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Monks for meat

Monks for meat

Fernie’s Derek Myers has found a home in Monk’s kitchen

Steak. Is there anything that hits the spot better for a ravenous, meat-eating skier at the end of a day on the slopes? And what Whistler restaurant has been virtually synonymous with the serving of prime grade A beef for the last 12 years? In a word, Monk’s, the cozy, wood panelled place at the base of Blackcomb.

Monk’s GM Beverly Brown says Monk’s is unique in Whistler in that it is one of the few upscale restaurants right at the base of the mountain.

"Monk’s can be a bit of difficult restaurant to run as we get a lunch, apres-ski and upscale dinner crowd. If it snows at night we know we’re gong to be busy next day as they come off the mountain and want to eat and party. So we have a three-piece rock band play in the afternoon and it can really get rocking in here on a weekend afternoon. And then around five o’clock we sweep the place out and get ready for the dinner crowd."

Staying at the same restaurant for 12 years is almost unheard of in the restaurant industry, but Brown says she loves living in Whistler. And a lot of her staff have been at Monk’s for years, too.

"We’re known for treating out staff well and a lot of our wait staff have been here for five years or more," she says.

One relatively recent hire is executive chef Derek Myers, who came aboard a year ago and the steaks have kept coming ever since.

"This is my first time ever cooking for a steak house. I started in Vancouver and most of the restaurants there are concerned with seafood, so this has been a new challenge but one that I’ve really enjoyed," Myers said.

Indeed, once Myers graduated from Vancouver’s Dubrelle Cooking School in 1994, his culinary talents were used at some of the best seafood and dining experiences known in Vancouver, such as Rain City Grill, The Teahouse, Moustache Café and Star Anise.

Promoted to executive chef when West Vancouver’s Saltaire opened its doors to spectacular views, Myers stayed a year before his taste for adventure took him to a cooking assignment in Mexico City. Myers had accepted a position in Cancun when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 th radically altered his plans.

"I got a call from the hotel saying there was no point in me coming as there was virtually nobody there. So I returned home to Fernie."

While pondering where his next culinary home would be, Myers saw an ad for an executive chef at Monk’s, applied and soon had his ski and chef’s equipment packed and ready to go upon being given the job.

"Growing up in Fernie I was part of the ski racing team so it was exciting to be back on a mountain again," he says.

And how much does he get to ski in peak season?

"Not as much as I would like," Myers admits with a laugh. "In peak season I usually have to be in here by 10 or 11 in the morning and I often don’t get out of here until the same time at night. So I try and get in a few runs in the morning before coming in."

Myers says he loves the co-operative spirit he has found in the last year he has spent in Whistler.

"Every local knows we’re all in the service industry in one way or the other. So I find people are really friendly and on the same page in terms of helping each other and promoting Whistler," Myers says.

In his year at Monk’s, Myers has subtly put his own stamp on the mainly meat menu. So just what makes the difference between a good steak and a great one?

"It almost always comes down to the cut of beef, and we get the best grade A, 28-day-aged beef. It’s a real pleasure to cook with meat of that calibre."

Myers was also high on cooking with the fresh caribou that is featured on Monk’s menu.

"It’s a very tangy, gamey, very lean meat that I recommend if people want to try something a little different," he says.

As executive chef Myers says a lot of his duties involve food preparation work, a necessary task, but one that takes him too much away from his first love of cooking.

"I do a lot of prep work, but what I really love to do is cook. I love the creating. I’m not a desk person."

Myers says he works closely with his chefs and that involves "learning accents from Kiwis, Aussies and Japanese. One thing about this job it’s never boring."

As for what wines to order with all that red and game meat, Myers defers to Monk’s sommelier.

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