By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
Grotto Meats owner Nicolas Bryce has taken charcuterie with him while skiing. The best method, he says, is to keep a small piece of the cured meat, maybe with some fresh bread and olives, alongside a foldable paring knife in your ski pants pocket. That’s the beauty of cured meat—it’s accessible, and where and when you eat it doesn’t affect its flavor.
Grotto began as a side project. Bryce has been a professional chef for 20 years and owns Rendezvous Food Truck, located in Bozeman’s northeast side, across from Wild Crumb Bakery. Due to the seasonal nature of food trucks in southwest Montana, Bryce was able to spend his off-season as an apprentice for a seasoned meat curer. He quickly fell in love with the craft, launched Grotto in 2017, and is now the proud owner of Montana’s only wholesale meat curing facility, distributing to stores in Bozeman and Big Sky.
The Washington native is passionate about working with restaurateurs to find the perfect cured meat for their menu, but Bryce also enjoys spicing up everyday, at-home meals with his quality ingredients.
“I love to go to markets and interact with people face-to-face,” Bryce said. “The passion and desire is really to enable and empower people to have great food at home that’s sourced from Montana, ready to go for them through the grocer.”
Just like as his cured meats take time, Bryce is devoted to growing his business slowly, at a sustainable speed. Although he has demand all over the state, and juggles his multiple businesses with quality in mind, he prefers to expand his business with intention, ensuring he can meet the needs of his local clientele and produce the best possible product. His best sellers include the Coffee Lonza, a dry cured pork loin crusted with Ghost Town Coffee Roasters coffee, and The Old Fashioned, a dry-cured sausage with Wildrye Distilling’s Five Drop Bourbon, Flathead cherries, orange peel and local honey.
Sweet Buns Catering
Christine Lugo-Yergensen, owner of Sweet Buns Catering, says her life has been shaped by fate. The Brooklyn, New York-born, Tampa, Florida-raised and Tampa Bay Art Institute-educated chef once got a job at Todd English’s Olives at the W Hotel in Union Square because she called the wrong restaurant, where she ultimately met her husband, Jake. She helped open the Trump Soho Hotel’s Quattro restaurant until Jake got a job in the Bahamas, at which time she realized she was pregnant with twins.
After taking some time off to help raise her kids back in Tampa, the family moved to Big Sky in 2018 when Jake got a job as a pastry chef at the Yellowstone Club. At the time, Lugo-Yergensen was working the Sunday shift at the post office—not her usual schedule—when she met Mandy Hotovy, general manager of The Wilson Hotel. The hotel was in the process of opening, and they needed a sales manager.
Falling into the skills she learned in both the front and back of house in restaurants, Lugo-Yergensen began helping with the events side of the hotel industry and was encouraged by Hotovy to bring her catering experience to the table. She’s cooked for nearly every event hosted by the hotel since it opened, and she launched Sweet Buns in 2019 after demand for her cuisine grew.
In addition to her catering business, she heads up the community’s free Friendsgiving event every Thanksgiving and volunteers on the Big Sky Community Food Bank Committee. She is currently in the process of opening a Sweet Buns storefront in Big Sky Town Center. She and Jake also stay busy raising twin daughters, Ava and Vivienne, and son Leif.
“I have the chef background and pastry background, so I can do both. I don’t just stick to one thing or the other … a lot of our food is Spanish-inspired,” said Lugo-Yergensen, a nod to her heritage. She is also known for her chocolate confections, croissants and macaroons.
At the forthcoming bakery, she’ll feature fresh desserts and breakfast items, and hopes to host kid’s baking classes for the community. Although there’s a lot on her plate, Lugo-Yergensen credits her family and the community for their support of her craft.