Chefs’ Favourite Things About Spring
James Walt’s favourite thing about spring is the annual resurgence of the local farming community. “May and June is when we first start to see wonderful seasonal ingredients such as North Arm Farm asparagus, Root Down organic greens, and Skipping Rooster watercress,” says the Executive Chef of Whistler’s Araxi Restaurant + Bar.
These spring seasonal ingredients are starting to work their way into the amazing dining deals on offer right now. To celebrate the last month of the Dine in Whistler specials, we asked local chefs what inspired them most about June.
Slow Food advocate, and recent recipient of the Canadian Special Events Award for Best Event Catering for his team’s work over the Olympics, Whistler Cooks’ Grant Cousar is always enthused about the season’s first fresh produce. (Cousar and his team at Whistler Cooks Catering successfully fed 300,000 athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators over 28 days during the 2010 Olympic Games, infusing their meals with as much local produce as possible, even hand-cutting, freezing and serving 20,000 lbs of Pemberton potatoes, as part of their commitment to Slow Food and local producers.) But this year, his real spring highlight was the chance to put 6000km on his motorcycle to cater the western leg of U2’s Canada tour.
Melissa Craig, a bit of a rockstar herself on the global culinary scene, is enjoying how easy menu planning becomes with the quality and variety of products now available locally. The Bearfoot Bistro’s award-winning executive chef says, “It is great to be able to work with the farmers one-on-one to discuss new products. Being able to pick your own first of the years berries speaks for itself.”
Eric Gilchrist, executive chef of The Den Restaurant at Nicklaus North Golf Course is decidely stoked on the change of seasons. For him, spring means: “Morel mushrooms and English Peas, being able to barbecue without your Sorels and finding the perfect place to fly fish.”
Chef Guillaume Gissinger of Alta Bistro has really enjoyed using fewer root vegetables and incorporating more above ground local produce. Seeing the days grow longer raises everyone’s spirits. This month, Chef Gissinger features fiddleheads with wild sockeye. Asparagus has made an appearance on the menu, next to some local rainbow trout. Spring Fraser Valley lamb belly has been rolled with herbs and braised. Carpaccio has slowly moved over to salmon tartar, with fresh lemon and asparagus. Not to mention, Chef Gissinger has recently been spotted enjoying an Aperol spritzer, with slices of lemon – a sure sign that summer is on the way.
As excited as we are about a summer filled with ice-cream and BBQ, spring is so full of promise with its lengthening days, hockey play-offs and green shoots, that it’s the perfect time to gather around a Whistler table and toast the season.