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Chef's Choice: Dominic Fortin

It should come as no surprise that Dominic Fortin loves chocolate. Chocolate is the favourite ingredient of the executive pastry chef at the Bearfoot Bistro.
AFTER DINNER ADVENTURE Bearfoot Bistro executive chef Dominic Fortin loves adventure, on his snowboard and in the kitchen when he's preparing pastries. Joern Rohde Photo courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro

It should come as no surprise that Dominic Fortin loves chocolate.

Chocolate is the favourite ingredient of the executive pastry chef at the Bearfoot Bistro. While chocolate might seem like an obvious favourite Fortin is adventurous and he doesn't hesitate to stray way off the traditional list of sweet ingredients most pastry chefs use. He's got some not-so-obvious ingredients planned for the summer dessert menu at the Bistro.

Before we discuss that, a look back is required. Fortin was trained in Quebec City where he grew up and spent a few years apprenticing at fine dining restaurants in his home city. He finished his pastry apprenticeship at the Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island, the renowned establishment with menus that change daily due to a commitment to use ingredients from the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island.

Fortin worked in Banff, went back to Quebec for a short time, then eventually made his way up Vancouver Island to spend some time at the Wickaninnish Inn. He spent about a year at Tofino's famed storm-watching venue before moving to Whistler to take on the executive chef job at the Bearfoot Bistro.

"I like creativity a lot," says Fortin. "I get bored really quickly. Pastry is really technical, more than cooking."

He says pastry making has rules, but playing with those rules keeps his creativity front and centre, as he works his magic at the Bistro.

"If you look at my menu right now we have nine desserts on it, four of them are made with chocolate," says Fortin. "I use a lot of French chocolate."

Before a dish makes it onto the Bearfoot menu he spends a few months refining it. This is the creativity he mentioned. He and his team of four change the dessert menu frequently. When he first started, he explains, the tasting menu changed daily. But he has shifted a bit and now changes the tasting menu with less frequency, but the main items change at least four times a year.

The team of four people working with Fortin to make the pastries is one of the larges pastry teams in Whistler. Fortin says he needs a big team because he's also in charge of making all the bread for the restaurant.

The Bearfoot isn't necessarily known as a dessert restaurant but some customers do come just for the pastries prepared by Fortin and his team.

"Sometimes we have, in the winter, people who come just for dessert," says Fortin. "They have dinner somewhere then come here for dessert. People will come for the natural ice cream that we do with liquid nitrogen. There's people who hear about that or they see about it on the Internet and they want that."

People love the natural ice cream and Fortin says jokingly that the restaurant founder, André Saint. Jacques, also loves it so he can't take it off the menu.

Fortin's love of creativity becomes clear when he's asked what he's working on next for his customers.

"At the moment, we're working on a Mexican chocolate dessert," he says.

It starts with chocolate ganache and includes sorbet and a chili meringue.

"We're working as well on a Pemberton potato dessert... potato ice cream with caramel," the pastry chef says. "This summer we will do something with tomato and olive oil."

He likes to have one item on his dessert menu with unique flavours, something only adventurous eaters will try.

"It is interesting," says Fortin of the unique flavours that aren't common in desserts. "It scares a lot of people but its good to have at least one on the menu for people that are really adventurous and go for it."

Fortin isn't just adventurous in the kitchen. He likes to hike and snowboard though this season a back issue has confined his adventurous spirit to the kitchen — a definite plus for the Bistro's clientele.

Neuchatel cheese, wild roses and raspberry tart

Breton dough ingredients

  • 80ml egg yolks
  • 150ml sugar
  • 225ml flour
  • 115ml soft butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • pinch salt

Rose Neuchatel cream ingredients

  • 4ml gelatin
  • 210ml cream (160+50)
  • 30ml icing sugar
  • 1 lemon rind (grated)
  • 4ml dried roses
  • pinch salt
  • 5ml rose water essence

In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar and the lemon zest with the paddle attachment. Add the egg yolks. Then add all the dry ingredients previously sifted together. Mix until just combined. Roll out the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper. Refrigerate for two-three hours. Use a fork a make wholes all over the dough prior to baking. Pull the dough out of the refrigerator and with the help of your ring mold or cake mold and a knife cut the dough the size of the pre-greased mold. Reserve the extra dough for other use. Bake at 335F, 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown in color.

Raspberry jam

Use a good quality raspberry jam or make your own at home.

Using a small spatula or a spoon spread a thin layer of the jam at the bottom of the tart shell and keep aside.

Neuchatel and rose mousse

Prepare this ahead of time (the day before is ideal). Line your smaller ring mold with some saran wrap.Bring to a boil the small amount of cream with the dried roses and keep aside to infuse. Whip the rest of the cream until it gets a little bit of volume but without getting firm. It should be soft and still a bit runny (this will help you to mold the mousse properly). Keep the cream in the refrigerator until needed. In the mixer cream the neuchatel cheese with the lemon zest, the icing sugar and the rose water. Go back to your rose infusion and warm it again on the stove. Dissolve the gelatin in and strain this mixture over the cheese. Mix both together. Quickly fold the lightly whipped cream and mold this mousse right away. Make sure the surface of the mousse is smooth. If you need to use a spatula to flatten the surface. Freeze for Three hours or overnight is the best. To un mold the mousse, gently push the mousse out of the ring. You can also warm the side of the ring mold with the palm of your hand before pushing out the mousse gently. Quickly put the mousse in the middle of the tart shell.

Fresh raspberries

Use the fresh raspberries to garnish around the mousse and on top. Crush some pistachios and sprinkle them all around the mousse.