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Beehive Startups

My Day In Paradise At The Park City Culinary Institute

My conversion happened May 18, a day I mark as one of the greatest of my life, third only to the births of my two children. May 18 was the day the Park City Culinary Institute generously let me sit in on a class.

Should your kids take a gap year before college? The New York Times reports even Harvard endorses a gap year, because “students who take time off tend to do better academically.” We have two alumni who are starting college now, not only with a great gap year behind them, but the skills to earn money while in school.

“Understanding the science of cooking changes your life,” says Laurie Moldawer, founder and director of the Park City Culinary Institute. The institute offers an 8-week program where students attend classes four days a week taught by notable, award-winning chefs. The program is shorter and more affordable than other culinary programs, costing just $8,900 compared to an average of $11,000 in most other parts of the country. “It’s an amazing value,” Moldawer says.

But it’s not just the price tag that makes the Park City Culinary Institute attractive to up-and-coming chefs — it’s also the quality of instruction. Instead of employing professional educators, Moldawer hires executive chefs. “They’re actually experienced chefs,” she says. These chefs know not only how to prepare delicious food, but how to navigate the food industry as well. Understanding every aspect of the industry is necessary for Park City Culinary Institute graduates because the program has a job placement rate of nearly 100%. Those who have completed the program are now working in the top Utah restaurants. “If it’s a high-end restaurant, our students are there,” Moldawer says. Additionally, raises for graduates have been as high as 17% compared to their salaries before starting the program.

Moldawer herself is a culinary school graduate. She took six months off from her career to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She then returned to her job in New York to help build a law firm and double its revenue. Eventually the time came, however, for her to leave New York, so she drove west. “When I drove into Park City it was just really different,” Moldawer says. “There was just something magical about Utah. Something about the air.” So she made Park City her home and continued working remotely for the law firm she helped build.

Then, one day, while she was attending a Park City leadership program, the topic of economic viability arose. With a very seasonal ski and tourist industry, the city was struggling in the offseason. The consensus was that a culinary school could attract visitors year round. The city just needed a director. Moldawer stepped up to the (dinner) plate, and, using her personal law firm salary, founded the Park City Culinary Institute, which became profitable this year.

One of Moldawer’s initial challenges was trying to start a culinary school in a culture that does not believe in indulging or enjoying food. “People are taught that thrift is more important than the experience of enjoying high-end food,” Moldawer says. In actuality, as Moldawer explains, investing in a culinary program can help the home cook save money in the long run. “The more you understand, you not only use the items that you would have thrown out, you know what to do to make everything you cook last longer,” Moldawer explains, then adds, “It’s okay to enjoy food. It’s an experience that deserves time and attention.”

The upside to native Utahns being slow to sign on is the diversity of students. People come from all over the world to enroll in the institute. “It’s really developing as a destination for people around the country,” Moldawer says, citing the proximity to local farms and producers as part of the draw, a draw she expects to increase. “People are going to want to come from around the country to experience our school and Utah.”

Headquartered at the Deer Valley Club, the Institute Offers a Variety of Programming for Groups

Learning how to cook as a team is great practice for improving employee communication, time management, and problem solving skills.

Learning how to cook as a team is great practice for improving employee communication, time management, and problem solving skills.

An increasingly popular destination for corporate meetings and retreats, Park City, Utah is home to Park City Culinary Institute, which uses cuisine as a vehicle for facilitating team building for groups. This month, one of Utah’s most impressive culinary talents, French Chef Clement Gelas joins Park City Culinary Institute to lead programs for corporate groups. A Park City resident since 2005, Gelas has served as Executive Chef at some of the resort town’s most celebrated restaurants, including Wahso, Waldorf Astoria Park City, and Talisker on Main. He remains Club Director of Food and Beverage for Talisker, while adding his new role with Park City Culinary Institute.
“Learning how to cook as a team is great practice for improving employee communication, time management, and problem solving skills,” says Chef Clement Gelas. “We create culinary programming that serves as a fun way to build rapport between colleagues, and develop leadership skills. Since just about everybody loves food, we use it as a way to inspire team work.”
Gelas leads programs ranging from demonstrations to hands-on workshops, wine tastings, and cooking competitions. Cooking programs range from 90 minutes to four hours, depending on the group’s schedule and needs. Shorter programs fit between meals, and can be hands-on cooking classes, or wine, whiskey and beer tastings. Four-hour programs include lunch or dinner.
“It’s rewarding for participants to compete against each other, working as teams to develop a menu or particular dish, organizing themselves and dividing the tasks between team members,” Gelas explains. “We also have a format that invites participants to cook their favorite childhood dishes to present to the others. It’s a successful tool for colleagues to become better acquainted while honing their presentation skills.”

Laurie Moldawer, the Institute’s Founder and Director, adds, “Companies often use the Institute’s programs to build stronger relationships with clients, and reward sales teams and high performers. Corporate Boards and C-level Executives use our programs to relax and build rapport between meetings.”
The programs are held at the exclusive Deer Valley Club, with ski in ski out access to Deer Valley Resort. As the sole provider of Food & Beverage for the Deer Valley Club, the school caters both on and off site. Private dining at the Deer Valley Club is a more intimate, relaxed and refined alternative to a traditional banquet room. The Institute’s chefs are trained all over the world which gives them the ability to offer authentic, international cuisine from Italian and Spanish to Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Latin. The private dining room can be customized for smaller groups of 30 guests to up to 100-plus guests. Capacity can be extended to more than 150 guests with al fresco dining on the private patio. Accommodations at the Deer Valley Club are occasionally available for groups during Park City’s shoulder seasons.
For more info about Park City Culinary Institute’s customized offerings for team building programs and private functions, and the faculty of award-winning chefs, visit or call 435.659.5075.

Park City Culinary Institute features award-winning chefs to offer a distinctive culinary program that rivals some of the best culinary schools in the country. In addition to the school’s two-month immersive hands-on program, the Institute hosts teambuilding events and caters for private and corporate groups. Park City Culinary Institute makes it “Seamless, Wonderful, Fabulous!” according to Maureen McDonald at Health Catalyst. “The highlight of the trip… I can’t wait to bring another group and enjoy your amazing cuisine,” wrote award-winning caterer Mary Crafts on behalf of International Caterers Association. For more information, visit

According to Salt Lake Magazine, Park City Culinary Institute is a Cooking School that Makes Sense

As featured in Deseret News, learning how to cook without recipes can help you cook healthier at home. Deseret News interviewed Park City Culinary Institute to get tips on how to cook healthier for your family. Click here for the full article.

City Weekly’s Devour Magazine featured a story about us, asking “Want to streamline your own hoe kitchen technique or start a food-based business? Are you considering a career shift into the restaurant industry? The PCCI program might just be right for you.”

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