Eric Legasse, executive chef in the new Legs Diamond restaurant in the Upper Village, has created more new eateries in Whistler than you've had hot dinners.
Just kidding — but he has certainly been an important staple in the restaurant trade or resort for over two decades.
His early training, straight from Le Cordon Bleu College, came in four- and five-diamond restaurants in eastern Canada.
He was brought here to start The Wildflower Restaurant in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and has moved between restaurants in the resort and Vancouver Island.
He helped open Sidecut, ran the kitchen at Swiss House for the Swiss Olympic team during the 2010 Winter Games, and most recently ran the restaurant at the Whistler Golf Course for three years.
So when 23-year-old professional freeskier Sean Pettit and his father Greg wanted to open Legs Diamond across from the Fairmont, Legasse was their man.
"We've known each other a long time." Legasse said.
"Sean was really interested in helping his father, building him a little niche, a cool spot in Whistler that everyone wants to go to. It clicked and we talked about it, and I just waited for the golf course to wind down."
Legs Diamond had its soft opening in September and will be open full time for breakfast, lunch and dinner with its official launch party on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
It starts at 5 p.m. and the public is welcome.
"We wanted to see what it was like and how the restaurant would function," said Petit.
He explained that his father has worked in the food industry for decades and moved to Whistler two years ago.
"It's cool, reconnecting with him, for one thing, and teaming on this project together has been great. He's had his own food businesses for 25 years, food trucks operating in the Ottawa and Quebec area. His main priority is he wants to hang out with his boys (Pettit and his brother) and live this Whistler lifestyle we were living."Pettit said his father spent a year assessing the restaurant situation, and when the spot became available he thought it a good idea to make happen.
"I've never done anything like this before. I've run a production company for the last couple of years. From where I stand, I'm not in the kitchen or serving. I'm behind the scenes," Pettit said.
"My old man has done it all. He's worked every position since he was 15 and knows how it works. He's excited, too. I'm good at talking to people inside the restaurant and trying to promote it.
"It's funny. Being a professional skier, you are used to promoting yourself. I've been doing it for 10 years. It's just transferring that knowledge over and treating Legs Diamond as if it's yourself."
Legasse added: "Our dinners are going to be our forte. We're going to be Pacific Northwest, seasonal, it is new school takes on classic dishes that you can't necessarily do at home.
This is includes braised venison and other game, local fish dishes, crispy duck and more.
"It's casual-refined and simpler. Not over the top and throwing too many things on the plate," Legasses said.
"We want to support our local farmers, doing what is seasonal."He adds that the menus will be small and frequently changed. Currently on it are red-wine braised short ribs and ravioli, with more dishes to be announced in the fall-winter menu, due out next week.
Legs Diamond is a small place, with 34 seats inside and 40 on the patio in good weather.
"Building up the Whistler food scene is key. Building something that people come up to visit, a place they are excited by that they come to Whistler to eat at," Legasse said.
"It's exciting for us."
Pettit added: "We want to create more of a scene. We want to call the Upper Village 'Up Town' instead. It's such a nice part of the village that is even for a lot of locals a place they don't go to as much.
"We want to create places like this that people can come up to enjoy. We want to build a cool, new style, creating what we like and catering to people who think the same way."
Pettit has a busy competitive freeskiing season ahead of him, but says he will be at Legs Diamond whenever he is home.
"I do things in different ways. Sometimes it's just all about being ballsy and going out on a limb and believing it's going to happen, versus other people telling you it's not feasible," he says.
The Whistler restaurant scene has its challenges, to be sure, but Pettit believes it is worth it.
"I think we have the confidence that we have a good product and concept. That all helps," he said.Cocoa dusted venison with smoked chocolate jus
Venison tenderloin (1.5lbs 4x6oz cleaned) (if unavailable veal, lamb, bison and beef can be substituted)
1/2 tbsp Smoked Maldon salt
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1tbsp cocoa butter
Pat the tenderloin dry with a towel. Carefully remove all silver skin and any blemishes. Cut four centre-cut portions approximately the size of a balled-up fist. Rub each portion liberally with grape seed oil and generously season with reserved spice mix (dust, see below).
Cover with cling film and allow to come to room temperature before cooking.
Dust (yield approx. 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup quality cocoa powder
2 tbsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs Himalayan salt
1 tbsp rock sugar
Place all ingredients in spice grinder and blitz until fine powder in consistency. Reserve in air-tight container.
Quick chocolate jus (yield approximately 1 cup)
3 cups Veal stock
1 oz espresso
1/2 cup diced beet and turnip
2 oz cold, quality, dark chocolate (smoked if possible)
1 tbsp cold unsalted butter
Place first three ingredients in stock pot and reduce by two-thirds over medium heat until sauce is glossy and able to coat back of a spoon. Whisk in cold butter and chocolate. Strain sauce into a thermos to keep warm.
2 cups diced parsnips
2 cups apple juice
1 cup cream
Pinch of sugar
Bay leaf and sprig of thyme
Bring all ingredients to a simmer and cook parsnip until soft. Remove parsnip from pot and place into food processor or blender with just enough of the braising liquid to create the thickness desired.
Sautéed winter greens
2 lbs assorted organic kales, chards and choys
1/2 lb pine mushrooms
1tbsp pine nuts
1 shallot (julienned)
1 tbsp butter
On low heat sauté all above until just melted and warmed through.
Assembly of dish
Heat remaining oil from loin preparation in non-stick frying pan. Place room temperature venison in pan and carefully build a crust on all sides lowering heat and adding cocoa butter, second clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme to pan basting for 2 to 3 minutes.
Let rest in a warm place continually basting for another 4 to 5 minutes — you are looking for an internal temperature reading of approximately 120 to 130 degrees.
To serve place one ounce of the chocolate jus on a plate, then add a few tablespoons of parsnip purée, and top with wilted greens. Lay a few slices of venison across the grain on top of greens finishing with a little dust and smoked salt.
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