Chef Antonio “Tony” 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!