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Chef's Choice: Fescues Restaurant's Matt Cane



Watch enough cooking competitions on the ole' tube and you learn that there's one thing above all that has proven the downfall of many a chef: dessert.

Even the most revered James Beard Award winners can go their whole careers without so much as sniffing a crème brûlée. (Any religious viewer of Bravo's Top Chef is nodding their head in unison with Tom Colicchio's sparkly dome right now.)

But where some cooks see a barrier, Matt Cane sees an opportunity, and it's that up-for-anything attitude that has transformed the former pastry chef into such a well-rounded culinary machine.

The executive chef at Big Sky Golf Club's Fescues Restaurant, Cane got his start working behind the lines at the Glacier Creek Lodge. It was a time that helped the native of Oakville, Ont. cement his passion for cooking and convinced him to take the next step in his evolution.

That's how he ended up at the Northwest Culinary Academy in Vancouver. It also led him to a chance encounter with one of the titans of Whistler's — and Canada's — fine dining landscape.

"I worked at a butcher shop (in Vancouver) and went and did this culinary competition where one of the judges was (executive chef) James Walt from Araxi," Cane said. "So I hooked up with him and said I wanted to come back to Whistler."

Cane's homecoming coincided with Whistler's Olympic winter, which gave him a glimpse into the mechanics of running such a kitchen at its most mind-bogglingly busy.

It also offered the 28 year old his first foray into the world of desserts, working primarily as a pastry chef at Araxi despite having no prior experience.

"I never really cared much for doing pastries, or bread or desserts, but then all of a sudden I found a respect and a love for it," said Cane. "A lot of people stay away from (desserts) forever, but I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity."

Cane would eventually move over to Araxi's raw bar, learning how to make sushi under a trained Japanese chef. It was just another in a long line of firsts for Cane, who has time and again proven how willing he is to take on all challenges.

But, like most highly driven perfectionists, Cane began to look for new opportunities, and soon found himself in the kitchen at Alta Bistro, which presented a whole new set of hurdles to overcome.

"It was the smallest kitchen you could possibly imagine," laughed Cane, who worked at the modern French bistro before it expanded.

"It definitely made me a faster cook, putting out three plates for every person who walked in the door."

By the summer of 2013, Cane was laid off from Alta Bistro and looking for work. He was hired as a sous chef at Big Sky in Pemberton before the head chef left last year, providing Cane with another test: running his own kitchen.

Along with giving him the technical tools, cooking in some of Whistler's top restaurants also helped solidify the direction Cane wanted to take his cuisine at Fescues — and it's not the path you may have expected.

"Between those two jobs and doing fine dining, it made me really realize where I was as a chef, and how I felt about dining in general," he said. "I like the idea of going to a golf course and stepping back a little bit, not doing small plates. I wanted to come to Pemberton and up the portion size and also do things that are more of what I want to eat when I go out."

While the menu at Fescues certainly looks a lot different than the ones you'd find at his previous employers, you can see Cane's fingerprints all over it.

Yes, you'll find the burgers, sandwiches and nachos typical of most clubhouses, but there's also a little exoticism in the mix that capitalizes on Cane's diverse background.

"I've said that I'm a well-rounded chef, so I wanted to make a well-rounded menu," said Cane. "This year I decided I wanted to do different things from around the world. Mostly because there are certain things you just can't get in Pemberton."

That means Fescues is the go-to spot for a variety of dishes you're not likely to find anywhere else in the Spud Valley. Itching for some tacos? No problem. What about chicken tikka masala? Cane's got you covered. It's all part of the chef's mission to offer quality pub fare that's affordable while still meeting the club's high standards.

"The challenge is keeping everything at top quality, which is the theme of our golf course, one of the best courses in Canada, so our food has to reflect that as well."

And we all know how much Cane loves a challenge.

Recipe for Vietnamese Style Sandwich with pickled vegetables and cilantro

Makes 4 sausage patties at about 5oz each

VietnamesePork Sausage Patty

1/4 tablespoon turmeric

1/4 piece red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic

1/2 piece birdseye chili (seeds included)

1/2 stick lemongrass

1/4 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon Chinese five spice

2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 tablespoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon soya sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons Chopped cilantro leaves and stems

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1.25 lb ground pork


1. Place all ingredients except pork, chives and cilantro in blender and puree until smooth

2. Mix with chopped herbs and ground pork until fully combined

3. Form 5 oz. patties to fit your style of bun

4. Grill or pan fry until cooked through

Pickled Vegetables

1 Jjalapeno thinly sliced

1 carrot julienned

1/4 piece daikon radish julienned

300ml water

200ml rice vinegar

3 tablespoons & 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 small sachet of pickling spice


1. Heat water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spice to a boil

2. Pour over sliced vegetables

3. Allow to cool to fridge temperature

Sandwich Assembly

1. Toast your favourite bun

2. Spread a little Asian BBQ sauce on the bun

3. Place cooked sausage patty on bottom half of bun

4. Top with large handful of fresh cilantro

5. Top with cooled pickled vegetables

6. Finish with top half of bun, slice in half and enjoy!

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