Chef Matt Harris and Maggie Alvarez abide by spring 2020's social distancing guidelines.

Image: Steven Vargo

Article update: In June 2020, Matt Harris and Maggie Alvarez closed Tupelo on Park City's Main Street and opened a new restaurant, Afterword, on Heber City's Main Street.

Maggie Alvarez and Matt Harris, the dynamic wife-and-husband team behind Tupelo restaurant on Main Street and RIME Raw Bar at Deer Valley Resort, both grew up in the Southeast. He hails from Atlanta, Georgia, and she from Asheville, North Carolina—a locale Harris frequented for its rock climbing charms. But their paths never crossed until they met thousands of miles from home in Park City.

“I was in law school at Wake Forest on a full ride,” Alvarez recalls. “I got halfway through it and said to myself, ‘This is not for me.’” So, she headed to Utah, where some relatives lived, to check it out. The St. Regis was just opening, and while Alvarez didn’t have any background in hospitality, it proved to be “a good fit.” Utah has been a good fit, as well. Alvarez says, “I wasn’t into the outdoors at all before meeting Matt.” But with Harris she’s become a serious outdoor adventurer, despite her “short legs,” she laughs. 

Harris, on the other hand, had been in the hospitality biz, working in restaurants from a fairly young age. Beginning at a family-style restaurant in Buford, Georgia, he rapidly worked his way into headier culinary company, including training at much-lauded restaurants, such as the French Laundry in Yountville, California, TROIS in Atlanta, and San Francisco’s Boulevard. He was executive chef of Atlanta’s famed Buckhead Diner by the time he was 25. Harris would go on to open the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant Market in Atlanta before being chosen to head up the culinary team at J&G Grill at the St. Regis Deer Valley when it launched 10 years ago—and where he met Maggie. 

In December of 2015, Alvarez and Harris opened Tupelo restaurant in the space that was formerly home to Silver. Tupelo has been going gangbusters ever since. It’s a warm and inviting eatery with a soft color palette where wood and steel design elements come together cohesively—just like Harris’s smoked rainbow trout with dill cream cheese and spicy house kimchi, which coalesce deliciously. For Alvarez, one of the most satisfying aspects of the business is celebrating patrons’ special moments, such as engagements, weddings, and new babies. “They’re sharing a meal together with us, and we get to be part of important moments in people’s lives,” she says.  

Never content to rest on their laurels, Alvarez and Harris opened a new culinary concept at Deer Valley Resort during the 2018–2019 ski season: RIME Raw Bar. After helping overhaul the Nantucket Yacht Club in Massachusetts, the couple was looking to bring something new to Park City, and top-notch seafood seemed apropos. So, when the food and beverage program at the cabin at the Deer Crest Club was up for grabs, Harris and Alvarez created slopeside RIME, where Deer Valley skiers can drop in for lobster rolls, fresh-shucked oysters, clam chowder, wine, beer, and more in a cozy, cabin atmosphere. 

“They’re sharing a meal together with us, and we get to be part of important moments in people’s lives.”

  — Maggie Alvarez

Looking back over the years since he arrived in Park City, Harris has seen vast changes in the local restaurant industry. “When we got here, there wasn’t the demand for a lot of the ingredients that we were needing [at J&G Grill]. So… we flipped a lot of purveyors on their heads,” he recalls. “They [said], ‘We don’t have that product. We don’t do that.’ And we [said], ‘Well, you’re going to have to start because this is the new norm.’” Today things are very different, he notes happily. Referring to local artisan growers, ranchers, and producers who help supply top-quality fresh ingredients to chefs, Harris says, “I definitely think the norm has changed, and it’s reflected in the quality you’re seeing on menus at Park City restaurants in general today.”

Ten years after opening J&G Grill, Harris has come full circle, returning to the St. Regis as culinary director for the dining venues there: Brasserie 7452, Terrace Café, and RIME Seafood & Steak. RIME, as a full-blown restaurant concept, was something he’d been wanting to do for a few years. “Originally we were looking for some property on Main Street,” says Harris. “But everybody knows that, in Park City, finding real estate isn’t the easiest task.” 

“But,” Harris continues, “they were going through a big redesign at the St. Regis and said, ‘You know, it’s been 10 years and maybe it’s time we started with something fresh. What do you think about putting RIME Seafood & Steak in the St. Regis?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I think that would be fantastic—a really good fit.’” And it is. Now St. Regis visitors and guests can enjoy Harris’s fine dining RIME menu with dishes ranging from lobster pan roast and porterhouse for two to a local elk rib rack and Blue Nose Honolulu snapper. 

As the Alvarez-Harris culinary empire grows, their original eatery continues to stand the test of time in notoriously fickle Old Town. Don’t fret. Tupelo isn’t going anywhere. And who knows what’s next? When asked if she misses Carolina barbecue, Alvarez says, “Oh my god, yes!” adding, “And I’m not gonna lie—I miss sweet tea!” So maybe … if we’re lucky … this creative culinary couple will consider bringing Southern BBQ and sweet tea to Zion. It’s just one writer’s pipe dream, but if you can sell lobster rolls from a snowy mountain cabin, why not?    

 

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