Matt Morgan, Owner
Matt began working at Sweet Basil in 1987 as a bus boy. He 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 would ride the ski train to Winter Park, so the mountains were always calling. Over the years he was a server, bartender and manager. In June of 1999 Matt hit a career landmark and was asked to become Managing Partner of Sweet Basil from the founder Kevin Clair.Matt and Kevin opened Mountain Standard, their second restaurant together in Vail village in the fall of 2012. The relaxed, casual and tavern-like new concept became an instant success. It even brought about changes in their flagship Sweet Basil, with Matt removing the fine-dining stigma from the iconic forty-year-old establishment. He removed tablecloths, trained staff to be more approachable and changed the menu format to move away from the three-course dinner option by adding more shareable, interactive and playful items to encourage an elegant yet memorable dining experience.After Kevin retired in 2017, Matt purchased his shares to become the owner of Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. That same year, he also opened an elevated counter service concept in Edwards, the Craftsman—serving chef inspired sandwiches and Colorado craft beers. Matt has always been an active part of his community coaching youth baseball, being on the Hospitality Committee for the 2015 World Championships, serving on the Vail Economic Council and participating in the Vail Indeed program by purchasing several apartments in Vail and preserving them for employee housing. Matt instills genuine hospitality in his staff and strives to live it every day. However, he never forgets his start and to this day, his self-proclaimed title on his business cards is the busboy with keys. Today Matt lives in Edwards with his wife, Jana, and teenage twins, Jack and Grace. 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.
Taylor Frankel, Chef de Cuisine
Taylor grew up in Boulder and loved to ski and snowboard and everything mountain. She began her culinary career at home with her parents when she was a child. They would cook elaborate meals on the weekends and their cuisine was influenced by a variety of countries, regions, and flavors. She fell in love with food and its preparation. On her own she dedicated her time to studying and learning everything she could. Taylor attended CU Boulder as a physiology major and worked at a retirement home creating meals for the residents. She knew then that this is what she would do. When she graduated from college she moved to Breckenridge and worked in a kitchen for about a year. In order to further her career she accepted a cooking position at Sweet Basil in 2015. Taylor was promoted to Sous Chef in 2017 and then again as Chef de Cuisine in the fall of 2019. She says that she will never leave (we HOPE not!).
Heather Morgan, General Manager
While most three year olds were watching Sesame Street, Heather’s love for cooking and entertaining was being inspired on TV by Julia Child and in the kitchen with family. She realized in high school, as a Barista at Starbucks, that she was destined for the service industry which lead her to Cornell for Hospitality Management. After graduation, Heather started her career in a large NY hotel eventually overseeing all restaurants, bars, and room service within the hotel. From there she worked for Jean Georges in both NYC and Boston perfecting the art of fine dining service. Heather was back to NYC in 2009 as a restaurant General Manager for the Epicurean Group. Her growth within the company lead her to the position of Director of Operations for several restaurants. She learned an incredible amount about operations, food, beverage, and Italian wine. Although Heather was very successful in NYC, nature, space, and access to outdoor activities was calling her. She considered going home to Massachusetts and the Red Sox or to California but Colorado seemed to have it all, a beautiful place to live and play outside with family nearby. She started her search in Boulder and Denver but couldn’t stay away from the mountains. So Vail is where she decided to call home. Heather is an avid runner and has completed 34 marathons. Outside of work and running, she can be found skiing, biking, boating, golfing, cooking, and drinking wine.
Chris Aycock, Executive Sous Chef
Growing up in Texas Chef Chris Aycock found his passion for cooking at a young age. After graduating from college, the chef honed his skills at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Portland Oregon. Loving the pacific northwest’s vibe, he worked at several of the city’s most prestigious restaurants. During this time there, he discovered the art of Japanese Sushi and Asian Pacific cuisine, which are big influences on his cooking to this day. It was after Portland, Chris first discovered Vail and life in the Rocky Mountains. In 2001, Chris moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize where’s he’s been busy opening several restaurant concepts from casual TexMex to Italian to Sushi at the island’s high end resort, Grand Caribe. He was lured back to Colorado for a short stint in 2010 to open the popular Yama Sushi in Vail Village. After 9 more years in Belize, Chef Chris is finally back to stay and brings his talents of over two decades in the culinary field to Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard as Executive Sous Chef over both restaurants. The chef is also the creator of El Chingon hot sauce from Belize which will be sold in the states soon. In addition to raising a teenage daughter, on his days off Chris likes to ski, hike, hunt and generally be outside with his girlfriend Jessica amidst the magical Rocky Mountains!
Kristen Fannin, Dining Room Manager
Kristen grew up in a family that loved to cook and entertain in Amarillo, Texas. Her early memories are filled with food and music at every gathering. She began her own hospitality journey as a bartender while attending Texas Tech University. Kristen has held many positions in the food service industry such as server, host, sommelier, manager, and cheesemonger. She feels lucky to have had the honor to work and learn from many talented chefs and sommeliers. Her professional adventure has taken her to many cities including Dallas, Denver, Boulder, Scottsdale, and Vail. Kristen joined the Sweet Basil family in November of 2017. She is a natural in the restaurant partly because her continued passions are cooking and eating good food and the appreciation of fine wine and warm hospitality. She loves living in the mountains because she gets to enjoy the great outdoors, her dogs, music, and coffee.
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.
Ethan Quednau, Sous Chef
Ethan and restaurants just fit! Although he has always loved food, he never thought of it as a career. He was going to be a rock-n-roll drummer. Growing up in Woodstock, New York, he spent his time working his grandparents farm, cooking and canning with his grandmother, and landscaping with his grandfather. From early childhood he learned sustainability: grow and use everything. When he was fourteen he ventured outside the home for a job. He found himself bussing tables at a family owned Italian restaurant in his hometown. He knew the restaurant was where he needed to be but the front of house was not clicking for him so Ethan job swapped and became the dishwasher. The kitchen was definitely his jam. One day a line cook did not show up for work and Ethan took on the challenge, and he’s been cooking ever since. Ethan traveled to Eagle County looking for his family, and he found Sweet Basil. His father lives in Gypsum and Ethan came out to visit and get to know him better and never left. He spends his free time snowboarding, riding motorcycles, camping, hiking, fishing, and whatever his friends and family are doing.
Jessenia Sanabria, Dining Room 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, was promoted to dining room manager then took over both bar programs at Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. Finally, in 2019, Jessenia was promoted to Dining Room Manager at Sweet Basil. 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.
Ryan Walker, Pastry Chef
bio and photo coming soon!
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 then accepted a new challenge to be a Sous Chef at Sweet Basil in 2019.
Jennifer Lewis, Group Function Coordinator
Bio Coming Soon
Cathy Roach, Business Administrator
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-16, 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 studied 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.
Rhena Rizzo, Executive 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.
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 25 years - and with a new restaurant coming on board (Mountain Standard) - Jana finally left Vail Resorts in 2012 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, is an active board member for Salvation Army and is one of nine committee members on the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Committee through the Town of Vail. 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!