‘The New Normal’ Too Gay For Utah TV

Oh, Utah. KSL-TV is refusing to air NBC’s upcoming comedy The New Normal about a gay couple trying to procreate with the help of a surrogate. It is "inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time," you see. The CEO made this decision after only viewing The New Normal‘s pilot episode, the Hollywood Reporter says, pronouncing Normal‘s dialogue "crude," the content "explicit," and the characterizations "offensive." Translation: too gay.  

This is the same station which wouldn’t air The Playboy Club because OMG whores. I guess this means the station also won’t air Two And A Half Men, which employed wife beater Charlie Sheen and now employs wife cheater Ashton Kutcher? And every episode of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette will be gone, too, for all that premarital sex? 

Ellen Barkin, who stars on The New Normal with Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannels, blasted the station over Twitter, calling them "blatantly homophobic." Barkin continued, "So L&O SVU (rape & child murder) is ok? But loving gay couple having a baby is inappropriate?"

Really, we should feel sorry for the poor little country bumpkin Utah TV station. They actually take those toothless threats from bigoted busybodies One Million Moms seriously.

Industry Insiders: John Murcko, Park City’s Reigning Chef

Chef John Murcko was named “Best Chef in Utah of 2011” by Salt Lake Magazine. Let me say that again: He’s not just the best chef in Park City, the pristine ski town known for its upper-class residents and proximity to one of the biggest indie film festivals in the world, but in the whole irregular hexagon that is the state of Utah. He oversees two dozen or so spots in Park City, and his award-winning philosophy is to simply care about the environment and insist upon knowing not only where all of his organic, mountain-grown ingredients come from, but knowing the people who bring him that food. A life dedicated to the industry affords him those types of relationships.

Story goes you were interested in becoming a chef very early in life. When most parents were watching their boys disappear over the hills on bikes and skateboards, your dad was signing a waiver so you could wash dishes in a restaurant at the age of 14. On your request. Can you tell us more about being born in Michigan, and how you were able to find your passion so early in life?
I grew up in a town called Holly, Michigan. My father was in advertising and PR, and he had to travel to places like New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. He started taking us kids separately on trips. Dad was what I call a passionate diner, and he sought out great restaurants. When I was about 10, he took me to Manhattan and we ate at Tavern on the Green – in the garden room. I vividly remember him introducing me to artichokes there, and how to peel off the leaf to get at the meat. On another trip, we went to The Russian Tea Room. The maitre d’ had to loan me a coat to wear. I consider that a turning point in my interest in restaurants – I thought that maitre d’ was the ultimate guy I wanted to grow up to be like.
 
We also spent a lot of time at a house we had on Mackinac Island (in northern Michigan); this was our sanctuary as a family. We also became members of the Grand Hotel, which has operated since 1887. I loved eating at this historic hotel, watching the synchronized service in a dining room of 300 people. I was enchanted. Both my Dad, and a passionate Grandma, thought I should start in the bottom of the business. So my first job was washing dishes at a place called Little Bob’s – a family restaurant that was in business for nearly 50 years. It was just a little family restaurant with a buffet, but he obviously knew how to run a restaurant.  (Little Bob’s closed in 1994.)
 
After the dish-washing gig, and waaaay before you were named Best Chef in Utah by Salt Lake Magazine in 2011, there must have been other paths you considered. What greener grass almost pulled you in a different direction, or what kept you moving forward in a straighter line than most? To prepare you for where you are today, what has your professional background been like?
My brother always said, “If you want to be great at what you do, play with people better than you.” So early in my career, I moved a lot. I moved every six months to a year to a different restaurant, looking for the next mentor to learn from. Then, in my 20s, I came to Park City and I met someone I stayed with for 16 years. That was (legendary Park City restaurateur) Bill White.
 
Other paths? There are two I almost considered; when I came to Park City, I thought I wanted to get out of hot kitchens and be a pastry chef instead. I thought it offered better balance; I would no longer have to depend on a team and could be individually responsible for myself. I did that for a little while, but there’s nothing quite like cooking. Second, through the fault of budget and timeline, prior to the opening of a Park City restaurant (Grappa), I was also the lead carpenter. I really liked it, and found that I had some natural abilities. I liked the similarity of outcome that you get with cooking – you could go back and see the results of your labor. I also liked that you could have your nights free and not be cooking until 2am.
 
In the end, however, the things that frustrated me most when I was younger have become the greatest joys of cooking for me. At first, like many chefs, I wanted to do everything myself and control everything. (No one can touch my sauce!) But now, I love being a great mentor and watching young people progress (from sous chef to executive chef, etc.). It makes everything better, you get more done, the quality goes up when you become a great leader, teacher, and mentor – not just a chef.
 
Partnered with the Toronto-based Talisker Corporation, you oversee two dozen different dining venues in Park City. How exactly did that come about, and how is that even possible to manage?
Talisker had a vision for food and beverage and flew in chefs from all over, but they couldn’t find someone who they felt understood the company culture. Dana Keele, human resources director for Canyons, said she knew someone right here in Park City and reached out to me through my wife, Kelli. After 16 years at Bill White, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Over the course of several interviews, they determined I was the person who understood their company culture of integrity and quality.  
 
An average day must always be above average; can you walk us through your upcoming week? What are some of the more interesting responsibilities?
(laughing) Right now we’re preparing for some really exciting events for the Sundance Film Festival, while making menu and system adjustments on our flagship restaurant, The Farm. During Sundance, our restaurants are packed, we’re catering private parties and events, and we have a ton of VIP functions. For example, we’ll create comprehensive dining “experiences” in our yurts, which are beautifully appointed, private circular tents. On top of all that, this year, Talisker is catering Artist at the Table, the $1,500/plate Sundance Festival Kickoff dinner that accompanies the Opening Night Premiere film. Worth magazine named it one of the 10 hottest tickets for all events last year. It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase what we do for hundreds of interesting people including Mr. (Robert) Redford himself. So, January is always an exciting time – we’re incorporating enhancements based on the holiday season and making sure everything is fine-tuned for Sundance, President’s Day weekend, and the rest of the ski season. Plus, right now I’m hosting “Chef Tryouts” – I’m bringing in chefs to cook for me as I’m always looking for chefs who can complement and add to what we do.
 
Standing in the open kitchen of The Farm, one of Talisker’s flagship restaurants that focuses on ingredients sourced within 200 miles away of Park City, you have the perfect view of skiers and boarders descending the slopes. In fact, Ski Beach is just a snowball’s throw away. How do you not turn off your burners and grab your skis? If that’s not the biggest challenge of your job, then what is?
Any successful chef finds as much joy from cooking as anything else. It’s not a job – it’s a passion that I truly love. There are times when I work 100-hour weeks, but I also make time for my family. I moved to the mountains to spend time with my family, and spring and fall, in particular, there are literally countless springs and falls to hike and bike to in the Park City area. I still ski as much as I can, but we have an expression among chefs, “Speed of the chiefs, speed of the tribe.” Right now, the chief and the tribe are both speeding!
 
Can you tell us about the recently-opened Bistro at Canyons? It’s the first restaurant of its kind in the U.S. serving modern American kosher cuisine, including Friday Sabbath dinner throughout the winter season.
To produce food under any sort of guidelines, does not mean quality has to suffer. I think kosher dining has suffered from a lack of attention and passion. Now, with people exploring dairy-free diets more often, we’re proving we can deliver world-class dining experiences under that guideline. And the quality of all the ingredients, from chicken to meat to produce, is second-to-none. We’re making exceptional, very healthy food. Dishes like the Beef Cheek Gnocchi or the Mustard Crusted Wild Salmon are exquisite! Additionally, the clientele is so appreciative and supportive that we are going the extra mile to serve them. The dining room is spectacular. With 85 seats, we’re able to provide the attention to detail that guests have come to expect of our brand.
 
Do you have any funny or interesting mountain anecdotes that occurred in the line of duty that you can share? Guests-gone-wild incidents, that kind of thing?
Most are unprintable (laughing). I will say I’ve gotten very creative in using several-carat diamonds as garnishes to entrees in order to help with wedding proposals.
 
What is the secret to your success? What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing what you do?
One of our secrets is that while this is a town built for tourism, we can’t forget that we’re a community. Every guest is our most important one – but we go out of our way to make sure our locals feel that way all year long.  
 
Since you’re overseeing these two dozen restaurants, your immediate future must be booked solid. Is that the case, or is there something exciting on the horizon for winter/spring and beyond?
Whats on the horizon? Refinement. We’re constantly looking at how we can be better. Summer is more and more of a time for Talisker and Canyons to shine, with more guests hiking, biking, and fishing every year. We’re looking at some exciting ways for our guests to enjoy our beautiful weather – and our great food – long after the snow has melted. Plus, I want to enter and win a National BBQ Cook Off!

A Snowy, Dog-filled Park City Preview

I’ve never been dog sledding. It’s never been on my agenda or come close to circling my brain stem. If I had a bucket list, yelling "mush" at team of yelping huskies like Yukon Cornelius wouldn’t even be crossed out in its margins. Yet, there I was, stomping on a metal brake from the back of a six-person sled, barreling through the snow-covered meadows of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Park City, Utah, grinning like some jerk who just won the lottery and wasn’t going to tell his spouse.

As a guest of Canyons Resort and its marquee hotel, Waldorf Astoria Park City, I was in town to scout the different paths to the Sundance Film Festival, to check the December powder, try out the brand new 2,111-foot zipline tour, and dine at some of the city’s hottest restaurants. Dog sledding was on the itinerary, too, but so was a private Scotch tasting at the infamous High West Distillery. Some things sound immediately more important.
 
To get to Canyons Resort’s 4,000 acres of varied terrain, all you have to do is fly to Salt Lake City and drive 35 minutes out of its eerie smog. Then it’s mountains, mountains, farms, and mountains. For me, the first evening was all about clasping my hands behind my back and strolling through Waldorf Astoria’s property–an award-winning spa, a fitness facility with a Kinesis Studio wing, a pool and two hot tubs steaming in the back courtyard–but it was also about the throbbing elevation headache. When your hotel sits 6,700 feet above sea level, pack Advil and pound water. Or vice versa.
 
Once my head cleared, I descended to the hotel’s ground floor to the world debut of Slopes by Talisker, an upscale restaurant headed by Salt Lake magazine’s “Best Chef in Utah of 2011,” John Murcko, who is hell-bent on using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to offer dishes like the Yukon Territory Arctic Char with spicy tomato jam and artichoke puree, a Pistachio Venison with elderberries, and a Berkshire Pork Tenderloin sitting atop caramelized onions and a cranberry gastrique. An extensive wine menu and knowledgeable spirits team ensures everything is paired perfectly, just in time for this winter’s film festival.
 
The next morning I was introduced to over two dozen huskies and malamutes all howling to be patted and scratched, to be told they were definitely good boys and girls. After a few minutes of wiping away the slobber from my ski pants and some detailed instructions on how to lean and apply the brake, I found myself being pulled past a frozen reservoir while two malamute puppies jogged in our wake. I was a time traveling Jack London, keeping my eyes peeled for moose and avalanches. It was truly exhilarating. On our way back to base, we stopped for spiked hot chocolate and I actually felt hair sprout around my nipples. How was dog sledding never on my agenda?
 
A few hours later I’m dangling my legs over the Orange Bubble Express, America’s most technologically advanced and first heated chair lift. A warm skier is vertical skier, after all. December’s snowfall has been almost non-existent, but a dozen or so runs at Canyons Resort have been painted white by snow machines. On Canyons’ retainer, former Olympian Kaylin Richardson acts as our guide, handing out much-appreciated compliments like Altoids. I carve a few gentle turns and check out the panoramic mountain views.
 
Then it’s off to the hot tubs before making our way to Park City’s historic Main Street and the only ski-in gastro-distillery in the world: High West Distillery. Small-batch, mountain-crafted, award-winning whiskeys and vodkas, all sipped (slugged) in a rustic building that was once a livery stable in the late 1890s. With a sufficiently warmed throat, I floated through plates at Talisker on Main, Salt Lake magazine’s Best Restaurant in Park City of 2011. Everything was sublime.
 
On my last day, I squeezed in a morning of skiing before strapping myself to a 2,111-foot long wire to stare down the side of Lookout Peak. What exactly do you think about when zipping 45 miles per hour, 140 feet above a canyon floor dotted with trees and rocks and skiers and snow shoers? Becoming a superhero; yes. Figuring out how to make that superhero storyline into a Sundance film; maybe. This month’s iPhone bill, Monday’s interview, Mitt Romney’s Joker-like smile; not a chance. My mind raced faster than my body, and by the time my feet hit solid ground, I felt refreshed and ready to sew myself a cape, find a director, and hammer out a storyboard.
 
Things came to a close with an insider’s look at The Farm, a modern fine-dining spot literally at the foot of the slopes that only serves ingredients pulled from within 200 miles of Park City. Exposed wood, textures and tile matched the unobstructed view of the outside elements. Chef Murcko prepared several signature dishes in the open kitchen while discussing his career, and later, while sitting at the table devouring Chopped Creminelli Salad, Roast Pumpkin Soup, and Silver Bean Espresso Rubbed Beef Tenderloin, I tried my damnedest to slow time, or at least figure out a way to deliver my scraps to my team of huskies.

Utah Getting More Tolerant of Alcohol, More Tolerable for Masses

Say the word “U-tah,” and I get anxious, annoyed. I think immediately of the watered down Corona (as if it needed to be any more watery) greeting me at the end of a brutal bunny slope. I think of weak vodka cocktails and having to order food I don’t want to get them. I think of scary things. But, that’s all changing, sorta. They’ll still be watery Corona at the grocery store, but recently relaxed liquor laws are making the state a better place to drink.

Craft brewing is booming in Utah after the state legislature voted last year to relax the liquor laws. While grocery stores can still only sell “near beer’ with 4% alcohol or less, microbrewies can sell real beer through their own stores or pubs. Yes, a 9% double IPA can now be yours in Utah, at brewpubs like Squatters in SLC, where they’ve been brewing for 20 years. Still, even with the newly relaxed laws, high alcohol beer can only be sold in bottles, not on tap, lest the children be tempted to bathe in the high alcohol faucet.

The new legislation also eliminated the state’s ridiculous “private club” system, so you no longer have to fill out an application and pay a membership feel to visit a freakin’ bar. Bartenders can also serve drinks directly over the bar, instead of walking around with them. You still can’t order a double, but hey, it’s progress.