Chef Amanda Pilkington proves local chefs can wow Sundance celebs
You might say chef Amanda Pilkington has cooking in her blood. Since the young age of 13, while growing up in New Zealand, Pilkington worked at various restaurants, and in 2004, she and her family (her father is also a chef) opened award-winning Italian restaurant Vivo Enoteca Cucina. There, Pilkington honed her skills and later became a personal chef on private jets, satisfying her other passion for travel. Seeing the world expanded her culinary interest and skills as she learned the artistry of using ingredients from different places to create something unique and delicious. In 2012, Pilkington landed in Park City and has been serving meals to locals and celebrities ever since.
“I tend to go for seasonal, healthy, with an Italian twist—contemporary food. I am super-passionate about consistency and taste,” Pilkington says. “I definitely use some of my family recipes in my cooking—risottos, arancini and pâté; I learned from my dad.”
Last year, at the Sundance Film Festival, Pilkington was the featured chef for four exclusive Oculus private parties, where, at two of the events, she served 200 people. With a small crew, she led a team of three sous chefs, her front of house person, Lydia Martinez of Elle Marketing and Events, and a small service staff on the floor. With just five days of planning, they were able to create some magic.
“I was approached two weeks beforehand,” Pilkington says. “It was the first time I had done anything on that scale by myself. I immediately
called on the best people I knew to help. We talked out every detail, created strategies and worked through everything before we even bought ingredients and went to work.”
Menus and budgets were created and submitted; then, crunch-time began. Pilkington and her crew served the vice president of Facebook, members of Black Eyed Peas and Ashley Judd, just to name a few celebrities who partook of her offerings.
Over the years, Pilkington’s biggest complaint with Sundance was that “people come to Park City, and they bring LA,” Pilkington said. She was frustrated that they didn’t use and showcase Utah chefs. So, she jumped at the chance to personalize a seasonally crafted menu for these Sundance gatherings. “I am the type of person who will do whatever it takes,” she says.
Pilkington’s team themed the larger VIP private parties. The first night was an ’80s ski theme where they served foods such as roast beef with horseradish cream, crispy oven-fried tater tots drizzled with Sriracha-lime crème fraiche and s’mores bites. The second VIP sit-down dinner had a chic-ski theme, where sheepskin blankets provided added ambiance. Dishes included wild-mushroom flatbread with housemade ricotta, caramelized onions and roasted garlic EVOO, Italian meatballs (made from Pilkington’s father’s recipe) and Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne bites.
With food service at these events ranging from passed hors d’oeuvres to elegant sit-down dinners, meticulous planning and preparation were required. Martinez assisted with everything from menu creation to getting the right servers on board.
“The night of,” Martinez says, “it was my job to watch the dining room and coordinate the servers and the chefs and the timing and the speeches, making sure that everything was executed and timely. I would call out to the chefs and the servers for plating.” When people showed up with special diets they hadn’t planned for, they would create something that would fit the evening’s theme using whatever they had in the kitchen, which she says was fun and challenging.
Turmeric Butternut Cashew Soup
With Torched Marshmallow
Served by chef Amanda Pilkington at 2018 Sundance events
By Aimee L. Cook
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup raw cashews
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds),
peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus
additional amount to thin if soup is
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
A 2-3 inch piece of turmeric—grate
on microplane for 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
1 cup coconut milk, plus additional (optional)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
If desired, for extra creaminess and sweetness, use marshmallow fluff or homemade plain marshmallow, about a 2-teaspoon size
Toss the butternut squash chunks with enough olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Roast at 425 degrees for approximately 45 minutes until golden/caramelized brown. Check after 25-30 minutes and if starting to turn a golden caramelized color flip pieces so other sides can brown.
In large stockpot or Dutch oven, set over medium-high heat, warm the coconut oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cashews and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and the cashews have turned golden, about 3 minutes. Add the fresh ginger, cumin, coriander, curry powder, fresh turmeric and stir to combine. After about 30 seconds to 1 minute, when spices are fragrant, stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the roasted butternut squash and broth and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the soup for about 20 mins. Uncover the soup and let it cool for 15 minutes.
Starting on slow speed and increasing to high, purée the soup in small batches, in a blender until smooth. You can also use an immersion blender (let the soup remain in the pot), but it will take longer to purée until smooth.
If using a blender, return the soup to the pot, add the coconut milk and rosemary sprigs, and cook over low heat, covered, until slightly thickened, for about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place about 2 teaspoons of marshmallow in shallow serving bowl. With culinary torch, lightly torch marshmallow until caramelized. Pour soup around marshmallow.