Dinner at the Bearfoot Bistro is an event, an experience, one that’s expertly designed and exquisitely executed. There’s an element of showmanship in an evening spent at the Bearfoot, with nitrogen ice cream, whipped up table-side, the sabering of champagne in their wine cellar and glowing vodka ice room.

But it’s the quality and ingenuity of the menu that has the Bearfoot Bistro repeatedly gracing Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list. For nearly 30 years, the culinary direction came from award-winning Executive Chef Melissa Craig, but now the legacy has shifted to a different pair of skilled hands; Dominic Fortin’s.

Dominic Fortin serving his creations in the wine cellar of the Bearfoot Bistro.
Dominic wowing guests in the Bearfoot’s underground wine cellar. PHOTO BEARFOOT BISTRO

“I spent 15 years with Melissa. In the later years, we were managing the kitchen together. We created a story together, and I intend to honour and progress that story.”

Dominic grew up in Quebec City and started cooking at age 15. He studied hotel management and became a savoury chef, apprenticing at fine-dining restaurants in his home city. But a love of chocolate drew him into a pastry apprenticeship at Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island.

His career took him to Banff and then Tofino, where he worked at the esteemed Wickaninnish Inn. Then Whistler beckoned and Dominic was introduced to Melissa and the team at Bearfoot Bistro, where he stayed for 15 years.

Looking to expand his hotel experience, he worked at both the Fairmont Empress in Victoria and Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Then he shifted gears and went to work for the Toptable group, which runs Araxi, Bar Oso, Il Caminetto and Provisions in Whistler. However, when the opportunity to rejoin the Bearfoot team came up, he didn’t hesitate.

“It’s like returning home. I’ve worked with some of the team members for over ten years and we have a great relationship. They welcomed me back with open arms, they really are an amazing team.”

What has all this experience taught Dominic? What’s important to him now that he leads a team of 30 at one of Whistler’s most famed restaurants?

“If you’d have asked me that question ten years ago I’d have said that creativity, being in the moment and showcasing what I can do with food would be the most important part of this job. But now, seeing everyone come together and work towards the same goal, that is what is important, that’s what I’ve learned. When I see a team of cooks being happy, learning, working and teaching – that’s when things become great. They are my hands in the kitchen”

Dominic Fortin and a fellow team member at the Bearfoot Bistro.
Dominic now leads a team of 30 at the Bearfoot Bistro. PHOTO BEARFOOT BISTRO

He went on to say that his time at the Fairmont led him to focus on the people. Learning what they excel at and where they might need support is a challenge he loves.

Although Dominic is carrying on concepts that people have come to know and love at the Bearfoot, like their Oyster Invitational and beloved lobster special in late spring, I wanted to know if there was anything new we could look forward to.

“For me, the spring brings up memories of sugaring season in Quebec. I’d eat maple taffy until I couldn’t anymore. It’s a time for family and friends, for playing games and celebrating the arrival of the spring. My sous chef is also from Quebec, as is our restaurant manager and we decided to bring the magic of maple to Whistler.”

He had me at taffy, but when I told him I wasn’t sure what a sugaring season involved, he laughed. This is what this concept is all about, showcasing an ingredient that Canada is world-famous for and turning it into an experience worthy of the Bearfoot Bistro.

A display of the sumptuous food on the menu of the Sugar Shack.
The sumptuous Sugar Shack dishes on display. PHOTO JOERN ROHDE

The Magic of Maple — A Sugar Shack Dining Experience

72% of the world’s production of maple syrup comes from Quebec, so it’s no wonder that it’s an ingrained part of their psyche. Sure, we have maple trees over here on the West Coast, but of the 150 species of maple tree out there, only four produce sap that can be made into maple syrup and we weren’t as lucky as the East Coast.

The traditional method of collecting sap was to drive a tap into the tree and hang a bucket on it (a tubing system is more popular now). As the pails filled, the producer would empty them into a barrel on a sled or wagon, which would be pulled by horse or tractor to the sugar shack.

At the sugar shack, the sap is processed into different maple-based products, and it’s the magic of this time in the shack, surrounded by sugary goodness, that Dominic and the team at the Bearfoot are capturing this spring.

“We’re telling a story about where I come from. This is going to be a unique experience, especially if you’re not from Canada. It’s a risk, but that’s an element most good stories have.”

From April 10 to 30, the Bearfoot is transforming their restaurant into a Cabane à Sucre (Sugar Shack), complete with plaid white and red tablecloths, and music from Quebec to set the mood. Dominic has devised three different 3-course menus, served family-style, starting at $49 (the menus go up in decadence).

“We’ve been working with Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (QMSP) and Maple from Canada, to source really beautiful products, including some from Charlevioux, where I grew up. You can expect to taste our version of the classic Quebec tourtière made with venison and beef served with a caribou jus, and for dessert, you certainly don’t want to miss our take on the classic maple cone – maple syrup, maple butter, and marshmallows are layered and covered in decadent dark chocolate.”

The green pea soup on the sugar shack menu at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler.
Maple syrup in soup? Delicious. PHOTO JOERN ROHDE

On all the menus is the traditional pea soup, the ultimate in Quebec-style comfort food, served with homemade maple bacon and burnt onion puree. There’s also the Quebecois Cheese Fondue Croquette based on a traditional French Canadian recipe elevated by Dominic who’s blended two artisanal cheeses (Louis d’or and 14 Arpents) from the province he was born, served with fruit ketchup (another Quebec classic).

The Bearfoot's salmon gravlax on the sugar shack menu.
Spring salmon gravlax with gin and wild apple gel, and kohlrabi. PHOTO JOERN ROHDES

Some high-end, menu highlights include the Acadian Caviar, Spring Salmon Gravlax and Québec Foie Gras Mousse (which can be found on the $149 menu option). The Bearfoot’s bar team has even developed exclusive maple-influenced cocktails to pair with your meal, so all bases are covered.

If the event is a success the team hopes to make it an annual celebration, bringing a little east to west and up the mountains every spring. Take a look at the mouthwatering menus on their website and make your reservation.

Dominic Fortin in his chef's whites at the Bearfoot Bistro.
Culinary Director, Dominic Fortin. PHOTO BEARFOOT BISTRO

I’d caught Dominic for this interview as he strolled with his dog enjoying the spring sunshine. When I asked him what it is he loves about Whistler he said…

“What is there not to love? I came for my career, but I stayed for my career and the lifestyle.”

It’s good to see the Bearfoot in such creative, passionate hands. See you at the Sugar Shack! For more on Whistler’s spring dining scene, visit Whistler.com.

This spring, for every third night you book between March 1 - April 30, 2024, receive a free $75 CAD Whistler Après Voucher. Book your summer stay by April 30, 2024, and save up to 30% on lodging and 20% on activities. Plus, you’ll receive a free $150 Activity Voucher on stays of 3 or more nights. Secure your mountain getaway with Whistler.com for personalized service and the local knowledge of our Whistler-based team


You can often find Dee exploring all Whistler has to offer with her three-kid tribe in tow. Originally from the UK, Dee enjoys balancing out high-thrills adventures with down-time basking in the beauty of the wonderful place she now calls home.