Chef Antonio “Tony” Furano

Chef Antonio Furano

Source: Joanne R. Milner, granddaughter

Whenever I think about the Hotel Utah, my heart turns to my grandfather, Antonio “Tony” Furano. Tony was born in Savuto di Cleto, Italy, and immigrated to the United States in 1913, when he was 17 years old. He went to Helper, Utah, to join his father who was working in the coal mines. Tony, however, was more of an artist than a miner. In 1919, at age 22, he came to Salt Lake City and was hired as a chicken butcher by Chef Louis Then at the newly built Hotel Utah.

The seasonings and spices he used on roasts and in soups and sauces were refined to perfection. “It was soon discovered that he had the gift of bringing out the best in foods, and it was not long before he was made second cook,” writes Winifred Wilson in a feature article about him in U-Tel, a Hotel Utah employee newsletter.

Because of the newsletter article and tribute, I have a priceless, though brief, record of my grandfather’s professional culinary skills, his style, temperament, and ,more importantly, some quotes in his own words.

“Tony eagerly learned and progressed under a succession of chefs—Chef Nick Theordore, Chef Bouvais, Chef Brandish, Chef Kohler, and finally Chef Gerard Bueneman, who elevated Tony to his rightful place as King of the soups and sauces with a title of ‘Saucier.’ According to then Head Chef Gerard Bueneman, ‘he is “top man.” ’ His heart is in his work, and he looks out for the interest of the house” (U-Tel, December 7, 1951).

Because of his work and association with others at the Hotel Utah, Tony was introduced to the young Italian girl, Matilda Mariani, whom he would marry and help raise four wonderful children. She (my grandmother) said, “Tony would come over to the house and see me. He would bring sandwiches and food from the hotel. We’d sit on the front porch and eat.”  To a poor, young, motherless girl, that was quite a treat. Tony and Matilda were married on August 25, 1924.

My mother, Giovanna Fortunata Furano, remembers going to the Hotel Utah with her mother as a small child to see and visit her father, Tony, in the kitchen. He would take them to a special room and bring them something good to eat and dishes with mounds of ice cream. Every birthday they looked forward to receiving a Hotel Utah cake wrapped with spun sugar roses and ribbons, and at Easter they looked for decorated, fondant-filled Hotel Utah chocolate eggs.

Tony’s children all had their wedding receptions at the Hotel Utah, with a delectable display of food, desserts, and specialty wedding cakes. In more recent years, my parents 50th wedding anniversary and my mother Giovanna’s 80th birthday were held in the Empire Room with a signature photo of Chef Tony Furano on display over the exquisite Italian buffet prepared for family and friends by Temple Square Hospitality.

Antonio “Tony” Furano worked at the Hotel Utah for 45 years until his retirement. At the time of his death, Chef Gerard Bueneman said of Tony and his work, “He was not a cook, he was a great artist in the field of culinary art. He seasoned his soups with herbs, true, but he added devotion and pride. He was a great, great artist.”

General manager Henry (Hank) Aloia said, “It is easy to see why a man like Tony was able to produce such fine cuisine. He cooked with more than ingredients; he cooked with his soul. He was truly a dedicated man—dedicated to his art and dedicated to his family.”

Faith, family, friends, and food are an embodiment of my favorite memories of the Hotel Utah, which has been a part of my family’s personal history for 100 years. My family and I have reverence and respect for this grand building where my grandfather, Antonio “Tony” Furano, dedicated his whole life’s work, culinary talent, and passion for the reputation of the Hotel Utah.

This majestic edifice is a timeless reflection of past pioneer craftsmanship, which is now mingled with new age, state-of-the-art technology, equipment, and delectable foods. Its kitchens will continue to serve future generations in classic style.

We are pleased to participate in this 100th anniversary celebration. Salute!

19 Responses to “Chef Antonio “Tony” Furano”

  1. February 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm, CRE said:

    I remember back in 1995-1996 when my brother and his wife lived in Salt Lake City and their ward was one of the Eagle Gate wards which held their meetings in the Joseph Smith Memorial building It was the ward which the First Presidency- except Pres Monson were in when they were at the ward. My brother worked for the Church at the time. That Sunday I was visiting, President Faust was there. I got to shake his hand. My niece was just a baby at the time and he knew her a little bit too. It was the first time I had shaken a hand of one of any the First Presidency or any Apostle even. It was special to meet him.

    Reply

  2. March 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm, Tim Bueneman said:

    Your post about your grandfather brought back many truly wonderful memories. My father was Chef Gerard who I knowADORED your grandfather. I recall going to your grandfather’s house when I was quite young (maybe 8-9) and watching him show my dad and me how he made his wonderful red wine in his home. They even let me taste a little, which was a huge adventure at that age. I remember your grandmother was a marvelous host. If you get this, contact me on readerguy@msn.com. LOVED your grandparents! Tim Bueneman

    Reply

    • April 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm, Ed O'Neill said:

      > This is so awesome to read all of these great stories and memories. My Grandpa worked with Chef Gerard Bueneman, I’m unsure of the year due to my Grandpa’s memory isn’t the best anymore at 80 years old now.

      My Grandpa immigrated from Holland when he was 17 with his Mother in 1948 and only his second day here he walked through the front door with his Mother on his arm and asked for a job. They where a little baffled that he walked through the front door rather than the back door asking for a job but at the same time was impressed that he did so with his mother on his arm because he refused to leave her at home alone.

      My Grandpa was hired as a part time bus boy and eventually worked his way up through the years until he became the Manager of the coffee shop. He worked for Hotel Utah for 13 years doing many different jobs as he learned all he could.

      My Grandpa speaks to this day of all his fond memories of Hotel Utah and the people he worked with and the celebrities that he met there. These stories always bring a Huge smile to his face and a nice walk down memory lane!

      I would love to hear from you Tim Bueneman about your Father Chef Gerard. I have been trying to find any old photo’s that I could put a small scrap book together for my Grandpa if you might have any you would be willing to share. You can contact me @ sandmanviper18@msn.com (I hope you see this, it would be great to hear from you).

      Reply

  3. March 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm, Shauna Gygi Forsyth said:

    And let’s not forget my wonderful father and chef, William Frederick Gygi who began his career at the Hotel following the end of World War II. He worked Monday through Saturday for 30 years, primarily in the Coffee Shop as the breakfast/lunch chef. He passed away only two years ago at age 96. With stories too numerous to write here, we have fond memories of hearing about presidents, prophets, and celebrities eating there. As young children, we looked forward to the Santa Claus parade followed by dad making us breakfast at the Hotel. I still remember riding in the old elevators, feeling very proud of my dad, “the cook at the Hotel Utah, and hearing about all the social happenings in the Lafayette Ballroom. My entire family enjoys remembering with respect and fondness my dad’s career and our association with the Hotel. We’re so looking forward to this celebration. Shauna Gygi Forsyth

    Reply

  4. April 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm, Mikki Harper said:

    And lets not forget Lee James who worked there from the late 1940′s to the early 1980′s. He started out as a fry cook and made Executive Chef in the 70′s. He too worked 7 days aweek, 14 hours a day.

    Reply

  5. April 24, 2011 at 6:24 am, William L. Morgan said:

    We were Sophomores at Snow College in 1981 when my wife, Karen, and I were married in the Provo Temple. All we could afford was a single night at the Hotel Utah. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving and neither of us knew how to turn on the heater in the room (neither of us had ever stayed in a hotel before).
    After the renovation of the hotel into the Joseph Smith Memorial building, we joked that our room might have been converted into someone’s office and it would be impossible for us to revisit the tenth floor. Then, we discovered the Roof Restaurant overlooking the Salt Lake Temple. Now, we can watch the Temple Square lights turn on from The Roof, for our upcoming 30th anniversary!

    Reply

  6. April 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm, Elroy Mortensen said:

    Hi my name is Elroy Mortensen I started working at Hotel Utah in 1958 for a year then came back in 1961 and worked there until it closed. I returned to work when it reopened as Joseph Smith Building. I worked under and with all these fine men. I started in the coffee shop as a foodrunner. Chief Gerard started me as the breakfast cook while Bill Gygi was on vacation. I did a lot of jobs around the kitchen. When I returned in 1961 I worked all over where ever they needed me, butcher, baker, and candle stick maker (ha,ha). I worked there 32 years until it closed then came back and worked another 6 years until I retired and moved to Elmo, Ut. I have many great memories.

    Reply

  7. May 04, 2011 at 1:59 pm, Robert Carter said:

    When I was 15 years old I washed dishes at Raphaels’ Italian restuarant on 48th South in Murray,Utah. 1955. Ralph always reminded me that he was once a chef at Hotel Utah. his name is
    Ralph Perelli. Best Italian food I have ever eaten, Thanks Ralph.

    Reply

  8. May 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm, Terry Wall said:

    My Grandfather made oxen and a covered wagon, carved some horses and pioneers that were displayed for many years on July 24th at the Hotel Utah.

    My father , Clarence was a young man that worked as a bell hop at the Hotel Utah in the late 1930′s. When he met the beautiful Deon Little who was working as telephone operator at the Hotel he was smitten. They married shortly before World War II. Now many years later I work at the LDS Philandthropies office on the 2nd floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

    Reply

  9. May 15, 2011 at 7:36 am, Chris said:

    The food served in the elite Hotel Utah was always commendable, a treat for the most finicky palette! A previous neighbor shared memories of his youth working as a bell-boy in the exquisite hotel where Presidents, celebrities & prophets stayed in the prestigious hotel, decades ago. He would boast of the delicacies from pastries to the delicious Ice Cream served, which later opened up as America’s first ice cream parlor- Fendalls. Utah takes history of being First in many things: 1-the first department store(ZCMI) 2-the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and 3-Utah and America’s first Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve also developed memories from eating at the Roof and Garden restaurants while enjoying the view of the Salt Lake Temple with its beautiful landscape surrounding the square, and would enjoy eating the famous ice cream again at the building’s anniversary, even if only as a vendor!

    Reply

    • May 15, 2011 at 8:21 am, Chris said:

      A maturing gentleman recently shared his memories to me, of the elite Hotel Utah where he served as a bell-boy over 60 yrs. ago. The prestigious hotel served the elect: presidents, celebrities, and prophets as well as any who needed an overnight stay in Salt Lake. In addition to the beautiful rooms and architecture of the building, the hotel was known for the exquisite food and ice cream. A compliment to any meal by the skilled chefs were their delicacies, from pastries to ice cream so desirable, that Utah began America’s first ice cream parlor- Fendalls. Salt Lake City, Utah has made American history in many facets: 1-Kentucky Fried Chicken, 2-America’s first department store- ZCMI, and 3-America’s first Ice Cream parlor. In celebrating the hotel’s anniversary, I would again like to savor the taste of Fendalls Ice cream served where it originated- at the Hotel Utah building. Will this be possible within the restaurants or as a vendor?>

      Reply

  10. May 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm, Chrystine Heward Reynolds said:

    I remember going to the Hotel Utah for dinner each year as a special birthday treat. My Dad would dance with my twin sister and me. I especially remember the occasion of our 12th birthday and the lovely waiter (I wish I knew his name) who smiled at the three of us and teased us with a twinkle in his eye.

    My other memory was of performing there with my Skyline High School Acappella Choir during the 1964 Christmas season. I sang a solo with the rest of the choir accompanying me; and it was a highlight of my young life to that point.

    Reply

  11. June 06, 2011 at 10:50 pm, CSTUTSMAN said:

    AS A NEW BRIDE IN 1970 MY NEW HUSBAND TREATED US TO THE BRIDLE SUITE AT HOTEL UTAH. IT WAS THE MOST PLUSH ROMANTIC PLACE IN THE WORLD. IN THE MORNING WE WERE SERVED A MARVULAS BREAKFAST OF EGGS BENIDICT.I STILL CAN REMEMBER THE SMELL AND TASTE OF THEM.

    Reply

    • June 07, 2011 at 5:03 pm, Shauna Gygi Forsyth said:

      I’ll tell you who fixed your delicious eggs benedict——my dad, Bill Gygi. He would make them at home and they were delicious! Shauna Gygi>

      Reply

      • June 21, 2011 at 10:15 am, Jerry Mika said:

        Ms. Anderson:

        Thank you so much for remembering my father Eddie Mika, a long time Hotel Utah employee. I too worked at the hotel and remember your father very well. A couple of names you forgot are Dowd Leiter and Parley Hansen. That was quite a team of hotel men and women. After forty years in the hotel business I still remember the great times we all had at the Hotel Utah.

        Reply

  12. June 08, 2011 at 3:48 pm, Vicki Anderson Hawkins said:

    Andy Anderson was my father. He worked at the Hotel Utah for 39 years. He started as a bell hop and was the residence manager when he retired in 1975. I remember going to the Hotel’s Lagoon Days, passing out Easter Eggs in the coffee shop. My father loved the people he worked with, Jim Durbin, Dowd Leiter, Hank Alioa, Eddy Mika, Cheif Gerard, Clea Post and Phillis Storts and may others. The Hotel has always been a place of beauty for the State of Utah and I am proud of the connection that our family has with such beautiful building.

    Reply

  13. July 11, 2011 at 9:25 am, Hotel Utah: 100 Years Of Memories said:

    [...] have shared their memories of the Hotel Utah (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). You can read many memories on the Hotel Utah 100 website. Some of my favorites [...]

    Reply

  14. July 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm, Glenda said:

    I remember going to the Hotel Utah as a child and eating at the restuarant downstairs. I believe there was a fish pond and “Uncle Roscoe” would go around to all the children and if I remember give them a coloring page or draw them a picture. It was a special treat. It was always so elegant and special. I loved seeing the large Christmas tree in the lobby each year. I felt sad when it wasn’t a hotel anymore but glad that it wasn’t torn down.

    Reply

  15. June 24, 2012 at 8:19 am, Pete Lutz said:

    I have several recipes that my mother left me where she reference a chef named Ginny. She worked
    as a hair dresser close to the Hotel Utah and I recall her saying the recipes came from the Hotel Utah.
    Not sure if Ginny is a nick name or a first or last name.

    Two of the best recipes were a meatloaf , a turkey stuffing and cooking a turkey breast down procedure.

    Just wondering if anyone would know anything about this.

    Pete

    Reply

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