On 314 West 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City, food enthusiasts gather to partake of an international food experience. In search of an exploratory dining experience, food lovers from all backgrounds have made Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli a well-known hot spot for specialty foods.
Through expansion of their locations and products, Caputo’s is importing more, selling more and helping to grow the foodie craze in the surrounding Salt Lake area and beyond.
Premium restaurants in Salt Lake, as well as some in Utah County, go to Caputo’s for ingredient recommendations and also a source for the ingredients they need. Their shipments now also go out to restaurants and individuals across the country.
What many customers don’t know about Caputo’s is that the secret of their trust-built relationships comes from Tony’s son, Matt Caputo, blind taste-testing every item that goes on their shelves.
“I can taste something and instantly know its value… I know when I taste the food products that we sell how good it is and how it should be priced,” Matt Caputo said.
Matt Caputo doesn’t care if the chocolate has a fancy story, glamorous packaging or a good-looking sales rep. He cares about the flavor first and foremost.
A year and a half ago, Matt’s wife Yelena was a hard-working attorney. For seven years her daily life involved juggling multiple cases until she decided to convert to the world of food.
“I talk about the conversion to food and we’re kind of seeing [conversion to food] everywhere. Food is just kind of an exciting industry,” Yelena Caputo said.
At first Yelena described that moving over from attorney to the family business would be easy.
“The first three months, it was like going through a grinder. I had 150 cases I managed at a time, including different personalities, writing up case law and interpreting statutes. I thought walking in here [to the family business] was going to be a breeze.” Yelena said.
Although Yelena still works very hard on managing the odds and ends of running a business, she and Matt still make time for cooking at home.
“We eat dinner together every night and still cook maybe four times a week,” Matt Caputo said.
With much of their current lives being so centered on food, it was easy to see how growing up with home cooking has helped them be passionate about running their business.
“She has a similar background to mine in that her family was refugees, not being really able to afford much but peasant food. But her mom is an amazing cook. When we were just dating, I’d never really tasted Armenian food. Imagine tasting a cuisine for the first time by someone who was really excellent at cooking. For most people, meeting our girlfriend’s parents is nerve wracking but I was always looking forward to it.”
With the transition Yelena has made in her career, Matt and Yelena have noticed a difference in the relationships with their old friends.
“You do sacrifice, because you go out with your friends and when you talk about food, you are the most interesting person in the world, or you are the most boring person in the world. There were years when you literally couldn’t work more and still be alive.” Matt Caputo said.
Luckily Matt and Yelena Caputo have acquired a lot of new friends in the food business. Although they sacrifice in many other aspects of their lives, they have no regrets about their conversion and dedication to the food world.
“Everything has opportunity cost. I work a ton. I’d like to have more time for skiing or more time for this and that. The fact of that matter is I have a choice. I make it and I love food,” Matt Caputo said.
For those wanting to learn more about the foods Caputo’s has to offer, cooking classes and other opportunities are available at caputosdeli.com.