Chefs Choice: James Tetreault and Yvette Zhang 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON. - Sweet stuff James Tetreault and Yvette Zhang at the BeaverTails stand at Midstation on Whistler Mountain.
  • Photo by Cathryn Atkinson.
  • Sweet stuff James Tetreault and Yvette Zhang at the BeaverTails stand at Midstation on Whistler Mountain.

There's a little taste of Canadiana at midstation on Whistler Mountain.

James Tetreault and Yvette Zhang are the new management at the BeaverTails franchise located halfway up (or down) the mountain, since October 2013.

Having lived on the West Coast for only 10 months, they are raving about their first season serving the sugary pastries.

"We've had a fabulous season here. This was a new mountain to me, and I was a little worried because we weren't getting very much snow, January was all about sunshine ,and we did so well because people could eat and sit out on the patio," Tetreault said.

The sunshine meant lineups from December to February.

"People ski down and are a little surprised to see us. A lot of foreign people don't know what BeaverTails are. We explain it to them," Tetreault said.

BeaverTails is headquartered in Montreal. It's very much a national treasure and has become a ski-mountain staple. The company has grown to around 100 franchised stores across Canada.

This means a consistency in food.

"Each BeaverTail comes as a little, round puck. It's a whole-wheat pastry. We put them into a proofer for about 20 minutes and then we stretch them into that BeaverTail size," Tetreault said, holding up the cutout oval that they use as a guide to make the perfect pastry shape.

They are then deep-fried in canola oil, smothered in butter (unless a vegan has placed the order) and then dipped in one of nine toppings or flavours. The classic topping is a coat of cinnamon and sugar, with an optional lemon quarter to take the edge off the sweetness.

Other condiments can include banana, Nutella or crumbled cookies.

"Beaver Tails are actually a vegan product, there are no eggs. A lot of customers like that," said Tetreault.

That's not the only comfort food. A Beaver Tail restaurant also sells drinks, French fries and poutine (another national treasure). The Whistler franchise also has a barbecue, which they make the most of all year round with burgers and hot dogs. All supplies needed for the operation come up by gondola.

Zhang said one recent British customer, on holidays with seven members of his family, liked it so much it he brought everyone to midstation every day of their 10-day vacation.

Neither come from a restaurant background, although Tetreault worked in the industry in his 20s. A year ago, Zhang was an accountant in Toronto, while Tetreault was a divisional vice president of Sears Canada, at the head office.

"We sat in the company chair for years and years," Zhang said.

Then they saw the BeaverTails operation at the Blue Mountain resort in Ontario.

"We went there and just watched and went 'Wow!'" Tetreault said.

They moved to B.C. in May 2013, and in quick succession purchased two Lower Mainland BeaverTail franchises, Grouse Mountain and the Vancouver Mobile Unit, a very large trailer that can be taken to any site.

"We started with the mobile trailer a year ago," Zhang said. "It's a very happy surprise for us to see that the market for BeaverTails is very promising in the B.C. area. Everyone likes the products after they have them, whether they are local customers or tourists."

Tetreault added: "Tourists tend to have it on their to-do list."

And some tourists will go to incredible lengths to get a taste. One, a very wealthy Indian businessman, brought himself and 14 members of his family over by jet just to try some BeaverTails. Tetreault was asked to bring the mobile unit to the Vancouver International Airport.

"We brought the trailer to a private area, right up to the runway. They organized it before they flew over and we were waiting. He was a very rich man, indeed. It was pretty cool, though," Tetreault said.

The experience gave them positive proof of BeaverTails' wide reputation.

"Before we came to this brand, everything we heard from other franchisees was very, very positive," he said.

The couple has now settled in Whistler.

"It has been very successful, we're very happy to be here... We know a lot of the lifties, the managers. Being local on the mountain, I wanted to make sure we fitted in," said Tetreault.

And because it's a brand, there are no recipes to share — so Tetreault shared his recipe for another sweet dish, his mom's Famous Nano Bar.

Famous Nano Bar

Bottom layer

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup melted butter (do not use spreadable margarine as the crust won't set)

Top Layer

1 can condensed milk

1 1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/3 cup flaked sweet coconut

method

Combine butter and crumbs in the bottom of a well-greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. 

Press evenly into a thin layer.

Pour the condensed milk over the crust. Sprinkle the other ingredients evenly over the milk and press down firmly.

Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly and cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

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