day at Targhee. Let’s shift subjects and learn a little more about the kitchens preparing your food.
We went rapid-fire with our new Executive Chef to get the inside scoop on what the kitchens at Targhee look like.
How could your team be summarized?
“It is super diverse. Kitchens are a group of pirates that get together to cook food.”
Lots of new faces or a bunch of seasoned veterans this year?
“The whole kitchen is almost brand new. 5 out of 35 are returning. So, you are training a lot of people at once, but people are super excited to be here.”
Tell us more about these pirates on your staff?
“We’re from all over the country. We’ve got J1’s from Peru, from Brazil from Malaysia. It’s a high ratio of females as well, which is great. So, it’s not some male-dominated, macho kitchen. I’ve noticed in the past at properties I’ve worked at the more culturally diverse, and the more even male to female ratio the kitchens are, the better they run.”
How else does that diversity impact the kitchen?
“Everyone always brings something to the table. You got somebody coming in from Brazil, what do you cook at home? What did your grandmother make you? You end up learning that way, and people get excited about bringing something to the table they didn’t necessarily know they were able to.”
How has the season started out? Busy, slow, or just right?
“Other than opening weekend we haven’t been too busy, so it’s given us some time to really work through the menu, to work through the personalities. It’s new. Nacho not being here after 33 years is a big change. It’s a huge change.” Coming in as the Executive Chef having Nacho there would have been awesome.”
What other challenges have you encountered?
“Supply chain right now is ridiculously hard. We can’t get onion rings.”
Anything totally unexpected so far?
“The first season at a new property is always the hardest as you learn things that you thought would work sometimes don’t. A lot of times you learn more from the things you screw up and your failures. So, I’m sure there will be plenty of those this winter where we check ourselves.”
Finally, what else are you into besides cooking delicious food?
“I fly fish. I’m not good at it, but I’m passionate about it. So, I wanted to be somewhere where I could fish as often as humanly possible.”
We are obviously excited to enjoy the tasty food that will be coming out of the Targhee kitchens this winter. We are even more excited to have Eric Gruber as a member of team Targhee this year. His skills in the kitchen along with his vision for the resort’s food and beverage department are sure to have an impact. But don’t just take our word as gospel. Get up to the Branding Iron and the Trap Bar this holiday season to see for yourself.