There are some things Europeans just do better; eating in ski boots is one.
That's according to award-winning chef Chef David Hawksworth who has done his fair share of eating in ski boots — on this continent and in Europe.
"When you're skiing in Europe, you pull up to the side of a run there and there's a little house," said Hawksworth. "And it's mind boggling. The food is just outrageous. And you can have some nice schnapps or some great wine just from down the road... It doesn't have to be complicated."
It's all about fresh ingredients — local cheeses and charcuterie and wine, even a simple tomato sauce over pasta with some Grappa to wash it down.
Simple. Delicious. Elegant in its own unique way. And it doesn't have tobe pricey.
Hawksworth, still in his ski gear after a day at Whistler Blackcomb, lights up when he remembers a decades-old trip to Chamonix and Zermatt — a week of extreme guided off-piste skiing when he was in his twenties.
"I saved, and saved and saved (for it)," he said, smiling at the memories of those epic tree runs when he was a young Canadian studying in some of the best kitchens in Europe, long before all the accolades to come.
"There wasn't a burger to be seen," he said. "Not that there's anything wrong with burgers! I've eaten my fair share. We've even got a tuna burger on the menu too."That menu he is referring to is his special creation to be featured at Steeps on Saturday Jan. 10. Hawksworth is bringing a little taste of his tony downtown Hawksworth Restaurant, which is a three-time winner of the best upscale restaurant from Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.
"I'm an avid skier," he said. "I love the mountains and I thought it would be a fun idea to do something like this."
So, in addition to that yellowfin tuna burger, Chef Hawksworth will be offering three courses with things like crispy Asian duck salad and winter squash ravioli and lobster bisque and mango coconut verrine.
In creating the menu he was thinking about comfort and satisfaction and... Europe."What's the best soup in the world that we could (do)? What does everybody love?" he asked himself.
The answer: lobster bisque, which is "pretty freakin' delicious."
Growing up in Vancouver, Hawksworth wasn't always a skier. When he was 14 years old his mom won a ski trip after phoning into a radio station — LG73 — and winning a contest.
And so the Hawksworths hit Big White.
David was hooked from that moment on. "I thought it was the best thing in the world, ever," he recalled.
Two years later, when he was 16, he would march to the top of Taylor Way on Saturday mornings and wait to get picked up by a group of Austrian and German skiers, who were all in their 40s, all really good skiers.
Any opportunity he could get to come to Whistler, any opportunity he could get on his skis.
This love of skiing and the easy access to it here was one of the main reasons why he moved back to the west coast of Canada after his decade abroad.
He hasn't looked back since — named the youngest chef inductee in to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame, guest chef of Food Network Canada's Top Chef, force behind the Hawksworth Restaurant at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, set to open a new restaurant by the end of this year.
Hawksworth has made his mark on Vancouver and has now set his sights higher — more than 6,000 feet higher.
On Saturday, Jan.10 he wants to sell more covers than ever done in a day before at Steeps.
"I have a real soft spot for anything on the mountain," he said. "It's just the best day out."
The doors open at 11 a.m. for the prix fixe menu at $59. The regular Steeps menu is unavailable. There will be a kids' menu too.
For advance reservations call 604-905-2379. Lift tickets are required. There is also a $29 charcuterie feature for après, which begins at 2:30 p.m.
Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Butternut Squash and Wild Mushrooms
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots minced
1/4 of a small butternut squash, peeled and cut into two-centimetre cubes
1 garlic clove
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
4 oz wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 x 5 oz salmon fillets, skin-on
1 Tbsp lemon juice
12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
4 sage leaves, finely chopped
1. Melt one tablespoon butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft but not brown, for about four to five minutes.
2. Add the squash, garlic and thyme. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, without browning. Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Season to taste. Cook covered until the squash is tender but not falling apart. Remove the garlic and thyme.
3. In a medium frying pan, melt the remaining one tablespooon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft. Season to taste and add to the squash mixture.
4. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick frying pan that can go into the oven. Season the salmon and place in the pan skin side up. Cook without turning for three to four minutes until the fish is lightly browned around the edges. Place the frying pan in the oven and cook the fish for seven to 10 minutes until cooked through.
5. Re-warm the sauce mixture and add the lemon juice, cherry tomatoes and sage. Spoon into warmed bowls and top with the salmon fillets. Serve immediately.