The new restaurant chef at Sidecut is the first to admit that, from a culinary perspective at least, he was spoiled in his native France.
The 38-year-old Jean-Pierre Boulot was surprised at the lack of readily available high quality produce in the Sea to Sky — Spud Valley excluded, of course — compared to the embarrassment of riches found in L'Hexagone.
"To be honest, the last time I had my produce supplier come here, I asked him for a few things I can find anywhere in France or in Europe, but for him it was like I was talking Chinese," he laughed.
The region's seafood, on the other hand, is a whole other story.
"When the halibut season started, I saw some amazing halibut — nice, firm and a beautiful colour. Same thing with the salmon — here you have an array of different salmon, most of them I've never heard of," Boulot said. "Most of the salmon I used in Europe was from Scotland or Norway, which are OK but not so great. But the kinds you have here, the sockeye salmon, is pretty unique and I'd never seen that before."
Boulot also spoke about his country's rich culinary traditions, and how France's deeply entrenched food culture differs vastly from our own.
"The way I see it in North America is that people don't spend too much time at home for dinner, where everybody is sitting around the table, you don't have that many people who do that here," he said. "That's something that's a big part of our culture in Europe, and especially in France.
With an abundance of variety in French food products depending on what area you may find yourself in, Boulot has also noticed how distinct each region's produce is in his home country.
"The other thing is that in every region (in France) you have very special products that everybody really likes to showcase. If you're going to Lyon you know you're going to find these awesome sausages, for example. One of the big differences is that every single region you'll have an area of a different products that you can find easily and you can use every day in your cooking. Here in Whistler, that's pretty tough."
The French chef comes to the resort by way of Paris, although he has lived and worked all over his native pais. He got his start in the restaurant industry like so many chefs before him — as a summer job, and was forced to decide between a career in cooking and a promising future in sport when he learned the renowned school he was to attend as a star basketball player didn't offer a pastry program.
Fortunately for diners at the Four Seasons' restaurant, these days Boulot isn't shooting hoops, but carving prime Alberta beef in one of Whistler's most celebrated fine dining establishments, applying his refined yet modern take on traditional French cuisine.
"I like pretty simple stuff, and I try to use a lot of spices and things like that," he said. "But less is more. I don't like too many things or flavours on the plate, and I like to focus on one or two products to showcase them."
The Parisian hasn't had much time to sample some of the offerings in Whistler's renowned dining scene — although he recently went to Araxi and the Rimrock Café and was impressed with what he tasted.
"To me there are a lot of places doing burgers and that kind of thing, but when you put all those places aside... Whistler's restaurant scene is really interesting," said Boulot.
Now, Boulot will attempt to add his name to the long list of exalted resort chefs with Sidecut's summer menu — the first the Frenchman had a hand in developing at the restaurant.
"I really focused on freshness and seasonal products," he said. "...We have a lot of tomato in our menu for the summer, as that's the best time for them. For example, we have a king crab and spot prawn salad with a tomato water broth. So I'm really trying to understand what people want and using my knowledge and skill to please them."
Asian marinated sturgeon (or other fish)
8 oz fish
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
generous pinch of fresh pepper
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1½ tbsp blend oil
1 tsp nori leaf (cut in small pieces)
6 tsp seaweed (cut in small pieces)
1 tsp chili flake
6 ml oyster sauce
4 ml soy sauce
Mix salt, sugar and black pepper.
On tray spread some salt mix then place your fish on top, then add more salt mix over the fish.
Leave in fridge for six hours, the thickness will change depending on the amount of time you cure your fish.
In a bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients, this will be your Asian mix.
After six hours take the fish out of the salt mixture, rinse under cold water for a minute and leave on dry towel to absorb all the water excess.
Grab your fish and put Asian mixture all over it, then wrap in plastic film as tight as you can, leave for an hour.
Slice and enjoy.
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