When Rabbi Mendel Wilmovsky was growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn—worldwide home of Chabad Lubavitch, a Chasidic movement of Orthodox Judaism—he never imagined working in the state that’s the worldwide home of another religious movement, and at a ski resort, no less. Nevertheless, since December, Wilmovsky and Rabbi Yosef Kirszenberg have been overseeing Bistro at Canyons in Park City, the first kosher restaurant in America housed at a ski resort.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but so far things have been great,” says Wilmovsky, who goes by “Rabbi Mendy” and wears a yarmulke with the Canyons logo on it. His job is to make sure the staff, most of who came in unfamiliar with Jewish dietary laws dating back to the Old Testament, are keeping things kosher: acquiring food from kosher producers, and doing the cleansing, cooking, service, etc., appropriately. “In the beginning, it was difficult, but [the staff] was eager to make it work,” Wilmovsky says.
The staff estimates approximately 30 percent of diners may not be Jewish, but come in to enjoy unique gourmet creations, such as an appetizer of sliders with homemade tomato jam, a main course of beef-cheek gnocchi and a dessert of panna cotta made with coconut milk.
In addition to restaurant duties, the rabbis also preside over religious services in a small synagogue located next door to Bistro, in the Silverado Lodge. After Friday-evening Sabbath services, everyone adjourns to Bistro for a prix fixe, one-seating meal. Credit-card orders aren’t processed until after the Sabbath ends, and all electronics in the restaurant are turned off.
Whether it’s Friday night or any meal, Skowron says he’s learned at Bistro that keeping kosher is about much more than food: “It turns mealtime into a focus on faith. It instills discipline.”
BISTRO AT CANYONS
4000 Canyons Resort Drive, Park City