When you think of Whistler's bountiful culinary offerings, the locals' favourite Alpine Café probably isn't the first place that springs to mind.
This needs to change.
Located outside of Whistler's traditional hotspots of Creekside and the village, the café is nestled in the Alpine neighbourhood and has become the go-to spot for residents in the know looking for fresh, locally-sourced fare that's as comforting as the cozy confines it's served in.
Chef Charles Gibeau is well versed in the goings on of this bustling spot, having first started working at Alpine after his arrival from Quebec over 10 years ago. The dishwashing job was the first Gibeau could find in the resort, and helped to reignite an interest in food he had first built up watching his mother work her magic in the kitchen.
"Growing up my mom was an absolutely amazing cook, and my dad as well, but my mom did most of the cooking," the 32-year-old Gibeau explained. "We had a huge garden as a kid, and we were all taking care of that, and it was fun. It revived itself when I came here and started touching food again."
A handful of years later and Gibeau had worked his way up to line cook, taking his passion for food to the next plateau. After getting married in 2009, Gibeau left the café he had called home for the better part of a decade to work at Gone Bakery, where he poured his experience into crafting a menu for the village eatery.
"It was good potential for me because they didn't really have food knowledge outside of me, so they listened a lot and I thought it was great because I got to put a little bit of my input into it," said Gibeau.
The hands-on experience was invaluable for the self-taught chef, who returned to the Alpine Café kitchen last summer. Gibeau said he's happy to be back at his former home, and spoke to the café's approach to hearty, homemade food that's kept the locals coming back for so many years.
"If you want to get something good that's out of town in a beautiful spot that's nice and rustic, you can have that kind of experience (at Alpine Café)," he said. "It's not something that's big or fine dining, but if you want to meet the locals and see people love each other all around, it's great. I love it here."
Your average Whistler restaurateur has to be savvy of global food trends and try to appeal as much as possible to an eclectic, international clientele. Alpine Café, while no stranger to serving out of towners, is largely a magnet for long-time locals who want something a little different than the cosmopolitan crowd typically hitting up one of the village's handful of fine dining establishments. With its long list of tantalizing pastas, fresh baked sweet treats, and a rotating special (The plat du jour last week? Half a Cornish game hen with mashed potatoes that smelled as divine as it tasted.), Whistler locals are after healthy, organic grub that's sourced from their own backyards.
"In the past couple years with Monsanto and all that stuff, people want to go organic and that's what we're trying to do. We're buying a lot from Pemberton farms, we get a lot of vegetables from them, and in the future we'll probably try to get some meat, but right now we're focusing on vegetables," Gibeau said. "Locals want that opportunity to get healthy stuff on their plate and stuff that grows in their backyard. That's what we're trying to do and I think we're doing it well. We're always busy so we must be doing something right."
The dish that Gibeau submitted, a juicy honey-coated pork tenderloin with a rosemary and parmesan panko crust, is not something you'd typically find on the regular café menu, but that doesn't mean it's not in line with Alpine's approach to simple, well-executed fare that's a comfort to the stomach as well as the soul.
So next time you're thinking about where to head for dinner (or breakfast and lunch for that matter) in Whistler, head off the beaten path to Alpine for one of the resort's worst kept secrets. You'll be glad that you did.
Honey coated pork tenderloin with a fresh osemary, parmesan panko crust.
1 pork tenderloin
1 sprig fresh rosemary chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 tbsp local honey
2/3 Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
Pinch salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven at 350F. Clean the loin of any extra fat, and drizzle the honey on the loin.
Mix the dry ingredients together and coat the loin with it.
On a baking tray, place the loin in the middle and bake for 23 minutes - no longer!
Let it sit for five minutes, then plate it as the centrepiece, carve and enjoy with friends. This will be juicy, and lovely with a nice glass of wine.