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Park City

Local chef Briar Handly nominated for prestigious James Beard Award

Briar Handly - credit Briar Handly.jpg
Briar Handly

The Executive Chef and co-owner of Park City’s Handle restaurant has been nominated by the James Beard Foundation for best chef in the Mountain Division.

It’s been a lifetime goal of Briar Handly to be recognized for a James Beard award. He is one of 20 nominees in the Mountain Division, which includes, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

“It’s pretty, like truly an honor among chefs, it's kind of like the Oscars for chefs,” Handly explained. “And I just really am so lucky to be nominated. You know, that's kind of what like, I've strived for my whole life. And since I started cooking many years ago.”

James Beard was an American chef, author of 22 cookbooks and established the James Beard Cooking School in the 1950s. He pioneered the television cooking show, paving the way for today’s celebrity chefs.

According to the James Beard website, the winners of the Restaurant and Chef award nominees will be revealed March 16th. Handly says he doesn’t have to prepare any meals for the judges before a winner is chosen.

Handly says it’s a mystery who nominated him, and a huge honor to be in the company of excellent chefs.

“There's just so many talented individuals out there that have been nominated and garner this award. And just to be lumped in with those folks is just for me as a shadow just makes me and my team, so proud of like what we've accomplished.”

After high school, Handly moved to Colorado to ski and started working in restaurants. He says he discovered he liked to cook, and he learned a lot from some longtime local Park City chefs after culinary school.

“[I] had no idea what I wanted to do or be and just really fell in love with that pursuit of perfection and making people happy with the food that I put out,” Handly said. “I went to culinary school back east in Vermont where I grew up, and then came back out west to Utah, and just really worked, did my internship here, really worked for some talented chefs in the neighborhood. Seth over at Riverhorse. John Mirko, Bill White, you know all those guys, Scott over at Fletcher's. They all gave me my start. So yeah, I really just fell in love with it. And, you know, just saved up our money and opened our own restaurant.”

While he still loves to get into the kitchen, he has a skilled staff he can rely on. He says he probably picks up his tools to fix things in his two restaurants more than he uses his knives these days.