Farmstead Bakery: Former competitors team up for new restaurant in St. George

ST. GEORGE — It’s hard to believe that restaurateur Chris Connors and chef Chris Herrin were once competitors in Henderson, Nevada. Their camaraderie can be felt and tasted in almost every aspect of Farmstead Bakery, from the delicious pastries, to the open, airy dining space.

Chris Connors tries to line up a new distributor for Farmstead Bakery as his sons work to distract him in St. George, Utah, May 25, 2021 | photo by David Dudley, St. George News

But, as Connors told St. George News, the duo connected immediately when they met a decade ago. “We were both running cafes,” Connors said. “I decided to visit his on St. Patrick’s Day. When I got there, there were donkeys in the parking lot.”

Connors paused there for emphasis.

“Donkeys,” Connors continued. “He’d set up a petting zoo in his parking lot. I introduced myself, and he asked if I wanted something to eat. I knew right then that he’d be a part of my life for a long time to come.”

Though it wasn’t clear at the time, that was the genesis of Farmstead Bakery. But it almost didn’t happen.

“He pitched the idea of opening a bakery to me one day,” Herrin said, slathering a thick layer of cream cheese frosting onto a warm cinnamon roll.

Chef Chris Herrin slathers cream cheese frosting on a warm cinnamon bun at Farmstead Bakery in St. George, Utah, May 25, 2021 | photo by David Dudley, St. George News

Though Herrin wasn’t sold, Connors persisted and even took it a step further. He wanted to leave Las Vegas for St. George to start a dual purpose eatery, combining his popular Me Gusta Tacos, located in Henderson, with a new donut shop.

“Herrin tried to talk me out of it,” Connors said. “Then one day, he was suddenly on board. And we ran with it.”

The reason Herrin let up, he said, was that he had been to St. George before and couldn’t find a good bakery.

“I Googled baguette,” said Herrin, who grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. “The nearest place that popped up was in Salt Lake City.”

The taco/donut shop idea went out the window when the two stepped into the space in which they would eventually set up shop, situated at 18 S. 200 W. in St. George.

There was just one catch: Virtually every state had imposed restrictions on restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily for Connors and Herrin, Utah’s approach was more lax than Nevada’s.

Ben Garcia rolls dough for pretzels at Farmstead Bakery in St. George, Utah, May 25, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“Utah opened as we were opening,” Connors said, smiling.

Connors went to work building a team that includes “rock star chefs” Ben Garcia of Wynn Hotels and Marie Yonge of Gordon Ramsey Steak.

“Marie and I share a birthday,” Herrin said. “We’re both Pisces, so we’re creative, and we love taking care of people. And Ben — Ben would be the first call I’d make if I ever landed in jail.”

Connors said he feels lucky, because the restaurant business is tough. He used a joke to describe what it feels like.

“The best day of your life is when you open,” he said. “The second best day of your life is when you sell it.”

“If we’ve been successful,” Connors continued, “it’s because of my outstanding staff and the warm reception we’ve received in St. George. It’s beyond anything I ever got in Vegas.”

Farmstead is already building a loyal following. As customers lined up for their morning pastry and coffee fix, the front-of-house staff asked: “Have you been here before?” To which most customers replied affirmatively, then asked for the cheese Danish, the cinnamon roll or the flaky, savory croissant breakfast sandwich.

Meanwhile, Doug Blackford, a retired firefighter from Long Beach, California sat at a four-top near the entrance. Blackford sipped his morning coffee while alternating between people-watching and reading “The Historical Reliabilities of the Gospels.”

“I come here most mornings” Blackford told St George News. “I love the atmosphere and the coffee. The chocolate cake is to die for.”

He gave a wink, sipping his coffee. His eyes followed as another customer entered the bakery. The customer, leading a tiny Yorkshire terrier, sauntered over to the display case to make his selection.

“If you’re on a diet,” Blackford continued, “just stay away.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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