BOUNTIFUL The year of the rooster seems to be helping boost a local restaurant's confidence.
And although the Mandarin restaurant on the corner of 900 North and 400 East may be off the beaten path, it is still on the national radar.
"Everybody says that location is everything, but this is way out of the way," said Brandon Evenson, kitchen manager for the Mandarin. "They blew that one right out of the water."
The Mandarin was listed as one of 10 great places to dine on fine Chinese food by newspaper USA Today.
Betty Xie, editor in chief of Chinese Restaurant News, selected the Bountiful restaurant out of more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States.
"Considered the best Chinese restaurant in town and the area," Xie said of the Mandarin in the Friday, Sept. 16, USA Today travel section.
Restaurant owner Gregory Skedros said he was pleasantly surprised by the recognition. Last year his restaurant was chosen by the Chinese Restaurant News as one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the nation. He said that Xie must have chosen the 10 restaurants recognized in USA Today from last year's top 100.
Last year after he found out his restaurant had been chosen, Skedros and his daughter, Angel Manfredini, went to the award ceremony in New York.
"In this room completely full of Chinese, Angel and I were the only Caucasians, and here we were going up to get this award," Skedros said.
The Chinese Restaurant News will announce this year's top 100 Chinese restaurants on Oct. 9 at the All Asia Food Expo in Los Angeles. Skedros said that if his restaurant is chosen again, he will be making a trip to Los Angeles for the award ceremony.
Skedros opened the Mandarin in January 1978. He owned the Mountain View Pharmacy at the time and said he could see where pharmacies were heading with mini-pharmacies popping up inside grocery stores.
"I figured back then I better make sure we embark on something different," Skedros said.
So Skedros and his wife, Jeni, purchased an old pizza restaurant that had been vacant for many years. The original 50-seat Mandarin now houses 200 seats in an old dining room, formal dining room and garden room.
All of Skedros' five children have worked in the restaurant at some point.
"Thanks to the restaurant here it provided a job for all of them where they were able to work and pay for their education," Skedros said.
Manfredini, who vacuumed the floors at age 8, currently helps manage the restaurant.
Skedros said it is very important that he and Manfredini are at the restaurant watching everything.
"The cooks appreciate my being here; in fact, they say I work too hard," Skedros said. "They always worry about me. Having us here encourages them to perform to our expectations."
The restaurant's seven full-time chefs come from either Hong Kong or San Francisco and prepare more than 100 items for the restaurant. The menu boasts more than 20 different sauces. Skedros said that each of the sauces, from the General Tsao's Sauce to the Nanking Sauce, is unique.
"That's the great things about Chinese food," he said. "You can eat here nightly and you never get bored."
Although the restaurant is in Bountiful, Skedros said that they don't rely solely on the local population for business.
"With the LDS community during conference time, people come from all over the world, and it just seems like we're sort of the hot spot for many of the dignitaries," Skedros said. "It's just amazing where they come from. It's incredible."
Skedros has made several trips to Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing to taste the cuisine and pick up tips for his restaurant.
"It's really quite interesting to make these trips to China and see how close we are to the food there," Skedros said.
Although he said the restaurant is quite authentic, Skedros said that it has been condemned in the past for being too Americanized.
"You have to cater to the American public," Skedros said. "I can imagine if I featured stomach, tripe, chicken feet or sea cucumber on our menu no one would order them."
Manfredini makes all of the restaurant's pastries and desserts, Skedros added, which are quite American.
The Mandarin, normally open 5-9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, is closed until Oct. 10 for its annual renovation. The seven full-time Chinese chefs receive a three-week paid vacation each year.
"It's nice because many still have families in China," Skedros said.
Evenson has worked at the Mandarin for almost 15 years even though he said he doesn't really like Chinese food.