Three, three, three dinners at once Chateau mastered hectic pace at Cornucopia winemakers night By Chris Woodall One of the intriguing behind-the-scenes adventures of Cornucopia just past is how the Whistler Chateau marshalled its troops for a "coup du kitchen" that created three full-on winemakers dinners plus a busy night for the flagship Wildflower restaurant. Other hotels or restaurants found their hands full organizing one winemakers dinner each, last Saturday, so how does a hotel juggle three different menus for three large and discerning groups of wine tipplers? The wild card was the Wildflower. It was originally to be the site of one of the three special "match the food with the grape" beverage taste sensations. It turns out that success creates its own problems. So many restaurants in Whistler were serving sold-out winemakers dinners that demand to reserve a table at the remaining restaurants grew like a storm-fed wave. "Bookings took off for the Wildflower because of the other restaurants being closed," explains Geoff Allan, director of the Chateau's food and beverage department. By 2 p.m. of the day for the winemakers dinners, a decision was made to move the dinner slated for the Wildflower to a section of the Macdonald ballroom. The dinners were to start at 7:30 p.m. There was some talk of opening up the ballroom to one large room for all three dinners, but the sponsoring wineries — Inniskillin, Mission Hill and Kettle Valley — couldn't agree on that format, saying while the over-all hubbub would be congenial, it would interfere with individual pitches for a winery's products. That meant re-configuring the massive room into three small but separate rooms for groups of 60, 60 and 25. Some of the decor from the previous night's Crush! event was still available, so that even though the Macdonald room had been stripped of that night's table arrangements, stacks of barrels and other items could be assembled to maximize the decor and create an intimate setting, Allan says. As well, the Kettle Valley doo was a "vertical tasting," requiring a different setup from the other two dinners. A vertical tasting involves sampling several wines at once to compare vintages. This room's seating was formed into a square so the group could more easily discuss the vintages on hand. But three unique dinners, each with a variety of courses: different wines call for different tastes in each case. In essence, the Chateau had to become three (four with the Wildflower back in regular operation) restaurants. "Our day started two or three days earlier," says Allan, when Wildflower chef Michael Allemeier got the kitchen teams prepped for the meals to come, organizing them so the pastry team, for example, could produce what was needed for all four venues at the same time. Behind the Macdonald ballroom, each dinner venue had its own final prep area so that as much as possible, all the meals could be assembled "a la minute" rather than pre-made like so many hamburgers, "which would destroy the look of the meals," Allan says. The final product, as Pique Newsmagazine can attest from its perch in the "last but not least" Kettle Valley room, was suburb.