Tastemasters of St. George

Restaurateurs Take the Good Life to a Higher Level

Alex Peterson, Manager,  Benja’s Thai Garden

435 N 1680 E Suite 14, St. George, UT 84790, Tel. 435.251.9301

How long has this restaurant been open?

We opened the Ancestor Square location in 2006 and the Garden restaurant in 2010 and are busy in both places.

What do you enjoy the most about living in the St. George area?

I love the cleanliness of the area. I also appreciate the friendly people. This is a great place for my family and is a place that is a microcosm of the good life.

A COVID-19 Takeaway:

We were closed like all the other restaurants in the area, but we quickly developed our takeout and curbside business, which is still very successful. We have many loyal customers, and our business has continued to improve since the virus outbreak.

Accomplishments worth celebrating:

I am glad to say we have expanded our Thai Garden restaurant. We are unable to grow space-wise at our Ancestor Square location, but we have at the Garden location. We can accommodate so many more people than before. I am also proud of the success of our branding as well. I am grateful we get to feed so many people and that our guests come back time and time again. We have a great staff.

Jason Neeley, Managing Partner, Wood Ash Rye in the Advenire Hotel

25 W. St. George Blvd., St. George, UT 84770 Tel. 435.522.5020,

How long has this restaurant been in operation?

We opened Wood Ash Rye in December 2019.

What do you enjoy most about living in the St. George area?

We love the community. The people here are friendly, and they are why we do what we do.

A COVID-19 Takeaway:

I learned that if you show people you care enough, they will do the same.

What are you most proud of?

I am proudest of the trust we have created that is welcoming and caring. We are driven by a sense of community, and we focus on offering superb hospitality.

What does success mean to you?  

Success means being able to impact and influence people on a daily basis.

Accomplishments worth celebrating:

Recently, we were awarded Best Fine Dining Concept of the Year by the Utah Restaurant Association. For being such a new restaurant, we are proud of that award!

Gerardo Reyes, Chef and Owner, Ristorante Italiano Chef Alfredo

Green Gate Village, 76 W Tabernacle, St. George, UT 84770 Tel. 435.656.5000  Also in Cedar City. Italian cuisine.

How long has this restaurant been in operation?

Chef Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano opened in Cedar City in December 2013 and was followed closely by the opening of the St. George location in 2014, operated by Chef Alfredo Modica, until he retired in 2018. I operate both restaurants now and drive back and forth between the two.

A COVID-19 Takeaway:

Our restaurants closed for a period of time, but the outreach from the community was incredible for me. People were kind and generous and we were looked after. It was a miracle that we could reopen the business in a short period of time compared to restaurants in Salt Lake, California and around the country. I am especially grateful for the business we received, some from anonymous sources.

Accomplishments worth celebrating:

We are grateful for our staff, who are like family. Running restaurants in two locations is not easy, and we have great people working to make the business better.


Imi Kun, Chef and Owner, Aragosta

1386 E 100 S St. George, UT 84790  Tel. 435.313.0611  European cuisine

How many years have you been in the restaurant industry?

I have been working in this industry for 48 years. I studied from age 14 until I was 29 at the University of Hungary, and I’ve lived in France, Italy and Germany working in the food industry before coming to America.

What do you enjoy most about living in the St. George area?

I feel safe and secure in this area. The weather is mild, and the people are friendly. This is also a good place to raise a family. I’ve been here 17 years and I am happy to be living in such a wonderful place.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud to serve my guests. I think of this restaurant as my home where I can welcome guests with outstretched hands—where I may greet them and mingle with them as if I were welcoming them into my home. I love to give my guests a smile that comes from the heart. It is important to show humility. Many of my guests come back to my restaurant many times, and I hope it is because of how I treat them and also that they like the food I prepare, because I serve it with love.



Gary Smith, Executive Chef and Owner, Anasazi Steakhouse

1234 W. Sunset Blvd., St. George, UT 84770 Tel. 435.674.0095  American cuisine

How long have you been in the restaurant industry and how long has this restaurant been in operation?

I have been in the restaurant business about 15 years and in this business around 12 years now.

What advice would you give guests who are visiting Anasazi Steakhouse for the first time?

Customers who dine at Anasazi Steakhouse should prepare themselves for a sensory overload of the best kind. We have specialty soups and salads—fondues, and you may even cook your own steak “on the rock” as we say. We offer a social experience as you dine.

What is your overall goal for your guests?

The primary goal at Anasazi Steakhouse is to serve our guests high quality, exquisite American food.

What wisdom have you learned building your business?

I try to remember to keep balance in my life; it can be difficult in the beginning, but it’s something I work on.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me means being comfortable while also enjoying time with my family.

What advice do you wish someone had given you before you opened your restaurant?

You are never truly ready and don’t take the stress home.


Kari Rich, Owner, Cliffside Restaurant

511 S Tech Ridge Dr., St. George, UT 84770 Tel. 435.319.6005  Upscale casual option offering New American fare with picturesque views

How long have you owned the Inn on the Cliff and the Cliffside Restaurant?

My parents, Tom and Dorothy Heers, first saw these facilities for sale on Craig’s List in 2013, and my husband Daniel and I entered the picture in 2014 as part owners. Immediately for us all remodeling and renovating became a labor of love.

What are you most proud of?

One thing that makes this restaurant and inn so successful is the people we’ve hired. Bringing on the best staff pays dividends and everyone has given more than 100 percent. We feel they are all family.

What wisdom have you learned building your business?

I’ve learned not to be afraid to seek advice from others who have had similar experiences. Also, I’ve learned to not be afraid to take a risk and to surround myself with successful people like my parents have done throughout their lives.

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