Chef's Choice: Bradley Cumming 

click to enlarge AUBERGINE ANNOUNCEMENT Brad Cumming is just as excited about an upcoming renovation as he is about the busy holiday season now upon him at the Westin Resort and Spa.
  • AUBERGINE ANNOUNCEMENT Brad Cumming is just as excited about an upcoming renovation as he is about the busy holiday season now upon him at the Westin Resort and Spa.

Light snow is falling outside as Brad Cumming takes a seat near the fireplace at the FireRock Lounge in the Westin.

He's smiling as he puts a copy of his sweet onion soup recipe on the table. Cumming has good reason to smile and it is clear that he can't wait to share some news.

The executive chef at the resort-hotel has come prepared to talk about the Christmas Eve three-course dinner he has planned, and the Christmas Day Brunch or the Christmas Dinner Buffet, but he also announces that the signature Aubergine Grill is getting a significant makeover come next summer.

"I'll share parts of it with you," he says to set up his much-anticipated announcement. "Next summer we are doing a significant renovation to the Aubergine.

"It is going to be a fairly significant renovation and we'll call it a re-launch to go along with it.

"As far as directions, themes and all of that — stay tuned," he says with a devious laugh. "That is well under wraps. Parts of the executive team don't even know. Others are sworn to secrecy."

He calls this renovation a big highlight for his career.

"It is going to be a fantastic addition to the Whistler dining scene, for sure," Cumming says.

The reveal comes at the end of mouth-watering chat about what the Westin plans for the Christmas holidays when it comes to dinning.

"We do our usual," says Cumming when asked about the plans. "We're going to have our big Christmas brunch."

He promises the brunch will deliver "hotel grandeur" with seafood displays and other culinary creations. Cumming is planning for as many as 400 guests at the brunch.

Last year, the Christmas dinner at Aubergine Grille was a sit-down meal. This year Cumming is opting to go back to the grand buffet. He promises it will be over the top.

The Christmas Eve dinner will also be a special event featuring turkey, Arctic char and game.

The executive chef has been through a few of these holiday seasons, so he knows what it takes to make the food experience for the hotel guests something they'll talk about when they go back home.

Cumming started with the Westin five years ago as executive sous chef after a few years working with Vincent Stufano at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Following two years of work at the Westin his boss, Jeffery Young, moved on and Cumming was offered the prestigious post.

He now finds himself managing a staff of up to 25 people in the kitchen at the busiest times. Cumming oversees the restaurant food, banquets and room service.

His work now is a big contrast compared to the days when he took his first job at a Whistler eatery only those with solid long-term memories will recognize.

"I grew up in Coquitlam and my parents have had a place up here since I was 12," explains Cumming. "My first job was at Myrtles — geez, I think I was about 14 years-old doing dishes in the summer."

Since those days Cumming has added Quattro, the RimRock and Monks to his Whistler resume. He also worked at Vancouver's Cin Cin and Zefferelli's.

New Years' plans at the Westin are also grand in scale.

A four-course dinner is planned at the Aubergine Grille on Dec. 31.

"And then the FireRock, they are going to be having more of a party atmosphere," says Cumming of the plan to celebrate the start of 2013.

It's clear that the Westin is set to help its customers indulge and enjoy a holiday season to remember then re-focus on an eatery renovation meant to excite.

Sweet onion soup

Ingredients

200g butter

8 sweet Vidalia onions

8 large shallots

8 cloves of garlic

2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

1 head celeriac, peeled

1-cup sweet white wine

Water

500ml cream

100g garlic and herb Boursin cheese

Method

Peel and slice the onions, garlic and shallots.

In a large stockpot over medium heat sweat the onions, garlic and shallots in the butter until translucent. Do not let the onions brown.  

While the onions are sweating peel and chop the potatoes and celeriac, then add them to the pot.

Add the wine and let it reduce by half. 

Just cover the vegetables with water and simmer for 45 minutes.  

Add the cream and the Boursin cheese and puree until smooth. 

Season with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  

Pass thru a sieve.

Pour into bowls and finish with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.

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