Vincent Fiore is a lifelong chef. He started working in restaurants full-time but switched to only cooking on weekends once he became a family man.
But a small taste wasn't enough.
"I woke up one day and said, 'I can't do anything else but this. I love to do it,'" Fiore told Cowboy State Daily.
In nearly 30 years, he's cooked for restaurants and catering businesses (his own and others) and offered "the private chef experience," cooking meals in the homes of CEOs, doctors, lawyers, and celebrities. He recently served as a chef for two baseball teams, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers.
Fiore is also a celebrity chef, hosting two Amazon Prime shows, The Wiseguy Kitchen and Coast to Coast, and performing in several live shows. His varied career in the culinary arts has garnered six Telly Awards ("the world's largest honor for video and television content across all screens,") five TASTE Awards (called "The Oscars of Food, Fashion, and Lifestyle Media,") and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Guild of Chefs.
After handing off his Texas catering business to his daughters, Fiore decided to retire. He was bored in two weeks.
A friend recommended he cross something off his bucket list: visit Yellowstone National Park and work on a ranch. So, Fiore planned to visit the historic UXU Ranch on the North Fork Highway leading to Yellowstone.
"Next thing I know, I'm on the phone with them, and here I am. So now I can say I worked on a ranch near Yellowstone," he said.
But a bucket list trip turned into a multi-month stay. And he has no intention of riding off into the sunset.
'Foreign Cuisine' At the UXU
Award-winning Western photographer John Hoskin is a managing partner at the UXU Ranch. Since acquiring the 34-acre property in 2021, he and his partners have been working on several improvements to the historic guest ranch.
"Vince Fiore was not part of those plans," Hoskin said. But when Fiore arrived, he immediately offered to bring "the private chef experience" to the UXU dining room.
"I showed up in a box on the doorstep," Fiore said.
Hoskin wanted to offer the traditional fare of the American West: steaks, burgers, and prime rib. Fiore had a more experimental menu in mind.
"Every restaurant in town has steak, burgers, and ribs. Let's do something different," Fiore said.
In addition to cooking for the ranch's guests, the UXU Ranch opens its dining room to the public on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This summer turned into Italian Night on Thursdays, Prime Rib Night on Fridays, and "Chef's Open Menu" on Saturdays.
The traditional cuts of meat were augmented with a selection of seafood, pasta, and twists on "modern American" classics. In Summer 2023, the UXU Ranch is the only Italian restaurant in the region - "On Thursdays," Fiore said.
Taste The Difference
Fiore said one of the joys of any chef's career is finding their audience. At the UXU, he's had the most fun experimenting to see what people enjoy.
For example, making rigatoni with a Bolognese sauce is an Italian staple. At the UXU, the beef or pork in the sauce has been substituted with elk meat.
Imported cuisine is popular too.
"This past weekend, we had a lot of seafood on the menu. People were buying it like crazy. We've been selling out," Fiore said.
One of the season's biggest hits has been Fiore's French salmon, cooked in a bag with vegetables and wine. Guests have the bag opened at the table, so they can see and smell the steam as it billows out.
Already, the response is overwhelmingly positive.
In a single summer, the UXU Ranch has become "a local secret." While the ranch serves guests from around the world, most diners are local.
"We only take reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday," Hoskin said, "and usually, we're full by Tuesday. And most of them are locals. Vince has opened our eyes to 'foreign cuisine," at least for Wyoming."
Fiore even made plans to feature Cody and the UXU on his Amazon Prime shows, but those plans were dashed by the ongoing Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike (Fiore is a SAG member.) But everything's still on the shooting schedule once production resumes.
Adding To The Experience
For Hoskin, one of the most important aspects of the UXU Ranch is the experience of being and staying there. The most memorable part for most visitors is the atmosphere.
Guests remember the natural beauty of the rustic setting, the trail rides on the ranch's horses, the best cutthroat trout they caught that day, and the comforting atmosphere of the ranch's dining room.
"In my experience, nobody ever leaves early," Hoskin said. "We light fires on the deck at 6:30 p.m. for s'mores, and everyone likes to stay and talk or just sit and take it all in."
Fiore has adapted and become part of the UXU experience and augments it in creative ways.
Anyone who catches a cutthroat trout during their stay can bring it to the kitchen and have it served for dinner. Fiore said he's been cooking the trout in a Mediterranean style, which has been a big hit this summer.
"He's really hit it out of the park," Hoskin said.
Changing Up The Menu
Vince Fiore was not part of the plans for the UXU Ranch. But he certainly is now.
With such a positive response to the unexpected chef of the summer, Hoskin sees plenty of potential in the ranch's future. Nothing is set in stone yet, but plenty of ideas are being served up.
The UXU Ranch hosted five weddings this summer. Fiore arrived just in time to cook for the first wedding of the season, which went extraordinarily well.
"We'd like to do more corporate events and weddings. Expand outdoor dining, more theme nights, or wine pairings," Hoskin said.
At the very least, Hoskin said, more tables will be added to the UXU dining room so more reservations can be made.
Nobody's more excited about the possibilities than Fiore. He'll keep cooking until mid-September this year but is already planning an extended stay next summer.
"John and I are talking about coming back next season. If (I) do, and I think (I) will, it will be extended. I'll get here earlier and leave later," Fiore said, thinking he'll keep cooking into October.
There will also be more effort to attract tourists and locals. But the locals are already won over.
"If they had their way, I'd be here all year," Fiore said.
Hoskin thoroughly agrees.
"He's one of the best things to ever happen to this ranch," he said.