A behind-the-scenes look at Temple Square Hospitality's preparation for general conference
According to David Bench, chef and manager of the Lion House Pantry, the restaurant serves 300-400 guests on a typical day. On conference Saturday, the number rises to around 1,300.
“Conference is big because it’s special for people who come down, so you have to make sure you’re available and quick,” he said. “You become part of their plans.” In preparation for this influx, the Pantry schedules extra staff, makes larger orders and cooks a lot more food.
“Getting staff on hand is the biggest deal. We go from the slowest time of the year in January and February to conference. We have to gear up and start training,” said Bench, who added that on an average night they can run the kitchen with himself, a chef and a cook, but on conference Saturday they enlarge the number to seven for the kitchen alone.
“You have to change your whole thought process,” Bench said. “Whereas before you were cooking the minimum, you’re then cooking 1,000 meals in a day.” On an average day, the Pantry makes seven to eight pans of rolls at 40 rolls apiece, totaling 280-300 rolls. On conference Saturday, the staff bakes 30 pans to begin the day, totaling 1,200 rolls. The bakery also makes additional rolls for purchase by the dozen at the Pantry and at Deseret Book stores.
“During conference, people clean out all the rolls and take them home all across the country,” Bench said.
The Pantry peels approximately 50 pounds of potatoes on an average day, but increases the number to 150-200 pounds for conference. The event requires additional amounts of food.
“We order a lot heavier. For example, if we do roast beef on conference Saturday, we’ll go from 30 pounds in a day to almost 80 and 90 pounds, and 60 pounds of salmon,” Bench said. “As for desserts and rolls, they produce enough desserts for 1,000 guests, including cookies, pies and cakes, and whole pies for people to take home for Sunday dinner.”
Bench said the Pantry can accommodate around 200 people an hour, and it also offers the same box lunches as the Nauvoo Cafe for conferencegoers. The Lion House Pantry is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on conference Saturday.
The Garden Restaurant
Located on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Garden Restaurant offers a prime view of Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City. It is most famous for its fried dill pickles but also offers pastas, salads, sandwiches, soups and other entrees for lunch and dinner.
For general conference, the restaurant is open later, cooking until 10:35 p.m. when it would normally close at 10 p.m. This year, it is offering a bounce-back coupon for a free appetizer of its fried dill pickles when customers return to dine during the month of April.
According to Scott Ackley, chef and manager of the Garden Restaurant and the Nauvoo Cafe, the main change for conference Saturday is that they do three times the amount of work. They make three times the amount of food, have three times the number of staff on duty and serve three times the number of guests.
According to Ackley, on an average day, the restaurant serves 125 people for lunch and 125 people for dinner, whereas on conference Saturday, it serves as many as 365 people for lunch and 425 for dinner.
“Overall it’s just a lot of prep and having the staff here early and a sense of urgency and extra quantities,” Ackley said. “It’s pretty much, get ready and roll with the punches.”
The Garden Restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to closing time on conference Saturday.
The Roof Restaurant
Located directly across from the Garden Restaurant, the Roof Restaurant is home to the most direct view of the temple and downtown Salt Lake City. Dining is buffet style and is usually only available for dinner. For conference Saturday, however, the restaurant is open for a lunch buffet from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for half the price of dinner.
On conference Saturday, the restaurant reaches capacity, serving 300 people for lunch and 500 for dinner, but dinner on conference Saturday is not much different for the restaurant than dinner on a regular weekend. For both, it fills to capacity and runs with a full staff.
According to Barbara Roberts, manager of the Roof Restaurant, “It’s really a science at this point because we only have so many seats.”
The whole mood of the restaurant changes after the priesthood session of general conference. The pianist plays more jazzy tunes and church songs than on a regular day, and the restaurant is full of men in white shirts and ties.
The Roof Restaurant is open from 4:30 p.m. to closing time for dinner on conference Saturday.
For more information about the restaurants on Temple Square, call 801-539-3100 or visit www.templesquarehospitality.com.
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