About Utah: For this master chef, southern Utah is the best recipe

Published: Sunday, Nov. 17 2013 10:20 p.m. MST

It included a visit to St. George, where the folk dancing troupe that was part of the touring group was booked for a performance.

The visiting Hungarians were hosted by local residents. Imi ended up staying with Kent and Vera Christensen and their family.

The Christensens — who remain great friends with him to this day — showed off the area. When Imi saw Zion National Park he was mesmerized.

Long story short, a year later he emigrated from Hungary to southern Utah. For four years he ran a restaurant in Escalante, the Ponderosa, that catered to the many Europeans visiting the national parks. From there he worked as food and beverage manager at Zion National Park and Death Valley before opening his own restaurant, the Cosmopolitan, in Leeds, just outside St. George. The restaurant seated 70 and was packed nightly, but the historic building it was housed in was falling apart, bringing about another restaurant in St. George, the Orchids, before Imi took over supervision of the Riverwalk Grill two years ago.

Added to Imi’s many career awards is the 2013 honor from the National Association of Homebuilders designating Riverwalk as the best 50-plus dining experience among all active adult communities in America.

The plaque hangs in the lobby next to numerous other plaques praising Chef Imi — an unexpected treasure in a place that’s full of them.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: benson@deseretnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere