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Neil Cohen -Officier Commandeur

Wednesday, April 19, 2023 7:15 PM | Sue Geary (Administrator)

Neil Cohen

Officier Maître Restaurateur

and Officier Commandeur

A Massachusetts native, Neil came to Utah in 1972 to ski and to work at Snowbird after graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. He remained at Snowbird through the 1970’s and 1980’s as Food and Beverage Director for The Club at Snowbird and The Cliff Lodge. During that time, he also served on the Boards of Directors of the Utah Restaurant Association and the Utah Club Association. From 1985 to 2000, he taught classes in hospitality management at the University of Utah.

Neil was a Licensing and Compliance Specialist for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control from 1989 until his retirement in 2011. After retiring, he returned to Snowbird to serve as their in-house historian. He also serves on the Salt Lake County Planning Commission.

During his first tenure at Snowbird, Neil wanted to feature a spectacular seafood buffet on Friday nights in the winter. Since there was nothing but frozen seafood to be found, Neil used his contacts in Boston to order fresh fish from fisheries that was then shipped by air cargo to Salt Lake. He and friends would drive to the airport each Thursday to pick up the fish. The seafood buffet became the most popular night for Snowbird guests. That prompted other local restaurants to start featuring fresh seafood.

Neil can also claim some credit for Utah’s first really good coffee when John Bolton, Chef of The Golden Cliff Restaurant purchased a commercial roasting machine to roast his own coffee beans. John went on to establish Salt Lake Roasting Company. Another first in Utah was the Raw Bar and Sushi Bar introduced in the mid-1970s at The Eagles Nest Lounge.

Very early in his time at Snowbird, Neil realized that to meet the needs of the local, national, and international clientele, there would need to be some changes in the state’s strict alcohol beverage laws. He began advocating for those changes with the legislature and the Utah Liquor Control Commission and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. He continued to educate and advocate during his employment with the DABC. Just a few of the many changes made as a result of Neil’s work are:

Beginning of a special order system for wines the success of which led to the Liquor Commission opening the first State Wine Store in Trolley Square;

A law creating the private club visitor card that allowed patrons to order wine and mixed drinks at Snowbird and elsewhere. This was a boost to the tourism, hotel, and restaurant industries;

Legalizing wine and good pairing dinners and wine festivals;

Legislation allowing home brewing of beer;

Changes in the dispensing law to allow wine-by-the-glass; and

Collaboration with the Olympic Organizing Committee to write a liquor law handbook.

While managing the Golden Cliff Restaurant in the 1980s, Neil was asked to do a dinner for La Chaîne by board members of the Salt Lake Bailliage: Col. Jack Daniels, Carole Von Schmidt, and Bill Nassikas. The dinner was hailed as “the best ever” by many members of the Bailliage, and Neil was asked to consider joining the confrérie.  After attending a subsequent dinner or two, he did join, and soon became a board member as the Vice Conseiller Culinaire, and a member of the Société Mondial du Vin.  He continued to serve as an officer of the Salt Lake Bailliage for over 30 years, retiring from the board as the Vice Conseiller Argentier, becoming the Vice Conseiller Argentier Honoraire.  

Neil looks back on his contributions with pride, but most importantly, is very happy to be semi-retired and especially enjoy the Good Wine, Good Food, and Good Company of the Chaînes des Rotisseurs!  We are so fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and contributing member as our friend, Neil Cohen.

Chaîne Salt Lake City

Address: PO Box 900727, Sandy UT 84090

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