Sam Alexander is no stranger to being younger than his peers.
"I started my apprenticeship when I was 15, and qualified when I was 18," Alexander said.
"So I'm used to being the youngest. It's never been a problem with my work, it's never been a problem with my staff, but when they find out they're usually very surprised."
Now 25, Alexander is revelling in the responsibility of his first head-chef gig at Christine's on Blackcomb.
"It's going really, really well," Alexander said.
"It's really nice to be able to walk out into the restaurant and have complete ownership, knowing that you've created the entire menu and you know every detail about every supplier, and about where every product has come from."
And having that control is not something Alexander takes lightly.
"My first mission I set myself when I took over was to find out where every single product came from, where we're sourcing it from and why we're sourcing it from there," he said.
"I know I've (annoyed) a few of my suppliers by sending them a full-page list of every ingredient we use from them and asking them where it comes from."
Having been with Christine's for a total of four years, Alexander is keenly aware of the unique challenges of running a lunchtime restaurant on a mountain.
"It's weird as a chef for your main event to be a lunchtime," he said.
"I'm trying to focus on it still being a quick lunch, so that people can come in even on a powder day and manage to eat some really nice food, but not have to spend two hours deciding on menu choices and eating a large heavy meal that's only going to slow you down."
The result is a menu that's deliciously versatile — quick pastas and sandwiches if you're anxious to get back on the hill, or warmer, fuller meals for those days when you'd rather stay inside.
Running a mountaintop restaurant has a different rhythm.
"I start my day at 7 o'clock in the morning and I'm out of work by five every day... and because we're up on a mountain there's no more hours you can do in a day," he said.
"You can't just come in early if you've had a busy day the day before, so it's kind of an interesting balancing act to be able to still put out high-quality food but with only three hours prep time."
And then there's the issue of getting your supplies up the mountain in the first place.
Alexander's ingredients arrive at the Roundhouse lodge in the middle of the night via snowcat.
"We only have a certain amount of space on each pallet of food coming up the mountain, and we only have a certain amount of hours in the night that they can bring food up," he said.
"The only thing I've ever really had a problem with is if snowcats break down and I have live mussels or live microherbs on the cat and it stays in freezing temperatures for too long, then they die. But apart from that our shippers and our receivers are usually really good at it."
But if the wonky hours and altitudinal challenges get too stressful, Alexander has a natural remedy he can refer back to.
"I have a six-foot window that looks right out over the entire valley up towards Pemberton, and it is stunning," he said.
"If we have a hard, busy day, at the end of the day if I get a chance to glance out that window, it makes everything better."
Wild Mushroom and Cannellini bean Cassoulet
This dish is both vegan and gluten free. It is a perfect choice for a winter dinner party. This dish can be accompanied by roast chicken or chorizo sausages.
500g cannellini beans / 500g drained tinned Cannellini beans
225g shallots sliced
60g garlic sliced
40g oregano chopped
40g thyme chopped
100g oyster mushrooms
100g portobello mushrooms sliced
50g chanterelle mushrooms
500g diced fresh tomato
100g fresh tomato paste
50g finely diced carrot
50g finely diced celery
50g finely diced leek
4L vegetable stock/ 1.5L vegetable stock if using tinned beans
Soak cannellini beans in three litres water overnight in the fridge or drain tinned beans. Sauté shallots, garlic and herbs in a large pot over a medium heat for five minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until softened another five minutes. Deglaze with 500ml vegetable stock and add tomato paste, fresh tomato, carrot, celery and leek, continue cooking for another five minutes. Add white beans and cook until tender, adding more veg stock as needed (roughly five hours for dried beans and 1.5 hours for tinned).
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