Playing Chef

Grow your culinary creativity at these DIY eateries

Somewhere between the land of dining out and the territory of home cooking lies a paradisiacal place that allows for the best of both worlds. Welcome to the domain of DIY dining, where you get to exercise creativity without the stress of cooking or the aftermath of dirty dishes. Best of all, the process of designing your own dish will expand your culinary horizons, helping you grow as a cook when you return to your own kitchen.

1-1Top Your Toast
Toast is the name of Publik Kitchen’s game, from a BLT (on peasant toast), to banana toast, to a simple salad (with toasted croutons). If you want to step into the shoes of toast designer, take advantage of the café’s make your own toast option. Here are the steps to a toast de résistance:
1. Choose the locally baked foundation. Red Bicycle Breadworks organic peasant or olive rosemary? The Park City-based bakery also makes a special mocha bread just for Publik that serves as an excellent base for sweet additions. And if you’re gluten free, you’ll love the bread from City Cakes.
2. Pick your spreads and jams. Go savory with cream cheese and heirloom tomato jam, or sweeten the deal with cinnamon butter and orange-habanero jam. You might decide to stop here, or you can …
3. Raise the stakes with a side, like bacon, avocado or a classic egg.
Chef’s two cents: This is your toast party, so you can experiment with peanut butter and sausage if you want to. But Publik’s got a couple of favorites you might want to try at the restaurant or at home. On the savory side go for tomato jam, goat cheese and an egg. For an uncanny Cinnamon Toast Crunch replica, try the cinnamon butter and honey on gluten-free bread.

Publik Kitchen
Multiple locations

1-3Using Your Noodle
CY Noodles House operates around the idea that the guest gets to choose. This makes perfect sense at a noodle joint, considering many Chinese restaurants have notoriously long menus that can be scoured in search of the perfect combination of noodle type, flavoring and toppings. This way, no one has to play the role of annoying customer who asks the server if they could do chicken instead of beef and hold the bean sprouts. Here’s your path to noodle nirvana:
1. Choose a noodle—anything from glassy vermicelli to sturdy udon or curly Japanese ramen. If you’re a noodle fiend, request extra.
2. Select a cooking method. Do you want soup? If so, will you be opting for hot and sour, Szechuan spicy or tomato? Or are you craving stir-fried chow mein capable of curing the most toxic hangover?

3. Pick a protein. This might be the most difficult decision you face, with delectable options like braised spareribs, orange chicken and fried shrimp.
4. All-you-can-eat veggie buffet. CY doesn’t tack on surcharges for extra vegetables, so go to town on the broccoli, Napa cabbage and sprouts.
5. Wash it all down with a refreshing honey dew smoothie dotted with blueberry boba.
Chef’s two cents: The motto here is, “One and the only one.” As in no one can create a noodle bowl exactly like yours. Make this your own mantra as you craft your custom noodle bowl here or in your own kitchen.

CY Noodles House
3370 S. State, SLC

1-2Producing Perfect Poke
First it was ceviche. Then it was sashimi. But the latest raw fish craze to strike our palates is poke. This Hawaiian delicacy usually features cubed raw fish mixed with sauce, rice and/or veggies. Laid Back Poke Shack’s customizable bowls make for a refreshing and satisfying lunch, especially in the approaching summer months. Poke paradise, here you come:
1. Choose a foundation—white or brown rice.
2. Cabbage? Seaweed Salad flecked with sesame seeds? Or do you want to focus on the fish?
3. The most important decision: the poke. Laid Back Poke Shack offers several staples, such as Bigeye tuna from the Honolulu Fish Auction with variations like shoyu, sweet ginger and spicy ahi. You can also choose shellfish with kimchi mussels and oyster tako, or spring for the sweet chili shrimp. And if you see seasonal spicy snow crab on the menu, go for it.
4. To pig or not to pig. While some opt just for a kalua pig bowl, you can also decide to surf and turf with a portion of the hickory smoked, slow-roasted pork in your poke bowl—a decision we doubt you’ll regret.
Chef’s two cents: Co-owner Tiffany Thomas recommends combining the oyster tako, shoyu salmon, and spicy ginger ahi. She’s also a fan of the California, made with imitation crab, tobiko, avocado and a savory sauce.

Laid Back Poke Shack
6213 Highland Drive, Holladay

1-4Design-It-Yourself Doughnuts
Even the most Willy Wonka-adoring sugar enthusiast could not envision a dessert fantasy as outrageous as crEATe in Sandy. Owner LaDonnia Jones is a sweets wizard who hand-bakes doughnuts, croissant doughnuts (aka Cronuts), brownies, pies and Belgian waffles; churns her own gelato and sorbets; and whips up a dizzying number of toppings, from Nutella mousse, to lemon cream and wild berry drizzle—all of which can be mixed and matched into hundreds of combinations. Sweet dreams are made like this:
1. Doughnut or Cronut? The croissant doughnut has a lighter, flakier texture.
2. Fill it up with Madagascar vanilla whipped cream, Key lime mousse or something chocolatey.
3. Get in touch with your inner Jackson Pollock and splash on the drizzles and glazes—a little cookie butter here, a lot of dulce de leche there.
4. Add crunch in the form of toppings. From classy coconut and dreamy Butterfinger to adventurous bacon.
5. Go full throttle and turn the whole sugary shebang into a gelato sundae.
Chef’s two cents: Jones’ top tip for home cooks is to cultivate a love like her own for playing with food. Ditch the recipes, and bring on impromptu innovation! And at crEATe, she recommends the mocha Cronut. After each bite, she’s “amazed all over again.” She fills a croissant doughnut with coffee whipped cream and chocolate mousse, drizzles it with maple and chocolate glazes and dusts it with Biscoff crumble.

crEATe Donuts
9305 S. Village Shop Drive, Sandy

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