Ski Utah Press Release

Public Relations Director


This is the first time a Utah restaurant has been selected as a semifinalist by the James Beard Awards in the “Outstanding Restaurant” category, and the fifth time Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, a women-owned, farm-to-table restaurant located in one of the nation’s most remote towns, has been recognized by the James Beard Awards. Chef/owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding believe in the power of a lovingly prepared meal served in an extraordinary landscape, and they are renowned for using their restaurant as a vehicle for change.

(Boulder, Utah) - Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm announced today its 2022 semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation. This is the fifth time chef/owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding have been recognized by the James Beard Awards, and theirs is the first Utah restaurant to be nominated in this particular–and highly prestigious–national category. The Outstanding Restaurant category includes only 20 semifinalists from across the country, honoring “a restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.”

Castle and Spalding have not only created a world-class restaurant and six-acre farm in a rural, tiny town (population 252), they have also self-published two lauded narrative cookbooks, With a Measure of Grace and This Immeasurable Place​​. Situated on the grounds of the Boulder Mountain Lodge, in the heart of the magnificent Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm was founded on and follows Buddhist principles, with a deep commitment to sustainability, food justice, and community responsibility. Each year for the last 22 seasons, thousands have flocked to Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm to be nourished by the fresh, seasonal cuisine sourced and harvested from heirloom orchards, local ranches, and, primarily, from the restaurant’s own organic farm.

Castle and Spalding also believe strongly in the intersection of food and politics and in using their restaurant as a vehicle for change. Chef and Co-Owner Blake Spalding, said, “From the beginning, our orientation with the restaurant has been 'how do we use this work for the larger common good'? It's powerful to see industry leaders now recognizing that as important, and a marker by which to determine excellence, on an equal level as the cuisine. We started Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm as a pushback against the ‘90s attitude that eating ‘fancy’ food was eating food from far, far away. When we opened in 2000, that was the definition of fine dining, and we were determined to do things differently, to have a positive impact on the restaurant industry and prove it could be done, even as everyone insisted we’d fail. Our recipe for success has been to delight guests with our food and our team’s gracious service, offer them a plate of something delicious and nourishing–something we grew ourselves–and encourage them to spend time in their precious public lands.”

Chef and Co-Owner Jen Castle said, “This national recognition by a group of peers feels very significant. Through 22 seasons, weathering a pandemic, after many long, quiet hours of honest and earnest work, we’re thrilled to be honored for our vision and our commitment to teach and empower the next generation about rural food sourcing, high-desert farming methods, good food prepared with love, and the importance of meeting your neighbors. Standing by our convictions has contributed to our longevity. It's also exceptionally meaningful to be recognized in a field traditionally dominated by men.”

Though located more than four hours from the nearest metropolitan area (which presented a host of challenges in the early days), Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm is no stranger to James Beard Awards recognition. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Castle and Spalding were semifinalists in the Best Chef Southwest category. In 2020, they were nominees/finalists for Best Chef in the Mountain Region.
Weathering the pandemic was profoundly challenging, but both Castle and Spalding look to the future with hope and optimism that they will continue to learn, engage, and teach through Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm. They are uniquely positioned to be transparent about what they’ve experienced and share that knowledge with others.

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm will reopen for the season with patio dining and take-out service on Friday, April 8, 2022. Photos of Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm can be found here.


Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm is celebrating its 23rd season of serving organic, locally sourced cuisine with much of the produce harvested from its six-acre farm in Boulder, Utah. The destination restaurant proudly enjoys the highest Zagat ratings in Utah and follows Buddhist principles, with a commitment to sustainability, food justice, and community responsibility.
Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm was selected as a James Beard Awards semifinalist in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The restaurant was also voted “Best Restaurant of the Rockies” by Elevation Outdoor Magazine, and was awarded “Best Restaurant in Southern Utah” by Salt Lake Magazine from 2007-2019 (and now resides in Salt Lake Magazine's Hall of Fame). Hell's Backbone Grill & Farm was presented the prestigious Utah Governor’s Mansion Award for Culinary Artistry in 2006 by Governor Jon Huntsman and was a Fodor’s Choice 2006 recipient. Castle, Spalding, and the restaurant were the subject of a 2018 New Yorker feature highlighting their efforts to save the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from being downsized. Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm was also one of four restaurants chosen to represent Utah’s Slow Food movement in an exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Connect with Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm through their Website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


The James Beard Awards recognizes exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive. Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious honors recognizing leaders in the culinary and food media industries. The Awards are overseen by the Awards Committee.

The James Beard Foundation celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture, while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry to create a future where all have the opportunity to thrive. Established over 30 years ago, the Foundation has highlighted the centrality 14 of food culture in our daily lives and is committed to supporting a resilient and flourishing industry that honors its diverse communities. By amplifying new voices, celebrating those leading the way, and supporting those on the path to do so, the Foundation is working to create a more equitable and sustainable future—what we call Good Food for Good™. The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501c(3) organization based in New York City.