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Chef's Choice: Brad Cumming — yoga and red wine

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Chef Brad Cumming is getting ready to eschew tradition and embrace red wine with every course.

At least... for one night only, in his upcoming Summer Series dinner called "Wellness & Wine."

The evening begins with a one-hour yoga session and then moves out to the patio of the Westin Resort & Spa, where the mountain views are just as invigorating as the wine and yoga.

That's where Chef Cumming will introduce a five-course menu that not only flaunts tradition, but also embraces the health benefits of red wine, paired with summer-fresh flavours — pressed cucumber, summer squash, salmon.

"It's a little tricky to pair every course with red wine... traditionally," said the executive chef of the Westin Resort & Spa.

"(But) you don't have to follow traditional rules.

"What better way to take care of your body, mind and soul than a glass of red wine and some lovely food?"

It helps, too, that he's featuring a few wines from B.C. — a Tightrope rosé from Naramata Bench, a Fort Berens pinot noir from just up the road in Lillooet, and a Joiefarm PTG, from Naramata. Not to forget the Moscato D'Asti - Batasiolo Bosc from Italy to round off the night.

This executive chef is a far cry from the 15-year-old dishwasher at Myrtle's Restaurant, one of the first fine dining spots in Whistler above Buffalo Bill's, where Cumming spent his youthful summers and weekends.

Back then he never imagined that one day he would be the executive chef of one of the top hotels in town.

He's seen the evolution of Whistler's food scene from the ground up — from its heavily influenced French and European roots in its nascent days to the more modern, more western, cleaner flavours of late.

"It's nice to see that," said Cumming. "The town itself has actually lived along with the time of food."

"It's always had a heritage of good food."

And good chefs willing to share their love of the kitchen.

Cumming has worked throughout Whistler over the last 20 years, first at Quattro under Chef Rob Parrot, then on to Monks Grill, when he also attended classes at Vancouver Community College to obtain his Red Seal, then on to work at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler too.

Since 2010, however, he has been the executive chef at the Westin, overseeing the Grill & Vine, the FireRock, the in-room dining and the catering.

It's in catering that he has found one of his true passions."It comes back to challenges," he said. "Every day is a different menu, every day it's a different client. The clients want to see specialized menus — how to wow them, how to feed 500 guests medium rare steak all at once.

"I do really like the science of food. On the catering side you really have to rely on the science of food a lot, or else things go wrong."

Part of the science of food is the Westin's commitment to personal renewal, introducing super foods, those foods rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, through the SuperFoodsRx brand. The super foods are highlighted throughout the Westin's menus.

The Wellness & Wine Summer Series therefore is in Chef Cumming's wheelhouse.

"It's all about life balance," he said.

Last year the hotel tested out the Summer Series with an event during the Beer Festival. This year it has expanded its horizons.

The Wellness & Wine event is the second event in a three-part Summer Series. It will take place during the annual Wanderlust yoga festival.

The one-hour yoga session will take place slope side on Whistler Mountain on the hotel grounds from 5 to 6 p.m. There will be half an hour set aside for guests to freshen up at the health club. Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the long tables will be set up on the patio for a communal al fresco dining experience.

"It works out so well," said Cumming of the tables. "It adds a little bit of interest to the dinner."

Wellness & Wine costs $89 (not including tax and tip) for the one-hour yoga session and the five-course dinner. There are 32 spots available. The event takes place on Friday July 31. Book at www.westinwhistler.com/summerseries.

Mango Lemongrass Sorbet

Makes six servings

Ingredients

50g sugar
2 limes
6 large lemongrass stalks
2 over-ripe Ataulfo mangoes

Preparation

To prepare ingredients, zest then juice both limes, finely chop the lemongrass stalks, then peel and chop the mangoes.

Boil the sugar with the lime juice and lemongrass for 10 minutes.

In a food processor, liquefy the sugar syrup with the mangoes and lime zest, then pass through a fine sieve.

Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine for 35 minutes or until frozen.

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