The tastier side of green 

Chefs, restaurants and ranchers showcased at Whistler’s biggest food and wine festival

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It's often referred to as the "s" word in Whistler.

A dirty word spouted from the mouths of politicians in sound bites. A decorative ornament, sometimes bearing closer resemblance to a leech, attached to words like "Olympic" or "development" or "footprint."

No word in the English language can clear a room faster or be met with more rolling eyes. But Whistler's food scene is putting the 14-letter word back into the community's good books.

"Sustainability" can be uttered freely in the presence of children, and best done so with mouths full and wine glasses raised at Cornucopia celebrations showcasing the ultimate local green machines in chefs, restaurants and food producers.

 

Old MacDonald had a chef

Instead of chef's whites Maxim Ridorossi dons a snazzy vest and tie as he plates the Nicola Valley venison he smoked earlier in the week on freshly-baked oat crackers for canapés.

Miles Davis' jazz stylings filter into his busy kitchen at North Arm Farm in Pemberton. He cooks homemade soups for guests visiting the farm by day while by night his culinary creativity gives way to cooking classes, catering and supper clubs like this evening.

Dinner guests arrive in zoot suits and veiled hats paired with red-stained lips for the 1940s-inspired supper club. Partner and pastry chef Jenna Dashney greets time travelers with glasses of Pemberton Schramm Vodka, mixed with her own homemade crab-apple coulis.

Ridorossi and Dashney call themselves The Foodlovers, passionate purveyors of seasonal cooking and local ingredients.

After undergoing a six-hour braising marathon to enrich Ridorossi's Pemberton Meadows beef short ribs, farm-fresh vegetables are discarded into a waste bucket for the pigs.

Old MacDonald's barnyard friends never ate so well.

Pigs and chickens penned up on one side, rows upon rows of root vegetables stretching out on the other and in the middle The Foodlovers kitchen giving life to a weatherworn barn aglow in candlelight and friends' laughter.

This is the stuff dreams are made of: a newly created menu, local ingredients literally steps from his cutting block and gangsters filtering in and out of the kitchen with questions about crosnes and purple carrots.

"The farm is such an amazing location and to be able to work with fresh product like this is a chef's dream," Ridorossi says. "Supper Club. It's our creation. We decide everything. That is where I can play the most."

This sense of play in spontaneously creating locally-driven dishes inspired daily by his backyard is the secret behind his repeated success. He was crowned King of the Cooks at the inaugural Chef's Challenge at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival last Spring and he is ready to defend his title at this year's Chef's Challenge at Cornucopia.

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