“Cooking is about passion, respect and love.” – Executive Chef, David Morris

At Suncadia, you step out of urban life and into something that’s all too rare: a place where you know your neighbors instead of just passing them on the way to work. And as visits become longer and more frequent, you get to know the people who help shape Suncadia into a community you hold close to your heart. You’re on a first-name basis with the yoga instructor, the one who has helped you with that difficult pose you’ve been attempting for years. You know the Fifty-6 Degrees Lounge barman who makes your cocktail just the way you like it, and the concierge who always recommends exactly the kind of activity your kids will love.

In this column, we celebrate the Suncadia staff who play a role in the way residents and guests enjoy their time here. Some might be familiar faces or names, and others will be new to you. This week we welcome David Morris, our new Executive Chef.


I’m originally from Scottsdale, AZ but my formative years were spent in Pasadena, California, which is where I was introduced and later found my calling in the restaurant biz! This life’s passion and journey has opened many doors and adventures around the globe: Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Texas, NYC, Toulouse and Camont in France, and Xian, China have been stops along the way.


The past two years I spent between Texas and New York in the role of Regional Chef for Hyatt, where I developed the culinary programs for The Woodlands Resort, The Westin and Embassy Suites. The additional responsibilities in NYC came to be as the company purchased South Seaport District, including Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan. During my tenure, I was responsible for concepting several new restaurants, a full service banquet facility, ice skating venue and concert venue.


My dream was to race sprint cars! My pops was a tool and die maker machinist and had many friends in the racing and the hotrod business. So naturally growing up around that was a huge draw. He worked for the University of Southern California and every summer when school was out my days were spent in the machine shop. Eventually at age 15, I got a job at the restaurant on campus and this is where the seed was planted for a career in food service.


I am the new Executive Chef for Suncadia Resort and currently working on the brand new StoveHouse concept and new Portals Kitchen rebuild. My primary focus is to create an extraordinary dining resort influenced by the many personal experiences I’ve had over the past few years.


Before coming to Suncadia, I embarked on a month-long culinary road trip, making my way from NYC to Washington State. Along the way, I checked off bucket list restaurants and great chef spots, including Momufuku, Balthazar, Brooklyn pizza, Memphis BBQ, and Ashleigh Christenson’s Poole’s diner. I stopped at Sean Brock’s Husk Nashville where I almost stayed to stage in the kitchen for a few weeks just to learn how to make the fried chicken! I sampled great Texas BBQ and the absolute best tequila bar in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which also sits directly across the street from the courthouse and jail that Billy the Kid shot his way out of. On the West Coast leg of the trip, I drove up Highway 1 and stopped at Malibu Farm and had an unforgettable in-room dining experience at Four Seasons Resort. All of these adventures are playing some kind of role in my vision for the culinary experience at Suncadia.


Cooking is all about passion, respect and love. I hope to bring all of these experiences to the resort.

At Suncadia, you step out of urban life and into something that’s all too rare: a place where you know your neighbors instead of just passing them on the way to work. And as visits become longer and more frequent, you get to know the people who help shape Suncadia into a community you hold close to your heart. This column celebrates the Suncadia staff who play a role in the way residents and guests enjoy their time here. Some might be familiar faces or names, and others will be new to you. This week, we chat with Michael Bennett, Director of Community Associations.


I was born in Pasadena, California and grew up in the San Bernardino / San Diego areas where I enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing and skiing in the mountains, body surfing and sailing, camping, dirt bike racing and riding for pleasure in remote areas of the desert. My love of the mountains led me to the California Sierra and Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in 1997, where I transitioned from resort hotel management to condo-hotel management and large scale homeowner association general manager duties.


In 2012, while attending the Large Managers Workshop in Seattle, our group of 150 managers toured Suncadia where I first met Pat Simpson (Director of Community Associations) and Jennifer Kramer (Director of Design Review). I was completely taken with the natural splendors of the Cle Elum area, the understated mountain lifestyle elegance of the Lodge, and the look and feel of the community and homes in Suncadia.  From 2012 forward, two large scale communities in the Pacific Northwest were on my bucket list to someday hope to manage: Sunriver in Bend, Oregon and Suncadia. My hopes were realized when Pat Simpson chose to retire after four decades or more in the hospitality industry and I was eventually hired in late 2018.


In my younger years, I was always hoping to be a pilot. I was a member of the Civil Air Patrol in junior high and participated in several actual air search and rescue operations. I also endured an abbreviated week of actual boot camp at Camp Roberts, CA in 1970, near the end of the Vietnam conflict. I did actually fly “left seat” several times. After high school I  went on the road as a professional musician.


In a nutshell, my role is to be a Jack of all trades and master of some…  to borrow from an old figure of speech. However, my primary role boils down to maintaining, enhancing and improving community property values and quality of life for our owners, residents and guests.

As the onsite manager of the various Suncadia Homeowner Associations, villages, neighborhoods and non-profits, I find there is something new and unique about each work day. With assets totaling more than $1.5 billion in private property and Community Association assets, our team must be proficient with operation, reserve and capital budgets, while we plan our work, work our plan and then adjust to reality.


On any day our team will be working with new and existing owners, new home  builders, contractors, and Suncadia’s many associations and councils. Additionally, with over 40 miles of trails and miles of paved roads to repair and maintain, our Community Operations Department and various contractors are constantly working to maintain our community to the level our owners, guests and residents expect and deserve. 

My favorite part of my job is talking to and working with great people, solving challenges and issues, and expecting that something new and exciting will occur every day.


I try to make time to drive the roads in the community and stop at the various amenities several times per week. Driving at 15 miles per hour in observance of our mountain lifestyle and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists allow me to look, listen and feel the day!


If I weren’t doing what I’m doing, I would probably be farming organic vegetables, keeping bees and raising chickens to feed my second passion: cooking for others and enjoying a meal with friends and family.

What happens when you bring together hundreds of members of the Suncadia community, a handful of architects, home builders and landscape designers, a variety of experts in interior design and experienced lenders? You get a Real Estate Expo celebrating its 5th year in exceptional style.

The event, which took place Saturday, May 4th at the Lodge, drew approximately 150 guests eager to soak in the knowledge, expertise and advice provided by a variety of experts in their fields.

New homesite owners chatted with home builders and architects. Families looking to upgrade their home entertainment system talked to network experts. Mortgage lenders were on hand to explain options and deals.

From 11am until 3pm, guests came and went, sampling tasty bites and sipping complimentary mimosas topped with raspberries. Everyone who attended the Expo had the chance to enter to win a variety of door prizes, including spa treatments, paddleboard rentals, golf for two and other goodies.

Every half hour, the musical guest, Brian James, called out the name of a winner, including someone who took home the grand prize, a King Broil BBQ valued at $2500!

Throughout the event, beer and cider were available for purchase and proceeds went to Habitat for Humanity. When the last of the mimosas were consumed, guests got to take home their champagne glass etched with the Legacy or River Ridge logos. Not to mention the new ideas and wisdom they picked up from our experts and other Suncadia residents.

If you missed the event but are curious about buying a home at Suncadia, please contact Suncadia Real Estate Company to schedule a visit.

Building a custom-designed home probably ranks high on every homeowner’s dream list. At Suncadia, we know how important it is for members of our community to build a home they will love for years to come, one that fits their lifestyle and that they are happy to come home to weekend after weekend. That’s why we have partnered with some of the best home builders and architects in Cle Elum and across Washington. Meet Jeff Hansel of Swiftwater Custom Homes.

Tell me about your practice. How long ago did you start the company?
I started building homes in 1981 on Camano Island and have built homes throughout King, Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties. In 2004, I was one of the first home builders working in Suncadia and have since worked on more than 75 homes in the community.

Is there a particular style of home you specialize in or gravitate towards?

I do not have a particular style or genre of home that I specialize in. Rather, I help my clients define and decide the style that is right for them. I have built modest to very large homes in both Suncadia and Tumble Creek, ranging from 1,500 to nearly 10,000 square feet. I have built lodge style homes, timber frame, craftsman and was one of the first builders in Suncadia to move towards what I call mountain modern, the more contemporary style that has angular roofs, cleaner lines and finishes.

What do you think makes the Suncadia community special, from an architecture or design perspective?

Suncadia is a unique place—a community that embraces several styles of architecture, a wide range of sizes and price ranges and appeals to nearly every demographic, from young families to empty nesters and retirees. Suncadia’s location makes having a place here easy to get to. This manifests itself in several ways: a quick 60 to 90 minute drive allows you to jump up here after school or work and get back in time for whatever activity may be calling you.

How does the landscape and the weather influence the home design or construction?
The natural landscape here is beautiful, but also hardy and low-maintenance. Expanding on that theme makes most of the homes I do low maintenance as well, which allows my clients to enjoy all of the great activities Suncadia and Kittitas County have to offer. Weather is a big influence in the designs I build. Outdoor living areas are a big deal so designing them to be used in all seasons and in different types of weather is a fun challenge. We get a lot of sunshine here, too, and homeowners want to be in the sun but also want spaces that offer shade relief. Nighttime also offers opportunity for interesting design features, everything from fire pits and star gazing spaces. In fact, Suncadia builds to the standards of the International Dark Sky Association.

When working with a client to custom design their Suncadia home, what are some questions you ask to ensure you create something unique?

I work closely with my clients from the very start to really get to know them and to understand their plans for how they will live and use their new Suncadia home. Together we are able to create details and finishes that are truly unique. Many of the things we finish a home with are similar to nearly every other home we build: cabinets, bath fixtures, appliances, etc. are present in every home. Finding the finishes that meet the specific use/need/budget of each client is something we do every day. We do however, spend a lot of time with each client, and after we get to really know them we come up with one (or several) unique and special things, what we call “rifle shots of customization” that are truly a one-of-a-kind detail for that client. 

Are there any home design trends that you think are very popular right now? Or that you foresee will become popular this year?
I’m seeing a definite trend towards what I call mountain modern design. Clean lines, angular single plane roofs, more contemporary finishes. I see a trend in the future towards a much more connected home. Owners will be able to remotely monitor and manage their home, access sensors to confirm that their home is operating efficiently and effectively. Integration of Alexa or Google with energy management, lighting control, video & audio, etc. is already starting to happen.

What do you think sets your practice apart from other firms who work with Suncadia?
My wife and I, along with my business partner and his wife are full time residents in the Suncadia Resort. We’re very active within the Suncadia community and have many friends here. We work closely with the Suncadia management and development teams to do what we can to make Suncadia a better place. We are focused on building within Suncadia and Tumble Creek, doing very few projects outside of the resort. This focus gives me and Swiftwater Custom Homes a unique perspective on building and living here.

Interested in a Cle Elum vacation home or learning more about Swiftwater Custom Homes and their developments? Contact a member of the Suncadia sales team at 509-649-6000 to #findyourspotinthesun.