HEADER PHOTO DESTINATION BC / @VIIRANLLY
Written by Brittany Roffel and Dee Raffo
Whistler is known for its epic ski terrain and vast, mountain scenery, but another thing that people love about Whistler is the diversity and uniqueness of its dining scene. Celebrating a day well spent in the mountains is typically done with food and drink, so Whistler’s restaurants are an essential part of the resort’s culture.
We sat down with three of Whistler’s most innovative restaurants and chatted with them about how they’re connected to the community, integrating sustainable practices, and combining passion and business.
Alta Bistro: Pursuing Passion
Tucked away just off the Village Stroll is locally-owned, farm-to-table restaurant, Alta Bistro. This fine-dining restaurant serves mouthwatering dishes and handcrafted cocktails, with a fierce commitment to locally sourced, sustainable produce. Chef, Nick Cassettari says their menu is constantly changing depending on what local ingredients are in season at the time.
“We have been working with farms for over ten years, developing relationships. There’s probably about 30 different farms that we connect with,” explains Nick. “For example, there’s only one specific time of the year we can get sour cherries from one of the local farmers. They’re beautiful and we get excited about what we can do with them on the menu.”
One of Alta Bistro’s walls is lined with colourful jars filled with preserved fruits and vegetables, which allows them to use ingredients like sour cherries and pickled rhubarb throughout the year. Whistler is in a temperate rainforest, so with so much lush vegetation surrounding it, Nick and his team forage for some of their ingredients. One of their current mains, the vegan BC Fire Morel Mushroom & Sunchoke Cake, is a delicious example of how their foraged ingredients turn up on the menu.
When asked what makes Alta Bistro stand out, Nick said it’s their team’s commitment to working together towards success.
“We’re a bit of a family here. This is our home. We look forward to coming into work every day,” says Nick.
“It is a very small team, so it’s easy to keep that beautiful kind of connection between front and back of house,” adds Restaurant Manager, Jessica Stewart Brabant.
The team at Alta Bistro might have come to Whistler for the snow or the biking and still revel in that, but they’ve also found a place to funnel their passion for incredible food that has a deep connection to where they live.
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BReD: Changing Perspectives
Like many Whistler businesses, BReD began with passion. In the case of owners Ed and Natasha Tatton, that passion just happened to be bread. The pair, who originally planned to be in Whistler for just one winter, soon found themselves embedded in Whistler’s culture, which is sometimes described as an evocative mixture of outdoor passion and entrepreneurial spirit. And as the oh-so-common Whistler story goes, one season turned into another and another, and before they knew it, they were here to stay.
The couple started their journey in Whistler both working in hospitality. Ed actually worked at Alta Bistro where he implemented a bread program. Later, he found himself back at the bistro, renting the kitchen once a week to make bread for his family and friends.
As demand for the bread grew, the pair decided to leave their jobs and answer their entrepreneurial calling by starting a 100% plant-based, organic sourdough bakery in Whistler Creekside.
“Keep it local and keep it seasonal are the main points for us,” explains Ed.
Since Natasha and Ed are both vegan, one of the most important parts of opening their own bakery was to keep animal products off the menu and to change people’s perceptions of vegan food, one incredible cinnamon bun at a time.
BReD was recently awarded its B-Corp Certification. The Tattons say the reason they received the certification wasn’t just centred around the sustainable food they source and buy, a big part of it was also the overall sustainability of the business, like for example how they look after their staff.
“We developed a comprehensive handbook with policies on anti-racism and anti-bullying policies,” explains Natasha. “All our team, including our part-timers, receive health and wellness benefits after a two-week trial period. We only hire local workers who are able to travel to work on foot, by bike or by public transport, which means that we cannot hire anybody who does not live in Whistler. This helps us to reduce our carbon footprint and promotes a healthier lifestyle. The wellness benefits can also be used to pay for sports equipment, such as a bike. “
Natasha went on to explain that their staff are invited to events that promote an active and healthy lifestyle, and that salaried employees receive six weeks of paid vacation per year.
When asked what makes Whistler so special, Ed said:
“It’s the community that really sort of grounds us. I really like the fact that we have regulars here, that we now know a lot of their first names so we can greet them when they come in. Also, it’s amazing to have the tourists come and visit us. They’re here for five days and they come every day,” says Ed.
As for what’s next for BReD, Ed teased an upcoming cookbook in the works with Penguin Random House Canada. We suggest keeping an eye on their social media channels for its release.
“You can expect vegan cakes, cookies and all sorts of hidden secrets that we do here at the bakery,” says Ed.
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RMU Whistler: Community First
Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU) is part bar, part restaurant, part ski gear store and part events space. Skis and mountain-based equipment adorn the walls, and servers deliver cold beers, craft cocktails and delicious food. The founder, who set up his first location in Breckenridge, knew that skiers were looking for a place to convene, swap knowledge and stories, and geek out over the latest gear. The concept was a success and he brought it to Whistler in 2019.
“It’s all about community,” explains RMU Whistler’s general manager Reece Gardener. “RMU is a hub for people who love the mountains. It’s a place where you can learn how to wax your skis with a pro while enjoying a glass of whiskey or wine. It’s fun, communal and inclusive.”
Just a quick scan of their social channels reveals that this is a place that brings together mountain enthusiasts, athletes, filmmakers, and musicians. They host a Backcountry Enabler Series, where you can learn or brush up on skills like mapping and route finding alongside raclette parties and ski movie screenings.
They also have their Karma Keg program, in which profits from a particular beer goes to local charities and non-profits. In 2022, RMU raised $23,400 for organizations like Whistler Adaptive Sports, Protect Our Winters and the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.
“We are seeing great movements across RMU as a whole. Our Truckee location is a certified green business and our Breckenridge location is planning on installing solar panels. The primary focus here in Whistler is the dedication to the community; through supporting other small businesses, offering up platforms for charitable organizations, and running our monthly Karma Kegs”, says Reece.
“Honestly, being an international member of the community and so far away from home, I am blown away by the level of commitment I have seen from this company to support the local community and the ever-expanding goals to encompass the environment and further protect the places we all love so much.”
RMU manufactures its equipment line with 95% recycled material and continuously sources environmentally-friendly materials for its ski production. They have a lifetime warranty on manufacturer’s defects for the original owners of all their products, and they are working on offsetting their entire CO2 footprint by 2025.
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The community of businesses that make up Whistler makes it easy to support local. Whether you’re looking to taste some foraged cuisine, stopping in for some vegan sourdough, or grabbing a beer while browsing for a new pair of skis, Whistler’s entrepreneurs and restaurants keep it fresh and relevant.