exec chef 

Monk new ruler of Chateau’s culinary priesthood By Chris Woodall Chateau Whistler seems to have a love affair with B.C. boys who can really cook. Glenn Monk is the new executive chef of this resort’s largest hotel, and like his predecessor Bernard Casavant, Monk’s roots are here in Canada’s western-most province. Indeed, Monk was back in Vancouver from the far side of the Pacific Rim for a fishing trip with his father when he was approached by CP Hotels head office about Casavant’s imminent departure last summer. "I had always thought I’d be executive chef at a big high-end downtown hotel in this country, but never thought of the Chateau," Monk recalls of the eventful phone call. "My hobbies are in the outdoors — skiing and fishing — so I said ‘wow!’, shaved off my scruffy three-week-old beard and came up for the interview." Monk comes to Whistler after spending 10 years in the Pacific and Asia building a career toward the Chateau’s executive chef through work as sous chef or executive chef in luxurious Pan Pacific hotels at exotic locations like Palau — a South Pacific island in Micronesia — Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka in Bangladesh and at Jahor Baru, near Singapore. All those career moves have given Monk a seemingly infinite combination of tastes and ingredients to spice up the Chateau’s culinary repertoire. But don’t go thinking the Chateau is going to turn one of its elegant eateries into Whistler’s biggest Chinese restaurant. Monk visibly cringes at the idea. Instead, what Monk absorbed about Asian spice-ology and cookery will be married to "western" dishes to produce a menu that can’t be flagged as coming from any one culture. "There’ll be some delightful things happening to the menu," Monk says. It’s all part of the widening appreciation of tastes among North American diners, and of restaurateurs who provide more dazzling and inventive dishes than basic barbecue burger with side-of-fries on a platter. "There has been some globalization of tastes in the past 10 years and I believe that 10 years from now there’ll be a truly global cuisine," Monk says, noting how easy it is these days to have formerly out-of-reach ingredients on display at any decent local market. "There’s so much we can do with a steak," Monk says by way of an example. "Instead of a list of ingredients this long (he spreads his hands a foot apart), we now have a list from here to the kitchen," he says from his window seat in the Chateau’s Wildflower restaurant. To appreciate a culture’s cooking habits you have to get interested in that culture at an open, respectful level. "Personally, being in Asia was a great experience," Monk says. "You have to immerse yourself in the culture, even to learn the local language. When you speak their language, you’ve broken down a barrier." As you gain the trust of fellow kitchen mates, no matter what job level they have, Monk says they return the favour by including you in their life. "It was one of the reasons I enjoyed being in Asia so much: going to seedy little places to eat with the guys, getting invited to their kid’s wedding or going to their home village." Food and the adventures to be had in its preparation have always been part of Monk’s life. He started his own garden when he was eight and fell into cooking for the family after his parents’ divorce, preparing everything from fresh berry pies to pulling something out of the freezer for his mom and siblings. "My grandparents predicted I’d be a chef," Monk says. His first professional job was as an order taker at Troll’s fish n’ chips shop in Vancouver. "I got an understanding what it meant to be in a real kitchen," he says of the epiphanal experience. From there he attended Red River College in Winnipeg, taking on two full-time and one part-time job in city restaurants, mostly to accelerate his exposure to life in a restaurant kitchen. "That’s the key: you have to sacrifice your time to absorb as much as possible, to see as much as possible. That’s the way to excellence," Monk says. "It’s never seemed like a job. If you want to challenge yourself, you have to face tough times and move on to do better the next time," Monk says. That craving to learn more in his chosen craft — and the expertise that comes from a dedication to that craft — never ends, Monk says. "There’s always something more to learn. You can’t just say ‘now I’m here (at the Chateau) I’ve learned it all’," Monk says. "I just want to make sure the kitchen is challenged, to do something different each time and to make it interesting for the guest," Monk says. "We'll have some fun."

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