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Chef's Choice: Edison Mays

By sea or by land, Four Seasons chef gets creative



Before coming to Whistler to work at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, Edison Mays spent a few years cooking in a Caribbean seafood restaurant called Mango at the Four Seasons Nevis.

He says he prepared what the ocean presented each day and if the fishermen came in with nothing then he and his team had to get creative.

When a hurricane caused some damage at Mango, Mays was asked to help out for a few months in Whistler with his former co-worker Scott Thomas Dolbee. The two knew each other from their days working together in Beverly Hills.

Three months has turned into four years and like so many of us who just came here for a season, he's still here and he's connected to the community ... mainly through steak.

Mays is no longer wishing for a daily seafood bounty but he continues to use what is at hand. He reaches up and releases the latch on a micro-greens garden right in the middle of the kitchen that serves Sidecut and Fifty Two 80 Bistro and Bar. Inside the kitchen staff has created a series of soil-filled trays, each labelled and containing lush green produce kept healthy through an automatic watering system.

"That's just something we do to stay inspired, local, freshness and at the same time it is different to be able to create a dish on the fly and go over to a box and clip it right then and there, boom, it goes on a plate — someone's eating it," says Mays. It is clear that he loves it when that happens. "There's no loss of flavour, of moisture, of texture. There's no packaging so that is something that I think is one of the coolest things we are doing."

He is also making Sidecut a comfortable place for everyone, hotel visitors, second homeowners and permanent residents.

"To truly be a restaurant here in Whistler you have to cater to the community," says the graduate of the Art Institute of Los Angeles.

"Just having that comfort, integrating that soul into your space, I think is crucial to being successful," he says.

According to Mays, Sidecut came out of flavour.

"What I thought about was — individuals who come up to Whistler are coming up usually to get away and to kick back and relax, have a great time and leave the work space behind. And yet, they all want one thing; a great experience and if they are looking for food they are looking for something that is flavourful, exciting, adventurous, but at the same time they can control their experience or their level of intrigue," says Mays. "Kind of like Whistler. There are different trails. It is up to you but at the same time it is inviting you to come back, and to come back and to come back."

Mays has taken that and integrated it into a concept of steak.

"The term itself, Sidecut, comes from the ski," he glances up to make sure the connection is made. "When you turn it is a side cut. Everything about it as far as our thought has been to integrate that into the mountain, the demographic, the area and like any other experience every day you just have to drive on that."

The drive is a short one right now for the ingredients in the Vine-Ripe Tomato and Mozzarella salad.

Mays isn't the world domination type but he gets that look in his eye when he shares how the tomato salad comes together with warm B.C. Bufala Mozzarella. This is currently his favourite dish.

"We make a tomato salad and we just took different types of tomatoes from heirloom tomatoes, to oven-roasted Romas, to baby heirlooms to some green tomatoes that were pickled," says Mays. "We threw some greens on there and kept it really simple with salt, pepper, olive oil and a little bit of reduced tonic five, which is a sherry vinegar of 90 years. It was a dish I wanted really rustic."

He calls it the most bang-on summer dish and he says people love it.

There are no short cuts to good food. There are also no short cuts to creativity. People who work with food either have it or they don't. Mays is clearly one of the ones who has it whether he's at Sidecut working with Pemberton tomatoes or doing a Caribbean box fish at a little place called Mango.