Bearfoot Bistro has been named as one of Canada's top 100 restaurants, the only Whistler restaurant to crack the list.
Canada's 100 Best is an annual ranking determined by an extensive panel of chefs, restaurateurs, food critics and industry leaders across the country. Bearfoot, which also made the list last year, came in at No. 97.
"We're thrilled to be included on the list of the 100 Best Restaurants in the country and to be representing Whistler's and B.C.'s dining scene," said Marc Des Rosiers, the restaurants communications director. "Congratulations to our team and a special thanks to our guests for inspiring us."
It should come as no surprise that urban restaurants dominated the East-Coast-heavy list — Toronto's Alo, with its no-fuss approach to French fine dining, came in the top spot — which makes Bearfoot's appearance all the more significant.
"Obviously the exposure that some urban restaurants are getting is probably greater, so the fact that we're a resort restaurant just makes it more interesting for us," Des Rosiers said.
Canada's 100 Best releases a magazine alongside its rankings, and Bearfoot Bistro's Executive Pastry Chef Dominic Fortin was singled out in an article showcasing five of the country's "stars of pastry." Fortin was something of an anomaly as the only chef featured who doesn't hail from Montreal or Toronto, and it's clear his whimsical, convention-shattering desserts have not gone unnoticed.
"In a health-conscious region of Canada where the final course is all-too often neglected, the creative chocolates and pastries made by Quebec-born Dominic Fortin stand out as stunningly as the mountains surrounding his Whistler restaurant," the article read.
It's been a banner year for the 34-year-old, who was named as the youngest Canadian ambassador this summer for revered French chocolate brand Cacao Barry. Trained in classic French cuisine, Fortin cut his teeth in pastry at a high-end Japanese restaurant before moving over to the esteemed Sooke Harbour House. He credits the iconic Vancouver Island restaurant, where chefs had to come up with new dishes daily, for fostering his seemingly boundless creativity, a quality that has served him well at the Bearfoot.
"This is why I took the job at the Bearfoot 12 years ago. I asked them if I could do whatever I want, and (Executive Chef) Melissa (Craig) said I had total freedom," he recalled. "I get bored really quickly. I want to keep learning. The day that I get really bored and do the same thing is the day I'm going to change careers."
If there is such a thing as a superstar pastry chef in Canada, Fortin is approaching that status. He's regularly recognized as one of the country's rising young talents, and he's happy that his fellow pastry chefs are starting to get the same recognition as their counterparts in the savoury world.
"Social media has helped. You can see all the work we do on social media, and desserts are really colourful and people love things like that," he noted. "But that being said, it doesn't mean there are more people in the schools. We have a big issue with fewer and fewer young people going into this field."
Fortin, who said he always makes sure to have a "green" chef on his team, believes the demanding lifestyle of the fast-paced restaurant world has prevented many young people from getting into the industry.
"I've been doing pastries for the past 15 years now, and I've probably had Christmas with my family once. I've forgotten what it was. But the kids fresh out of school, they don't want to put the hours in. They ask for tons of vacation," said Fortin. "They want to work, but it's on their own terms. It gets tricky. I was talking about social media earlier, and they see all these nice pastries online and want to jump steps. They always want to do all those beautiful things without having the background to do it."
For the full Canada's 100 Best list, visit www.canadas100best.com/canadas-100-best-restaurants-2017.