Sundance 2023: Chef Melissa King’s Cinematic Cuisine

At the Chase Sapphire on Main pop-up installation, the star chef demonstrated the spectacular sensory power of small bites

If films are the stars of Sundance, bursting with bright cinematic ideas and orienting festival attendees during their stay, then the hundreds of cultural activations across Utah’s Park City are the planets upon which communities form between screenings. Sundance, which has returned to Park City for the first time since January 2020, is known as a platform for breakthrough independent cinema, as well as the immense inspiration it provides to visitors. At Chase Sapphire on Main (a thoughtfully designed pop-up cultural center that hosts insightful talks, exclusive cast parties and more), the inimitable chef Melissa King took over the menu for two special events that demonstrated the spectacular sensory power of cuisine and inspired with their cross-cultural culinary origins. As the guest of Chase Sapphire, we spoke with the celebrated chef on site to learn more about her presence in Park City and her delicious dishes.

by Jeremy Cohen

How does it feel to be involved at Sundance?

This is my first Sundance. I’ve always wanted to be here, to be a part of this experience because, in the film world, it’s known as one of the most highly influential out there. For me, it feels exciting because I love films. I’m also friends with filmmakers. I wanted to bridge this world to the culinary.

by Jeremy Cohen

How did you begin to develop this exemplary menu of yuzu ricotta turnovers, coconut chai tapioca pudding with mango, sugared brioche doughnuts with grapefruit curd and so much more?

It comes down to the people that I am feeding and the location that we are at. We’re in a very snowy, cold climate in the middle of Utah. I wanted to create a menu that was cozy and comforting, while also bridging in some of my Chinese heritage and flavors that I grew up with.

by Jeremy Cohen

Anything in particular that exemplifies this?

You’ll see a pork belly bao. You’ll also see a very traditional Chinese mushroom congee. It’s something I grew up on that we would eat during the winters. My mom would make it for me throughout the colder seasons. It’s cozy and comforting and layered with a lot of textures from fried shallots to microgreens and a chili oil that bumps up the heat.

by Jeremy Cohen

What about the chicken and waffles?

There are a lot of fun things on the menu! I wanted people to be excited about brunch. I also consider the time of day. It’s important to think about the time of the experience.

How was it sourcing ingredients to Park City? 

We always try to use what’s local. Some of the Asian ingredients we had to bring in. It wasn’t difficult at all but a lot of it was relying on the local team here to guide the process.

A lot came down to representation and recognizing that there’s so much power in being you. I recognized that being an Asian, queer woman in the culinary world, there was so much there.

How has your time on television informed your culinary practice?

I think I’ve learned a lot through my experiences on television. A lot came down to representation and recognizing that there’s so much power in being you. I recognized that being an Asian, queer woman in the culinary world, there was so much there. Having that exposure on television, and having people watching, that can really influence the younger generation. I am really conscious of who I partner with and what projects I work on, for that reason: representation. It really is to give back and hopefully inspire a younger person to be a chef one day.

by Jeremy Cohen

What would you say to a young queer person who wants to enter this world?

I would tell them to not give up on themselves. Always believe in themselves. That is something I wish someone would have reiterated to me when I was younger. There are moments when you doubt yourself and question your identity and the decisions you are making in your career. It comes down to believing in yourself and continuing to push through that. You must have that core belief in your own capabilities.

by Jeremy Cohen

Is there anything you’re excited about right now?

Food! It’s always food. It’s always meeting new people like at this experience, the Chase Sapphire experience at Sundance. It’s what excites me. I just think there’s something special about food. It brings people together. It’s a universal language. We can all be in the same room, full of joy, eating pork bun.

And how did this partnership with Chase Sapphire come to be?

It was sort of an organic relationship, where I began to know Chase Sapphire and recognized that they are leaders in the dining experience and this natural partnership happened.

by Jack Dempsey

You reside in the Bay Area. Can you speak about the current culinary scene?

I think it’s going to bounce back. I am starting to see exciting things pop up, especially in the East Bay, in Berkeley and Oakland. A lot of great restaurants are starting to open up on that side of town. I’m pretty excited to dive in deeper.

Hero image by Jack Dempsey