I have a very sweet tooth and any change taking place with Deer Valley’s pastry ovens is just as important as a new chairlift, some extra mountain glading or a brand new trail. As of this season, Steve Harty is Deer Valley’s new executive pastry chef. The news got my attention, naturally, and I wanted to know more about the future of desserts at Deer Valley.
JF: Steve, why don’t you start by telling me the path that brought you to Deer Valley?
Steve Harty: It’s actually an amazing one. My family brought me here to ski before there was even a Deer Valley. That was sometime in the late seventies, I was 11 or 12 then, and I had read in SKI Magazine about the resort project: it would be a place where they would limit the number of skiers on the mountains. Many years later, my family moved to California. After I met my wife, we moved around the West until we zeroed-in here because she is an educator and needed to be close to a college for work.
JF: So, what did you do?
Steve Harty: I had actually been a cook for some years and had worked for a number of different hotels in Park City before I joined Deer Valley as a baker.
JF: How did you convert from chef to baker?
Steve Harty: I always truly enjoyed the science of baking. I was a science major in college and the chemistry of baking has always fascinated me. There’s also a different kind of pressure in the bakery than in the kitchen. You’re more at the whims of the guests in the kitchen, whereas in the bakery there’s more planning involved, as we’re working today on cakes that will be served tomorrow.
JF: So, it’s been the attraction of planning versus reacting?
Steve Harty: Totally! Guests get their burger and their chili handed out to them, but when they get to pick their very own desserts at the bakery station, they’re back in control. They can make their own selection. They love it and their happiness always radiates back to the baking staff.
JF: Isn’t it nice to make something people like?
Steve Harty: Indeed! People appreciate delicious things. The last thing people eat is dessert and that’s quite naturally the last thing they remember!
JF: How long have you been immersed in the joy of baking at Deer Valley?
Steve Harty: I moved to Utah in 1992 and this will be my twenty-first season with Deer Valley Resort! In those days, as an early-morning production baker, I started out working at 6 am. I began at Snow Park Lodge and have baked everywhere at the resort since.
JF: What do you enjoy the most at Deer Valley?
Steve Harty: Several things. First, as baking goes, because we work on such a wide variety of products, nothing is ever the same and our work is never boring. Then, there’s the Deer Valley attitude which means that no one wants to sit on their laurels. Everyone expects us to remain sharply focused and to stay on the forefront of trends, we need to be ready to bring constant change to our products.
JF: Do you have full freedom to innovate?
Steve Harty: Absolutely! We are encouraged to try new things and are also trusted to do a great job. There’s a very nurturing environment around here; everything we do is focused on being successful.
JF: You must be right, that sounds just like Deer Valley! Now what do you do when you are not having fun working?
Steve Harty: Of course, I ski, you have to do it around here, but I also enjoy the outdoors in many different ways. I’m a sailor on the Great Salt Lake and on the nearby reservoirs. My wife and I enjoy hiking, camping, going to concerts, traveling and eating at good restaurants!
JF: So what are your goals as you look at this winter season?
Steve Harty: I was promoted to my new position as Executive Pastry Chef in June of 2015. I have many goals, one of which is to enhance the relevance of our bakery department by keeping on improving our current products and coming up with new ones. Our volume of business has also grown exponentially at Deer Valley and with it, our personnel needs. So hiring and training are becoming paramount in maintaining our unique focus and our high quality standards.
JF: Where do your bakers come from?
Steve Harty: Many come from culinary schools or have some culinary background, but surprisingly we also hire many people with some sort of art degree who can’t necessarily make a living with their trade, but are attracted by baking. These individuals transition generally very well for us. Of course, passion for good food and willingness to learn are paramount in selecting new recruits!
JF: How do you innovate?
Steve Harty: We never settle for “that’s the way we have always done things.” We look for ways to improve upon products or go for those “never-tried-before” flavor combinations. In short, we never accept mediocrity.
JF: How do you recieve guest feedback?
Steve Harty: On the front lines. The day lodges, Seafood Buffet or Fireside Dining are great places to gather direct guest input. We also do a lot of special orders, like birthday and wedding cakes, and people certainly let us know what they like and what they want!
JF: In your opinion, what are the most compelling reasons for skiers to visit Deer Valley Resort this winter?
Steve Harty: Of course there’s the overall care that the company offers its guest from the very moment they get here. And they should come to our desserts first [chuckles]! There’s the variety of menus at all of our different restaurants. We get those SKI Magazine rankings each year and believe me, we take a lot of pride in those. Once again we took #1 in on-mountain food for the 2015-16 season! Personally, I’ve skied a lot of places and I really think Deer Valley is a uniquely beautiful mountain. Let me tell you, from the top, the scenery is unbeatable!