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.
Joe Frietze, Chef
Chef Joe moved to Vail, Colorado from Chicago in 2019 because it seemed like the right thing to do. After three years in the Windy City, he was looking for somewhere new to call home. Joe found that Vail was not only a beautiful place to live but had a restaurant, Mountain Standard, where he’d like to work. He is originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico but has lived and worked all over the country under many great chefs including Thomas Keller, Jeff Cerciello, Mark Hopper, and Paul Kahan. Joe started cooking in his teens and was formally trained at Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu. When he is not in the kitchen cooking up something delicious he enjoys swinging a golf club out on a course or sitting on his couch. Chef Joe brings to Mountain Standard talent, passion, and the philosophy, “Let’s just smile every day, make great food, then go home with the happiness knowing that we made somebody’s day.”
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.
Jesus ‘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 deseret. 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.
Jessenia Sanabria, Bar Manager
Jessenia was born and raised in sunny, yet rainy, Palm Beach County, Florida. She started her hospitality career hosting during high school and moved her way up into bartending by the time she was in college. She attended Florida International University in Miami where she ultimately studied business and marketing after switching her major about four times. She continued to bartend during college and on the side as she dabbled in careers outside of the service industry. The hustle of restaurants and excitement of the bar always kept her interest. She was working in real estate, and one day she decided to pursue a better life balance and moved to a small town in the Rocky Mountains. She chose Vail for its year round appeal and proximity to an airport. And the rest, as they say, is history! She began at Mountain Standard as a server and was soon promoted to dining room manager. Her attention to detail and natural leadership qualities made her a perfect fit. Living in Vail gives Jessenia the opportunity to explore the unknown and play right in her own backyard.
Maria Busata, Sous Chef
Traveling the world and her mom are two strong influences that helped to shape Chef Maria. As far back as she can remember growing up in Brazil, Maria was the prep cook at home stirring pots that she was not even tall enough to see into. Her passion for cooking and desire to better the world led her to culinary school and studying environmental engineering and eventually sustainable cuisine. Ten years ago Maria left her homeland in South America to experience something she had never known before, the mountain lifestyle. She started her American life in Vail, where she fell in love with snowboarding, and then moved to Washington to further her knowledge in farm to table cooking and menu development that synchronized with the seasons and local farmers. Missing the mountains and her new outdoor passions, Maria decided to come back to the Rocky Mountains. Arriving in Vail during the off-season, Maria knocked on Sweet Basil’s closed door requesting a job. Although she was a great fit both professionally and personally with Sweet Basil, she has a natural connection to and skill of creation with the open fire used at Mountain Standard. When the opportunity presented itself, Maria was promoted to Sous Chef of Mountain Standard in 2018.
Casey Swanson, Dining Room Manager
Just like most everyone else who was not born in Colorado, Casey never intended to move to a small mountain town in the Rocky Mountains. He also never imagined being in the restaurant industry. He first ventured to Colorado on a bike trip and after falling in love with the mountains and lifestyle that accompanied it, he decided to trade in his tent for a more permanent bedroom, get married, and start a family. Casey grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut and attended college at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Food was a big part of family gatherings and meal time was always special, so it is no wonder that Casey was drawn to the hospitality industry. Whether it was serving hamburgers and hotdogs at Family Burger Night or washing dishes at The Steak Pit that hooked him, Casey has come to realize that he is most at home making people happy with food and beverages. After managing a popular tavern in Breckenridge, he tried an office job with better family hours but it just wasn’t the right fit. The moment he walked into Mountain Standard, he knew it was a special place and the place for him. Casey started at Mountain Standard in April of 2018. At first he was worried about the commute to and from Summit County, but he soon realized that this was the time he could use to reflect on how lucky he is to live in a place that is truly majestic. Casey married his highschool sweetheart, shares his love of mountain biking with his daughter Lexi, and looks forward to teaching her and his son Mason how to ski.
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.
Ben Daroca, Wine Director
Ben first became interested in the world of wine while cooking in Italy where he enjoyed daily consumption with family meal. He moved to Vail in 1999 after finishing his degree in Anthropology at Colorado State University. Upon his arrival in the valley, Ben was given the opportunity to work at the long standing Game Creek Club on Vail Mountain as a cook. In 2003 Ben’s manager and mentor urged him to strengthen his diversity and he made the move to front of the house at Game Creek Club. He was immediately fascinated by the synergistic relationship between food and wine. The way that wine can simply elevate an eating experience was something that intrigued him. Ben took a job in the wine department at Larkspur Restaurant in 2006 and ultimately took over the wine program there in 2011. Ben became a part of the Sweet Basil family in 2014 and takes great pride in overseeing a program that is ever evolving while showcasing benchmark producers from the best growing regions in the world. The fundamental ideas of approachability, affordability, and fun are paramount within his program. Ben enjoys time away from work foraging for mushrooms in the spring, on his bike in the summer, and snowboarding during the winters.
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.
Jana Morgan, Marketing Director
Bio to come
Stacy Day, Pastry Chef
Stacy is a beach girl turned mountain girl. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California specializing in baking and patisserie. Stacy has worked at many reputable restaurants in California including The Cellar Restaurant in Fullerton, Nieuport 17 Restaurant in Tustin, Balboa Bay Club and Resort in Newport Beach, and Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad. She quickly worked her way up from cook to assistant pastry chef and head pastry supervisor. She has been responsible for providing delicious sweet treats for multiple restaurants, banquets, and members of beach clubs and resorts. In July of 2017, Stacy moved to Colorado for a change of pace from the California lifestyle. She was recruited by Vail Resorts and then worked at the Avon Bakery & Deli in Avon where she was in charge of all pastry aspects for the wholesale and catering division. Stacy’s next big adventure is to learn how to ski or snowboard.
Rhena Rizzo, Executive Assitant
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.
Ian Mackler, Dining Room Manager
At age five Ian had already drawn up the plans for his own restaurant. He knew at a very young age that he would pursue a job in the industry after experiencing genuine hospitality at a local steakhouse and repeatedly watching his family host holidays and special events. His passion in the culinary world was ignited by his first job as a pantry cook. However, while working at a wine bar, he realized that his favorite division of the service world was the beverage department and he aspired to perfect the craft of mixology. This excitement has led to his current job of educating the Rocky Mountains on bourbon and whiskey as the Whiskey Guardian for Angel’s Envy. He joined the Mountain Standard dining room manager team in 2019 from the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm that comes naturally and was instilled while studying Restaurant Food Service Management at the University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality. Ian chooses to live in Vail for the natural beauty, serenity, and quality of life this alpine wonderland provides. Outside of work he enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking, fishing, playing lacrosse, auto-motives, and skateboarding.