Orson Gygi reopens with flare
Dian Thomas shows up for demonstration of cookbook recipes
Two Utah culinary institutions have been updated and were on display to the public July 21: The Orson H. Gygi Co., the 55-year-old cooking/restaurant supply store, opened a new store at 3500 S. 300 West. And on hand for the grand opening was Utah's own Dian Thomas, who demonstrated recipes from her latest book in her 25-year-old "Roughing It Easy" outdoor cooking series.
Brad McDonald, grandson of the original Orson H. Gygi and general manager of the store, said a fire destroyed the original store three years ago. The business had to move to nearby warehouses while the new store was built. "Now our facility is three times as large," he said.
You can find everything from Viking ranges to cotton-candy machines, cake-decorating supplies, candy-making supplies, pepper mills, pressure cookers, chopped nuts, kitchen gadgets, professional chef's knives, pots and pans, canisters of herbs and spices, dry mixes, a whole wall of cookie cutters and several aisles of paper plates, cups and napkins.
Although much of the clientele comes from churches, restaurants, caterers and other institutions that cook for large groups, at least half the people who visit the store are "professional home cooks," as McDonald describes them.
To cater to their customers, the company is building a culinary arts center within the store. Both hands-on cooking and lecture/demonstrations will be taught beginning in October, said Carl Rubadue, who heads the program. A certified chef with the American Culinary Federation, Rubadue will teach many of the classes and bring in guest chefs for others. The cost of the classes will vary.
"We've already had requests from customers for classes in pulled sugar, diabetic, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Creole and Latvian cooking," Rubadue said. "We're also going to have children's classes so they can be involved in the family meal preparation."
Rubadue said cooking classes are springing up all over the country right now. "When you get stuck in a rut, and you're using the same ingredients, you are always looking to expand your horizons. That's why ethnic restaurants are in such demand. But there are so many time constraints; people don't have a lot of free time to play in the kitchen and learn on their own."
McDonald and his mother, Marjeanne, got the idea after visiting a teaching center at the Viking company headquarters. He said the demand was so high that the company soon had to build a bigger facility, which is completely booked six months in advance for every class offered. "We visited a class and found that the students all had six-figure incomes attorneys, doctors and so on, and cooking classes were a form of recreation for them," said McDonald.
The company's namesake, Orson H. Gygi, was a self-taught businessman, who is crediting for bringing soft ice cream to the Utah market before the advent of Dairy Queens and Arctic Circles. "He helped develop the fast-food concept in this area because of the different equipment he brought in for restaurants and the people he helped get into business," said his daughter, Marjeanne McDonald, who is the company president."He started out selling squeeze bottles for mustard and ketchup," she said. "He was from the old school where you paid your way as you went along. When he sold two bottles, he bought four more. When he sold those four, he used the money and bought eight. I think he would be really pleased with what we have now. It's a one-stop shop and your complete source of supplies."
AT THE GRAND OPENING, customers could sample Dutch oven dishes from "Recipes For Roughing It Easy," by Thomas. Now practically a classic, more than a million copies of "Roughing It Easy" and updated versions have been sold since it became a best-seller in 1975.