A new catering company promises to deliver the goods in Whistler, this time with a taste of Tuscany, Umbria, Roma and the rest of Italia in mind.
Chris Szewczyk, who has worked in Whistler's food and beverage industry for 20 years, officially launched Italian cuisine-inspired Antipasti Catering on January 1.
"It's been really good, I've been really busy," he said. "Our main focus is antipasti platters of various combinations, using local sustainable ingredients."
Valentine's Day was the company's first major test.
"It turned out great. There was a lot of interest and we were quite busy. It was nice to see the interest that people are taking in this company and what we're about. We're off to a good start and looking forward to the future," he said.
The menu for Antipasti Catering includes cheeses, cured salamis and other meats, soups and salads, lasagnas and gnocchis, breakfast and biscottis.
Szewczyk said he sources local produce suppliers near Whistler and sources ingredients in Vancouver, but from where exactly he would not divulge preferring to keep the information private and shared only with his clients in the form of their delicious meals.
Parties from one to 100 people are currently catered to. Anything over that is something Szewczyk can discuss with clients. The focus is on business-to-business and business-to-consumer, locals and tourists alike.
"At this point, the locals have a lot of the interest but I'm not forgetting the tourists, who find us thanks to the hotels and concierges," Szewczyk added.
"Apart from just the catering service alone, I also do traditional take-home meals and personal chef services."
Originally from Timmins, Ontario, Szewczyk trained at culinary school in Ottawa, but it was his home training in an Italian-Polish-Canadian family that cemented his love of European techniques and high-quality.
"My upbringing was in a northern Canadian town and my family focused on traditional cooking methods and techniques. I was brought up always cooking and using traditional recipes and this led me to where I am today," he said.
Another influence was his time working under Chef Ryan Liebrecht, who now owns The Living Room in Squamish, "for many years on many projects.
"Ryan is a mentor and always will be. We continue working together and we're definitely an alliance."
Szewczyk's career has been "Italian for the most part, but European for a lot of it. And using those Old-World cooking techniques was definitely a focus in my family."
It was as simple, and as revolutionary, as making-pasta from scratch, Szewczyk says.
"As opposed to what happens today with everyone going out and grabbing premade, mass produced products. The Old-World techniques and methods is what we bring to Antipasti now."
Szewczyk also competed in Whistler's first annual Chef's Challenge in 2009, which he remembers as a "great experience."
Apart from the big launch, the plan in 2014 is to build the company up, getting the product out first and developing a good reputation, with the aim of opening a store in the village later, something other successful Whistler food experiences like Purebread have also succeeded at doing.
"Maybe it won't happen by the end of the year, but definitely our focus is to get a storefront where we can have those baked goods on a daily basis for people to come and either pick up their take-home meals, or sit in and have a little lunch. The store front is probably No. 1 on the near horizon," Szewczyk said.
"It's not so much being established, though that definitely helps, it's all timing. This is what the business launch is about. It's the right timing on a personal level and where my career is at. It goes the same potentially about having the storefront in the future. There's no date set."
Szewczyk also wants the company to be firmly part of the Whistler scene.
"We want to get involved in the community as much as possible and be a player that way. Hopefully in the near future we can get involved with fundraising and being as active in the community as possible and giving back," he said.
And Szewczyk has other ambitions.
"I am hoping to inspire young chefs... and I am planning a junior chef program that would be geared towards children. This is still in its planning stages, but I hope to be able to introduce this to the community later this year."
For more information visit www.antipasticatering.com.
Wild Mushroom Puttenesca
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Our wild mushroom puttenesca has a rich dark sauce and packs a flavourful punch delivering authentic flavours in a flash with this quick and simple to prepare pasta recipe!
- 300g of your favourite pasta/ preferably fresh pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 cups wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles, porcini, morels)
- 1 can (400g) of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp capers, drained & rinsed
- 2 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
- 50g stoned black olives, chopped
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp of flat leaf parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
- shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese (1/4 cup or as desired)
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and wild mushrooms and saute for 1.5 to 2 minutes, before adding in crushed tomatoes, capers, anchovies and chili flakes.
Continue cooking on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Stir in olives, add brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste, then reduce heat to low and simmer another 3 to 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta to "al dente," strain and add to sauce and mix together thoroughly.
Finish with chopped parsley and shaved Parmesean.