Gerard Ford Craft
President and Executive Chef, Craft Restaurants, Ltd.
He received Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Innovator of the Year awards. He was one of Inc. magazine’s Star Entrepreneurs under 30. And he won the James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award. To say that Gerard Craft has found success as a chef and businessman would be an understatement.
In 2005, at the age of 25, he opened the restaurant Niche in Missouri and has since extended his offerings as part of Niche Food Group in St. Louis to include Taste by Niche, Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria and Porano Pasta—and a second Pastaria is expected to open in Nashville in summer 2016. His success has grown out of an “addiction” to the restaurant life he developed while he was a snowboard photographer living in Salt Lake City. Before opening his first restaurant in a rehabbed old building in Benton Park, St. Louis he cooked at Bistro Toujours in Park City, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and Ryland Inn in New Jersey.
The foundation upon which Craft continues to build his niche in the culinary world took shape at Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute at the Miller Campus under the direction of instructor Leslie Seiferle. “I have been lucky to have a great career with many high points, but the one experience I will never forget is my time at SLCC with Leslie Seiferle,” Craft says. “In that kitchen is where I learned the building blocks of cooking, and without them I wouldn't be where I am today. Even though I am pretty sure I was low on the list of talent in that kitchen, Leslie kept pushing me. I remember one amazing time during a practical exam when I was stirring some caramel and Leslie was staring over my shoulder. I had no clue what she was doing, but when I took the time to look down I noticed that my non-heatproof spatula had melted into the sugar. Leslie just smiled and told me to start over. It’s really shocking I have come as far as I have. I am sure I am only one of many who came out of her kitchen to see success. Thank you Leslie and everyone at SLCC for the gift you give every day.”
Craft has carved out a reputation for innovative interpretations of “humble” Missouri ingredients that he sources from local farmers. The newer Porano Pasta is billed as a “fast-casual” restaurant, with plans for two locations in the St. Louis area. Using his social media savvy, Craft has racked up about 10,000 followers on Twitter and more than 4,670 followers on Instagram—he’s also well liked on Facebook and Pinterest.
In 2010 Craft told St. Louis magazine, “Growing up, all I wanted to do was to own a business and be a businessman.” In that article he talks about dropping out of college in Salt Lake City and beginning his cooking career at ski resorts. As an “impulsive” 25-year-old, he made the leap to Missouri after seeing “something good was happening” as a lot of young owner-chefs were starting businesses there. He now lives in St. Louis with his wife, Susan, and their two daughters.
Engineer, Utah Division of Water Resources
Marisa Dawn Egbert discovered her love for civil engineering during a pre-engineering class at Salt Lake Community College, where she attended on an athletics scholarship and played on the women’s basketball team. Her focus at SLCC was on STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. She transferred to Utah State University and earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering.
In 2000, Egbert became state coordinator for the MATHCOUNTS in Utah and continues to lead the program, which annually benefits approximately 500 middle school students and more than 60 participating schools statewide. Over 5,000 Utah students have participated in MATHCOUNTS, a national nonprofit foundation that strives to engage students of all ability and interest levels in fun, challenging math programs in order to expand their academic and professional opportunities.
Over the past decade her relationship with SLCC has come full circle through her work with MATHCOUNTS as dozens of SLCC students, faculty and staff have volunteered to help her run MATHCOUNTS competitions every February and March on the SLCC Taylorsville campus.
“I am grateful for my STEM education at SLCC,” Egbert says. “I had no trouble transitioning seamlessly to Utah State with my SLCC education. I found a quality STEM education at SLCC, where I love bringing MATHCOUNTS every year. I’m proud that I got my start at SLCC, and I want young students participating in MATHCOUNTS and who are interested in STEM subjects to be excited about what SLCC has to offer in those areas.”
Egbert is a registered professional engineer in the State of Utah and has worked for the Utah State Division of Water Resources for the past eleven years. Prior to working for the State of Utah, Marisa worked in the Geotechnical Engineering field in Florida for several years.
She is a Project Manager in the Division's Development Branch. The Branch provides financial assistance for water-related projects throughout Utah. She also leads the Bear River Development Feasibility Study, planning for the future water needs in Utah. Marisa has served on the Executive Committee of the Utah Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) for the past ten years, including the past eight years as Secretary/Treasurer.