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Reinventing Four Seasons for Whistler

Fifty Two 80 a bistro by careful design

An aphorism bounces around from time to time that could be applied to anything, including a cute bumper sticker. But it’s something Wolfgang Puck and his partner in all things, Barbara Lazaroff, apparently ascribe to, even at their heady level of success in the hardscrabble restaurant business.

(Wolfie and Barbara, in case you don’t recognize the reference, are the darlings of the glitterati restaurant world who literally revolutionized it back in the 1980s with concepts like multi-cultural cooking and exhibition kitchens, and Spago, if Spago can be called a concept.)

The aphorism goes something like this: the minute you think you’ve made it is the minute you start going downhill. And we don’t mean on skis.

It’s a good point to springboard off of when you consider the Four Seasons in general and its new incarnation at Whistler. For this is one hotel chain that’s seemingly never made it (part of its born-in-Toronto identity?). Much like Wolfie and Barbara, the Four Seasons is constantly reassessing, striving and responding to changing opportunities, goals and demands.

All this despite the fact or, perhaps more accurately, resulting in the Four Seasons consistently receiving more AAA Five Diamond awards than any other hotel company. It was also recently named top international hotel chain by the Zagat survey. And it is repeatedly recognized as one of Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies to work for in America.

This at least partly explains why Edel Forristal was excited to be hired on as the Four Seasons Resort Whistler’s new food and beverage director. She also got to live at Whistler and be part of the hotel/restaurant opening, a professional feather in your cap. Also, a process that typically takes a full year as you move through the seasons and the idiosyncrasies each presents, especially in an idiosyncratic place like Whistler.

So given the latter, how did the Four Seasons interpret its acknowledged high standards for this setting? Not that Whistler doesn’t have or warrant same, but, as we shall discover, it’s somewhat different delivering a Fours Seasons experience here than, say, Paris or London or even Palm Beach.

Since this is a food column, we’re focusing on the restaurant ensconced in the hotel, the Fifty Two 80 Bistro. First, two things about the name: the number comes from the full mile of skiing from peak-to-valley on Blackcomb. And the bistro designation is no toss-off.

At this juncture, allow me to introduce Mr. Alfons Konrad. Mr. Konrad, as he is known in the Fours Seasons culture, is the senior vice president for food and beverage. As such, he personally oversees all the menus for every restaurant in the entire company, says Edel.

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