Getting the ingredients right: local chef shares his story
Aug 23, 2018 02:18PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Chef Billy Sotelo (Courtesy Pepper Nix)
By Michelynne McGuire | [email protected]
Draper city resident and executive chef at La Caille Billy Sotelo recently recalled some particulars of his career from whence it began to where it is now.
Sotelo reflected upon his beginnings as a chef and finding the balance between work and time with his family.
“I wanted to cook when I used to watch my grandma and grandpa cook together,” said Sotelo.
He recalled how it was always a “big deal” when the family would get together and cook.
Later on as a teen, he climbed the restaurant ladder, first working fast food and washing dishes.
“I started peeling potatoes, and then quickly moved around on all the stations,” he said.
Sotelo’s life path was redirected after getting a job at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, located in Tucson, Arizona.
“It was rated a top-50 restaurant of the world,” said Sotelo.
Sotelo originally thought he would pursue a career in engineering, but one day at work the restaurant had him taste a special dish. That very dish changed his direction to pursue becoming a chef. To this day he, still remembers those flavors.
It was a “filet dish with garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed portabellas, port wine sauce, a filet rubbed with herbs and had some baby vegetables, and those flavors have always stuck with me,” said Sotelo.
Getting more acclimated in the kitchen, he began to advance in the restaurant field, working under the direction of the head chef, who ran a tight ship.
The head chef expected those studying under him to pass quizzes from his recipe cookbooks and other cooking requirements or they would lose their job.
Sotelo, passed those tests and soon rose in the ranks.
“That’s where I learned to do all the sauces and classical training,” said Sotelo. That experience gave him a good foundation to move forward from.
Soon he was presented an opportunity to open a restaurant in Palm Springs with a few other entrepreneurs, including the same head chef who had mentored him.
After opening the restaurant, staying in Palm Springs for a year, fate took a turn and he came to Utah for family.
His career flourished in Utah, where he won awards, including, Best Restaurant, Best Italian and recently Best French, having acclaim in the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Magazine.
Work was the dominant priority in Sotelo’s life. “I worked 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said.
But while his career was active his relationships were suffering. It was time to make a change, which is what led him to La Caille.
La Caille is a chateau-style restaurant and event venue in Sandy that has been around since 1975. Diners enjoy French cuisines set upon unique grounds that have their own vineyard, just off Wasatch Boulevard.
This position at La Caille has allowed him to be creative with the menu and have work hours that are more conducive to raising a family.
Speaking of family, Sotelo and his wife, Christine, are enjoying their newest addition to the family, having recently welcomed a baby girl to the world.
Sotelo’s pleased to be working with the harvest that La Caille grows from their own garden year-round, utilizing those fresh ingredients in his dishes.
With humble beginnings in the kitchen, working his way up in the restaurant industry to executive chef, Sotelo is not done yet — he has further ambitions. One such hope is the endeavor to work toward getting the prestigious Michelin Star with La Caille; it would certainly be a chef’s dream come true.