Get it fresh, use it all Summer Salad 

Alta Bistro is finding smart ways to get every cent out of raw ingredients

click to flip through (3) PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - Chef Nicholas Cassettari of Alta Bistro with a salmon and prawn salad featuring English peas, celery leaves, radishes, cucumber and homemade mayonnaise.
  • Photo by John French
  • Chef Nicholas Cassettari of Alta Bistro with a salmon and prawn salad featuring English peas, celery leaves, radishes, cucumber and homemade mayonnaise.

The kitchen Chef Nicholas Cassettari works in is based on sustainable practices using fresh products until they aren't fresh anymore. He is backed by Alta Bistro's owners, who are so committed to sustainability that they encourage waste reduction and best use of resources. The owners are currently tracking the amount of food waste the restaurant is generating in comparison to the amount of garbage the operation is creating. Very little solid waste is produced by Alta Bistro and a surprisingly small amount of organic waste leaves the kitchen. Cassettari's drive to reduce waste has him making use of things that many other chefs don't use. In the creation of his Sockeye Salmon Rillettes and Confit White Prawns he uses prawn shells and celery leaves, two items that are often discarded as food waste.

The use of the celery leaves and prawn shells are just two examples of the long list of sustainable practices Cassettari and the rest of his team use every day Alta Bistro.

Edward Dangerfield, part owner of the restaurant and a recent Tough Mudder competitor, whips up a Pemberton Cocktail and explains another way he ensures only truly unusable food goes into the compost bin at the restaurant.

"We use mint on the bar extensively, obviously in cocktails," he says. "When the mint gets a little old it starts to turn black. You can't use it in cocktails or present it on food anymore but you can blend it into an oil and then use the oil. The oil then has a way longer shelf life than the mint itself.

"So, its just assessing a product life cycle," Dangerfield says.

"If you do that repeatedly with all your products your going to get way more efficient at decreasing your waste and ultimately that goes to your bottom line," says Dangerfield as he forms a smile, tips his head slightly and without hesitating says: "Which makes it almost profitable to run a restaurant in Whistler."

Dangerfield has formed a relationship with Rootdown Farm in Pemberton. He says the restaurant's produce supplier will grow things specially requested by the restaurant. The farm likes doing that because they know they have a guaranteed buyer once the produce is ready for harvest.

"We've got a pretty close relationship with them," confirms Chef Cassettari, who was working in the food and beverage department at Nita Lake Lodge before moving over to Alta Bistro. "We were just down at the farm last week."

Dangerfield has a real love for what Pemberton has to offer the food and drink lovers of Whistler. From Rootdown Farm to the Pemberton Distillery the first place the Alta Bistro operators look for products is Pemberton. Before a food outlet can start generating waste it needs to get its raw ingredients from somewhere and for Alta Bistro somewhere is as close to home as possible. Much of the fresh produce can be found at the corridor's farmer's markets as well.

"We always try and use local products," he says. "We do that in the kitchen, it is one of our cornerstones of sustainability. Its one of the reasons Eric (Griffiths) and I founded the business because we were so frustrated with so much waste in food service."

It isn't just the kitchen that relies on what Pemberton produces. The Pemberton Cocktail gets its name because most of the ingredients come from Pemberton. The drink starts with fresh blueberries, includes Schramm vodka from Pemberton and Okanagan Raspberry Liqueur. According to Dangerfield, the cocktail was introduced this spring and within three weeks of being added to the cocktail list it became the restaurant's best seller.

"It outsells everything — like, two to one," says Dangerfield. "It's crazy."

The success of the drink is purely from its appeal off the cocktail list. He says people are really drawn to the ingredients and choosing it over the other cocktail offerings.

Alta Bistro is in its second year of operation at the corner of Main Street and Northlands Boulevard. The eatery is open for dinner seven days a week from 5:30 p.m. until midnight in the Pinnacle Hotel building.

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