By nature, humans are creatures of extreme habit. This is especially true first thing in the morning, when the routines of the day begin on a sort of groggy autopilot.
For me, personally, this extends to breakfast, that most glorious bastion of fluffy eggs and griddled meats. Once a week, I even allow myself the pleasure of allowing someone else prepare it for me. This inevitably leads me to favourite locals' haunt, Gone Village Eatery, for my regular classic breakfast order: sausage, scrambled eggs and rye toast.
But on one chilly October day last fall, everything I thought I knew about the world (or at least this very small, specific corner of the world) was violently upended. Gone had a fancy new menu! On a fancy new sandwich board! And that plush leather booth I always selfishly tried to occupy despite it being large enough to seat the entire starting lineup of the Chicago Bulls? Nowhere to be found!
Broken by the inevitability of change and the endless march of time, I begrudgingly ordered the new-look classic breakfast. By the time it arrived and I had my first bite, I realized something profound: Sometimes change tastes pretty damn good. And there's been plenty of change happening at the beloved eatery in recent months, where executive chef Alex Colman has been brought in from Lift Nesters to tweak the menu.
The idea, Colman explains, is to shift towards "a whole foods principle" using minimal processed and refined foods, reflecting the evolving tastes of local diners.
"That's just how I like to eat," she says. "It may sound like a selfish thing, but I tend to find there are a lot of people in town moving along in that direction — just clean eating."
Colman's origin story should be familiar to others sweating on the line in Whistler kitchens. A native of London, England, she moved to the French Alps in the late '90s and began working in hospitality. Eventually she moved her way up from hotel waitress to personal chef, cooking in private chalets.
In 2004, she moved to Whistler, and continued her career as a personal cook before being hired on the line at the now defunct Beet Root Café. From there, she was hired at Elements, where she built on an obsession we both share.
"I have quite a passion for breakfast, that's something I've done for quite a long time," says Colman. With the updated breakfast menu in place, now Colman is turning her attention to the less epic meals of the day, but with a similar focus on serving up healthier, sustainable fare.
"I really want people to eat well and still feel really good after they've eaten, for a price which is maybe even cheaper than if they made it at home," she says.
That means patrons can expect to see a full lineup of new and hearty meals in a bowl — think a sweet and spicy pad thai bowl, or a nourishing vegan bowl — as well as a smoothie and shake bar.
"I need to shift people into the mindset that this is an eatery, and it changes seasonally with what people want," adds Colman.
Largely hidden from view of the Village Stroll, Gone's relative obscurity means that Colman and her crew have been able to focus solely on the wants and needs of the locals — which, in a roundabout way, has led to more tourists discovering this hidden gem.
"I understand how important it is to have business 365 days a year, so my main concern is with the local people who live here. What's going to capture them? What do they want? What price point do they need? What kind of nutritional needs do they have?" she says. "I think the tourists will naturally come... the locals will inform the tourists of where they need to go, and that's when the real volume hits. In the business sense, you've got to keep that consistency there 365 days a year, and that's through the locals."
Never change, Gone. Never change.
Toasted Sesame Dressing
2 cups sesame seeds
1 cup rice wine vinegar
160 ml gluten-free soy sauce
40 ml mirin
160 ml sesame oil
2.5 tbsp raw sugar (or sweeten to your own taste, with a natural sweetener)
1/2 cup avocado oil
Toast the sesame seeds gently in medium to large frying pan — to a light medium brown. Carefully pour the seeds into the food processor and blitz until the seeds have broken down — It's very important to do this before adding any liquid. Stop the food processor. Now add everything else in and blend for 30 seconds. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.