Jenny Lake

Fall Line

Jenny lake lodge, wyo.

Joseph Santangini is a chef, a mentor, a teacher. When he returned to the Jenny Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park three years ago after a 15-year hiatus, it was to everyone's benefit. His staff learns and grows under his exacting tutelage. Guests come from around the world for his Rocky Mountain cuisine.

As executive chef of the Grand Teton Lodge Company, Santangini oversees several resort properties in and around the park. But he's most fond of Jenny Lake Lodge, where he apprenticed early in his career.

"Jenny Lake is an incredible resort in the most beautiful place in the United States," he says. "When I came back, my goal was to run the place with a good returning staff and cook great food like you won't find anywhere else in the region."

Book a table in Jenny Lake's dining room and you'll be transported to an earlier time. The lodge dates back to a historic Twenties guest ranch and its log walls and rock fireplaces bespeak its roots. In contrast, Santangini, with chef Wes Hamilton, offers contemporary dishes prepared with the finest products they can find.

Most popular is wild game: elk, emu, buffalo prime rib, venison, as well as duck, pheasant and seafood. Preparations are far from backcountry. Elk chops are marinated in balsamic vinegar and served with goat cheese risotto and a port wine-raisin emulsion. Pistachio and pommery mustard-crusted venison comes with acorn squash confit and cranberry demi-glace.

For Santangini, the rewards vary. "I see my customers' kids grow up from chicken fingers to foie gras," he says. "And if I'm having a tough day, I just go out and look at the mountains."