Matt Morgan, Owner
Matt started at Sweet Basil bussing tables in 1987. He had moved to Vail with a friend “just for the season,” because the ski bum lifestyle had been a youthful dream. Growing up in Denver he camped and fished with his family in the summer and in the winter would ride the ski train to Winter Park, so the mountains were always calling. Since one season was not enough and Matt was still working for the Sweet Basil family, he helped open our then sister restaurant, Montauk, in Lionshead in 1988. Matt returned to Sweet Basil about three years later as a bartender. He was soon promoted to Assistant Dining Room Manager and eventually Dining Room Manager. Continuing his upward movement in the company, Matt accepted the General Manager position of our newest restaurant, Zino, in 1998. In June of 1999 Matt hit a career landmark, Managing Partner of Sweet Basil. And then a professional highlight in November of 2012 when the Sweet Basil restaurant family grew again with the opening of Mountain Standard. In October of 2016, Matt bought out founding partner Kevin Clair to be the full owner of Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. Today Matt lives in Edwards with his wife, Jana, and his twin teenagers, Grace and Jack. As a family they love to travel, have family ski days, camp, hike, and enjoy all the Vail Valley has to offer. “Do it now, life is too short!”
Paul Anders, Executive Chef/Partner
Paul began his culinary career at Mahi Mahi’s Sushi bar while pursuing his degree from Johnson and Wales University in Norfolk, Virginia. Upon graduating summa cum laude, he accepted an Assistant Chef position at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. Smart decision, since this is where Paul met his now wife, Theresa. From this point, Paul traveled the country working as a chef at luxury hotels, focusing on fine dining restaurants, including the Four Seasons in Newport Beach, California, The Brown Palace in Denver, and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Paul brought his experience and dedication to his craft to Sweet Basil as the Chef de Cuisine in October 2005. In the Spring of 2006, Paul was promoted to the role of Executive Chef at Sweet Basil. In November of 2012, Paul was again promoted, this time as Executive Chef and partner of both Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. Outside of the building Chef spends time with his girls, Theresa and his daughters Vivian and Harper, skiing, walking Bosco the dog, adventuring on the river, and watching University of Virginia basketball. If there is a fishing excuse, Paul has used it! Although he cooks very little at home, he experiments with the Big Green Egg. Paul’s epic beard growing ability is preparing him for his second career as lumberjack/blacksmith when he settles back in Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg.
Lalo Mata, Sous Chef
Chef Lalo was born in Mexico but grew up in Eagle County which has proven to be his true home. He believes this is the best place to live: one of the most prominent vacation spots on the continent. Lalo loves the mountain life! When he is not working he is enjoying all the valley and its surroundings has to offer. In the winter Lalo skis and snowboards, there are very few powder or bluebird days he has missed. In the summer his mode of transportation on the mountain is his downhill bike. He also loves to camp and take trips to the desert. Lalo started his career in restaurants as a busboy but soon discovered that the front of house was not for him. He would sneak in the kitchen and pick up cooking tips and practice his own skills. He has worked in a few restaurants around Vail and spent some summer seasons cooking on Nantucket Island. In 2012 he began working for Mountain Standard as one of the original lines cooks for the restaurant. His passion for food and skills to make it look and taste delicious led him to a promotion and his current position as sous chef.
Donovan Sornig, General Manager
Donovan stumbled into the service industry upon his arrival to Vail in June 2006 as a doorman at The George which grew to bartending and then designing and managing the Bol bar. Donovan grew up in Detroit and joined the Marines when he graduated from high school. Post military he was unsure of his next move but had a calling from the mountains so he packed his truck and drove to Colorado. Donovan started his career at Mountain Standard in 2009 using his unique skills and expertise to make the beverage program one of the best in the valley. Bringing a wealth of practical knowledge and educational training to the Mountain Standard team, Donovan was a shining star behind the bar and as the bar manager. However, his ambition led him to not only learn how the floor runs but how to successfully lead it. Donovan was promoted to Dining Room Manager of Mountain Standard in May 2018. When Donovan is not at work he can be found downhill mountain biking, hunting, snowboarding, cooking, or grappling on no gi Friday. His favorite food in popcorn, and he is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the popular treat.
Austin Simpson, Sous Chef
Chef Austin comes to us from the midwest. The best decision he has made in his life so far was on a whim: pack up and move to Vail, Colorado. It’s not hard to see why he feels that way. Austin’s life motto is, “Make the most of each day!” That is easy to do in this Rocky Mountain town. Some of his favorite activities are backcountry snowboarding and mountain biking. Austin does not have any formal cooking training but he has logged many hours in kitchens. He started in restaurants when he was in high school and his passion grows stronger everyday. He never wastes an opportunity to sharpen his skills and learn new techniques. Austin started working at Mountain Standard as a line cook and was promoted to Chef de Partie in 2018 then Sous Chef in 2019. He is an invaluable member of our chef team and loves to share his talents with the other cooks in the kitchen.
Mike Padrick, Dining Room Manager
The restaurant industry is a unique society that fosters special people. Here at Mountain Standard, we take pride in our community and celebrate all the different characters in our family, Mike Padrick being one of those uncommon souls. He started his relationship with our company in 2013 as a mercenary server for a former GM who knew him from their mutual Larkspur Restaurant days. He couldn’t help himself and soon became a full-fledged member of the team. In a moment of weakness and general fondness for owner Matt Morgan, Mike accepted a management position at Mountain Standard. He left in 2018 to pursue a life in Santa Barbara, California as a winemaker. Even though he was not present on our restaurant floor, Mad Lab (Padrick Family Wines) contributed to our cause by producing Mountain Standard wines that are only available in our restaurants. Donovan asked Mike back to the MS management team in early 2020. Mike is a successful leader because of his knowledge and experience, he has “been there and done that!” He’ll tell you all about it over a glass of whiskey. Papa P, as he is also known, was born in Indiana, went to Purdue University, had a cool gig as a deckhand on a purse seiner in Alaska, and traveled all over the USA and Europe as a roadie for a punk band; found himself living in Vail only by accident when his car broke down on I-70 as he was passing through town. As an established server, it was not difficult for him to find a job and make the mountains his home. Mike balances his work life with skiing, hiking, playing golf, and traveling.
Travis Culver, Kitchen Manager
Originally from South Hampton, New York, Travis moved to Vail from Delray Beach Florida. Florida is where Travis became a chef sharpening his cooking skills by asking questions, staying late, arriving early, and learning all he could under Chef Lindsay Autry (Top Chef). In ten years at the same restaurant, Travis grew from pantry cook to Sous Chef to Executive Chef. Looking for a change of scenery and balance in life, Travis packed up his knives. He moved to the Rocky Mountains to satisfy the small town kid in him that had been living the fast paced life of a large city. He chose to apply for a job at Mountain Standard because his research proved it to be one of the best restaurants in Vail. He chose Vail for the opportunity to play as hard as he works. Travis fills his personal time with many mountain hobbies including but not limited to snowboarding, hiking, and fishing. When he gets the opportunity, Travis enjoys traveling and is always willing to do some professional research and development by eating everywhere he goes.
Cathy Roach, Business Manager
Cathy moved to Vail in June of 1977. Cathy started as a server at Sweet Basil in October of 1990. After schooling in accounting and computer courses, she took on the job of Office Manager in October of 1994. Cathy or Mama, as she is affectionately called, lives with her husband, Kevin, and has two grown children. USAFA 2008 graduate Taylor is currently a Major in the Air Force flying F-16s, is married, and the father to Cathy’s first granddaughter, Caroline. There are numerous pictures of this beautiful little girl all over Cathy’s office. Travis, who is studying web design and IT at Galvanize lives in Denver. Both of Cathy’s sons’ first jobs were for the Sweet Basil Family. In November of 2012, Cathy acquired the position of Business Administrator for Mountain Standard as well. Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard would be lost without their matriarch, Mama keeps everyone and everything organized and performing effectively and efficiently. For fun Cathy practices yoga, climbs mountains, and loves spending time with her family and friends.
Ryan Walker, Pastry Chef
Ryan is a true Vail native. His parents met as employees at the Vail Marriott, married, and raised he and his brother right here in the Valley. Ryan and his identical twin followed in their father’s footsteps and became chefs. He was on the ProStart culinary team at Battle Mountain High School and won the NATIONAL competition. A difficult feat for a high school team from a small town in Colorado! He began his career at the Avon Bakery learning the skill of baking at altitude. Ryan then went on to study at Johnson and Wales in Denver and chose pastry to fit his creativity and artistic ways. While in Denver he was a breakfast cook for the Nuggets and even cooked for the renowned Chef, Troy Guard. In New York City, Ryan’s creativity flourished at 11 Madison Park and the Nomad Hotel. After working in Australia for a few months, he returned to the United States to help open the Nomad Hotel in Los Angeles. While working in the city, Ryan began to hear the Rocky Mountains call again. His timing was perfect. He was hired and joined the team as the Pastry Chef overseeing the department of “all things sweet” at both Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. When Ryan is not in the kitchen, he likes to spend his time skiing and golfing. Traveling, exploring, and taking adventures are also passions of his.
Chris Xavier, Dining Room Manager
An Eagle Scout from Texas, Chris was destined to one day live in the mountains, his happy place. He started his Colorado journey in Colorado Springs but it didn’t take him long to find his way to the Vail Valley. Chris knew from a young age that hospitality was his cup of tea. It just fit his personality, and after reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, he was inspired to make it his profession. His first job in the industry, at age 15, was at a concession stand at Dell Diamond, home of the AAA Round Rock Express. From there he moved into the restaurant business in Texas starting with Korean Mexican fusion at Chi’lantro BBQ, to Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and then into the restaurant that made his mountain dreams come true, Snooze A.M. Eatery. In 2019 Snooze offered Chris the opportunity to move to Colorado Springs and in October 2020, that opportunity led to his current position as dining room manager at Mountain Standard. Chris’ interests and hobbies are very Colorado Mountain, so he is excited to get settled into the Valley with his wife, Stephanie, and chocolate lab Mack. He enjoys Dallas sports, ice hockey, skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
Jeremy Gramling, Wine Director
Jeremy has always been drawn to the Colorado mountains. The feeling he gets when he is in the mountains is invigorating and inspiring. He enjoys playing outside on his snowboard and mountain bike. He even spent an entire summer biking across Europe. He grew up back and forth between Woodland Park, Colorado and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and went to college at the University of Wisconsin, but knew he would eventually make his home in Colorado. At 14 years old, Jeremy was shucking oysters behind a bar and loving everything about the restaurant business. From then on he began adding to his resume as a valet, busser, server, and bartender. In college he was a bartender at a wine bar and his interest and knowledge of wine began to grow. Jeremy has unique study practices, his wine learning is best enhanced through the study of people, place, culture, and food. He moved to Vail to be a ski bum and while working at the Wild Flower Restaurant, two sommeliers took Jeremy under their wings and began to teach him all he needed and wanted to know about wine. In 2003, Jeremy moved to Nantucket Island and for six years was properly trained at the Topper’s at the Wauwinet Inn a Relais & Chateaux property. Upon moving back to Vail, Jeremy’s true home, he worked at Zach’s Cabin on Beaver Creek Mountain until he joined the Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard family in 2015.
Jana Morgan, Marketing Director
Jana moved to Vail in 1987 to be a ski instructor and race coach. After comparing a summer in Vail to a summer in her home state of Michigan, she vowed never to live back in heat and humidity again! She met her husband Matt while they both worked at Montauk Seafood Grill in Lionshead (a Sweet Basil sister restaurant at the time) and the rest – they say – is history! Much to her parent’s delight, Jana used her Television Communications degree and was on the team that started Vail’s first TV station, KVBC-TV8, producing commercials and directing the live morning show. She then moved up in Vail Resorts by accepting the position of Director of Group Sales and Services for Vail Mountain in 1994. When her husband Matt became managing partner at Sweet Basil in 1999, she created a part time marketing position for the restaurant, after seeing the need to streamline advertising and marketing, all while working full time with VRI. After 25 years – and with a new restaurant coming on board (Mountain Standard) – Jana finally left Vail Resorts to work full time with Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard overseeing Marketing, PR, Advertising and Social Media. Jana has always been charity and community minded. She has run multiple school fundraisers, coordinates the Lamb Cook-off for Taste of Vail, an active board member for Salvation Army and one of 9 committee members on the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Committee. Jana lives with her husband Matt, and their twin teenagers, Jack and Grace. As a family they love to travel, ski, camp, hike, and enjoy life
Rhena Rizzo, Executive Team Assistant
Rhena, also known as Rizzo, because it is her last name, has been working for the Sweet Basil Family since the 90s. She has held many positions including busser, server, and host but is best known as a food runner. Rhena is originally from Southern California and moved to Vail for one winter season to escape college and learn how to snowboard. She fell in love with the mountains and returned to Vail after receiving her BS in Criminal Justice and Sociology. Although she has left and come back multiple times, she knows that Vail is her home and is not planning to leave again. Depending on the season she spends her nonworking time rafting, camping, biking, hiking, and snowboarding. Rhena was an elementary school teacher by day and Sweet Basil employee by night for 13 years and in 2018 she left teaching to work full time at Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard.