If you’ve heard of Whistler, the mountain town in British Columbia, it’s probably for the skiing. But Whistler has aspirations of being more than just a magnet for downhill enthusiasts. Taking a page out of Aspen’s book, it fancies itself an emerging center of food, wine and culture. So, once a year, the town throws a big, 10-day party of nearly non-stop, over-the-top eating and drinking. I checked out the festivities recently for Canadian Geographic Travel magazine and also handled the photography for the article.
Eat. Play. Repeat.
Story and photography by Remy Scalza for Canadian Geographic Travel
(For the magazine version with photos, click here: Eat Play Repeat)
Inside the kitchen of Araxi Restaurant + Bar in Whistler’s Village Square, it’s the calm before the storm. On a crisp Wednesday afternoon in November, executive chef James Walt has come in early to prepare for a meal two nights away. “Expectations are extremely high,” he says, looking up from straining jus for a Wagyu beef cheek. “The type of people who come to Big Guns know their stuff.”
One of Canada’s premier chefs — not to mention good buddies with Gordon Ramsay — Walt is not easily intimidated. But then he’s not preparing for any ordinary dinner. A seven-course, $250-a-plate affair, Big Guns is the culinary climax of Cornucopia, the gastronomic highlight of the year in a town that loves to eat nearly as much as it loves to ski.
For a week or so each fall, gourmands assemble in the Whistler mountains for a celebration of food and wine that would leave Bacchus blushing. Five-, seven- and 10-course dinners are de rigueur. Gala tastings showcase hundreds of wines. Brunches are champagne-paired and afternoon tea comes with martinis. After dark, even party-hardy Whistler is stretched to new extremes with swanky fetes that carry on deep into the autumn night.
In Walt’s kitchen, stockpots are bubbling. Cooks crowd in, clamouring for his attention. It’s my cue to go, but before I do, the chef lets me in on his secret weapon for the big dinner. “White Alba truffles,” he says, raising an eyebrow conspiratorially. “The real deal.” Truffles, of course, are a foodie’s best friend. White Alba truffles — so rare they wholesale for upward of $7,000 a kilo — are the crème de la crème. “It’s gonna blow them away,” he says. [Read more…]