How three Utah chefs left the line to explore new ways with food

Teaching, catering and wholesale baking are among the new ventures these chefs are trying.

In the sometimes cutthroat world of gastronomy, some popular chefs have decided to swap the sweltering heat of the kitchen for a more palatable entrance into the local food scene.

These culinary mavericks have taken their talents to divergent avenues without renouncing their love for serving good food, as they savor the opportunity to put their signature twist on any food-related endeavor.

Whether through a lively cooking class, exclusive events, or an artisan loaf of bread, these food-scene savants continue to change the game, proving that culinary creativity is no longer solely confined to the four walls of a restaurant kitchen.

Nick Fahs, Table X

Mike Blocher and Nick Fahs opened Table X to offer a new and reimagined way of fine dining in Salt Lake City. The restaurant continues to evolve in seasonal culinary dishes and how they source ingredients. Today, you might say it is a well-oiled machine, offering a sustainable work-life balance for the owners and employees.

“It has always been our plan to run the bakery alongside the restaurant,” Fahs said. “While I am not involved in the kitchen day-to-day, I am still very involved in our business.”

In January 2020, Fahs moved into the space downstairs from the restaurant to run the wholesale business that is now the Table X Bakery. He and his team create naturally fermented sourdough bread, French baguettes, and other items sold to the public and wholesale clients.

The original recipe was created by Blocher, who at first made all the bread for the restaurant. Fahs took on the role a few years later and began experimenting with different things himself.

“There was a demand for good bread made with good local products and was able to be sold wholesale,” Fahs said. “I started selling bread to Caputo’s, and the whole idea was to get more brand recognition through that product to the restaurant. But then when COVID hit, I went full steam ahead with the bread operations. We expanded the space, got more equipment, and built out the bakery.”

Brandon Price, Oakwood Fire Kitchen, Trio and Niño Viejo

After being in the kitchen for 14 years, Price took on a new role in the culinary industry as a premium protein specialist for Sysco, and moonlighting as a homemade pizza instructor.

“I think COVID was the main reason I got out. Post-COVID, restaurants were just not the same,” Price said. “It was hard to find labor. It was hard to be profitable. People were going to restaurants and supporting them right after COVID, but after a year or two, I don’t think it was as big of a push to help restaurants.”

Price went to work for the Salt Coast Restaurant Group as a corporate chef, and helped open Niño Viejo in Farmington. Shortly after, a friend and main partner left the group, which significantly contributed to the swing in Price’s mindset to shift gears.

“I was working a hundred hours a week and wasn’t seeing my family. A friend of mine came into the restaurant [Niño Viejo] and told me about the opportunity at Sysco,” Price said. “I felt like I was too young to retire. But later that week, I lost my sous chef, two line cooks, and a dishwasher. So after that, I decided that next Sunday, I was done.”

COVID times also inspired Price to further hone the art of making pizza. He had been a bread maker for a long time, and during his tenure at Oakwood Fire Kitchen, making pizza was a daily occurrence. Then, at the request of a friend, Price did a pizza demonstration for an Instagram live on the friend’s channel. From there, the class requests started coming in, including from the restaurant supply store Orson Gygi and from Gozney Pizza Ovens — giving Price a new side hustle that he enjoyed.

“There is no retirement package for chefs,” Price said. “My goal was always to get into a place like Sysco, just when I was a bit older. I have enjoyed spending more time with my family, taking vacations, etc. Another benefit to a job like this [is]paid vacation.”

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) R&R BBQ founders Rod Livingston, left, and his twin brother Roger, in Alpine in 2011.

Rod Livingston, R&R BBQ

Rod and Roger Livingston, the identical twin brothers who founded the iconic R&R BBQ and opened their first restaurant in 2013, are back in the BBQ game after selling their business and “retiring” in 2020.

Four Food Groups, with whom the Livingstons had an established partnership with for several years, purchased the company and pursued expansion goals. The company was sold again to the current owners, Savory Funds. Longtime fans of the original may be wishing for the good ol’ days when Rod and Roger were at the helm.

“We loved serving the community,” Rod said. “But we didn’t like the direction the partnership was going in. Recipes were getting changed and getting away from what we wanted it to be.”

R&R BBQ originally came about when the brothers decided to swap interest rates for smoky flavors. They ditched their careers in the mortgage game to conquer the saucy realm of competitive barbecuing. After winning or placing highly in multiple competitions, including a fifth place for brisket at the Jack Daniels World BBQ Grand Championships, the duo decided to share their love of barbecue with the masses — first in 2010 with a food truck, and eventually opening 11 restaurants.

Today, their thrilling return is on a smaller scale, catering for their favorite events, weddings, and parties.

“Livingston Brothers BBQ is our catering business,” Rod said. “I love serving excellent barbecue. There is always a place for someone who wants to be the best. We do limited jobs right now, just things we enjoy, like serving at Camp Hobe, a camp for children and their families who have cancer, stuff we got away from when we went corporate.”