In 2018, Chef Todd Leonard won the prestigious National Chef of the Year at the American Culinary Federation national convention. He is the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be awarded the national title. Previously, he was the first place Gold medal Winner of the Western Region Chef of the year competition in 2011.
Leonard, a native of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, remembers his mission days when he prioritized his missionary work over his food, which typically consisted of packaged macaroni and cheese. This staple was a departure from his venture into culinary arts as a Scout.
- “I was working on my cooking merit badge as an 11-year-old Scout,” he said. “I was on a campout with my parents and had to make a breakfast with a mess kit.”
- His scrambled eggs were a hit and his cooking career began to take hold. Leonard’s first job was working as a busboy in a Salt Lake-area restaurant. A couple years later he was promoted to the kitchen. He cooked at several restaurants prior to his mission, learning the ins and outs of chef’s knives, spatulas, and strainers.
After his full-time mission, he completed his culinary education at Salt Lake Community College and worked for Royce’s Restaurant in the Canyon Racket Club, Carl’s Café, Provo Marriott Hotel, Thanksgiving Point, and Oakridge Country Club. For eight years he was chef at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and oversaw the Garden Restaurant and opened the Nauvoo Café.
He then accepted a teaching job at Utah Valley University and later was appointed chair of the culinary arts department. He also creates recipes and menus for Blue Lemon Restaurants.
Chef Leonard, a certified executive chef, has earned the Utah Chef of the Year Award in 2006 and 2010. He has six American Culinary Federation Gold Medals. His passion for outdoor cooking has taken him to three first place victories in IDOS Dutch oven competitions.
He and his wife, Michelle, are the parents of four children.