Quality food — please meet great value.
Fred Cote and Matt Deacon-Evans are the two kitchen bosses at El Furniture Warehouse just off Main Street. They prepare food at a full-service Whistler restaurant and sell it at fast-food pricing in a casual dining environment.
But these two chefs didn't get their training from operations manuals produced by Burger King or Tim Hortons. They both worked at fine dining restaurants. Deacon-Evans had a stint at West on Granville Street in Vancouver while Cote worked for seven years at La Bocca in Whistler.
The dishes that come out of their kitchen now for breakfast, lunch and dinner sell for $4.95.
Deacon-Evans, the executive chef who oversees the Warehouse kitchen in Whistler along with a string of sister restaurants in Vancouver, says the success of his kitchens is based on volume. He and Cote estimate they pump out about 3,000 plates a day in Whistler.
When asked about the pace in the kitchen Cote oversees he gets very serious.
"I should schedule you for a shift in this kitchen," he says with a stern look on his face that gives way to a mischievous smile. "You will enjoy it."
Deacon-Evans spontaneously laughs out loud and momentarily his genuine reaction cuts above the sound of Quiet Riot's hit song from the 80s called Bang Your Head pumping out of the restaurant sound system.
"Inside reporting," says the executive chef with a full dose of sarcasm. "Investigative report!"
It is just after 2 p.m. when Cote and Deacon-Evans sit down to talk about their kitchen and the restaurant is more than half full. Many of the customers are wearing mountain gear. The atmosphere is best described as serious fun.
This is just what the chefs are looking for. They love good food and they agree that fine dining restaurants aren't as fun as they'd like.
The customers who eat at El Furniture Warehouse and the other value menu eateries within the restaurant group tend to come back often.
"People that eat at the Moose or at the Warehouse on Granville, they tend to be there four or five times a week," says Deacon-Evans. "In Whistler we tend to see people a couple of times a day so they go through our menu pretty quickly."
According to Cote, it is amazing how much food his kitchen goes through.
"It is insane," Cote says.
Deacon-Evans echoes the thought.
"It is insane," he repeats.
New feature items are going to debut starting Feb. 1. They say this will be good news for the regulars who are looking for something new to try at their favourite place to eat.
"We're trying to make an awesome place for the locals," says Deacon-Evans. "If the tourists can enjoy it, that's great —they're going to come."
According to Deacon-Evans the visitors want to be in on the culture of Whistler.
"If we can make ourselves about of the culture of Whistler, they're going to come here," Deacon-Evans says.
Food and culture go hand-in-hand and Cote gets that. Cote also gets that culture and drink also match up well. He's noticing that there are many customers coming in to have dinner and a drink at 9 p.m. as a warm-up event before a night of clubbing. Deacon-Evans adds that nightclub workers are grabbing a value dinner before they start their shifts.
El Furniture Warehouse has forged relationships with some of the nightclubs and Cote says this has set the restaurant up as a pre-party location.
The emphasis of the location is on fresh food and high quality ingredients like organic greens and crab legs.
Cote and Deacon-Evans are two chefs who are fully committed to their customers. They have to be because if there isn't a steady flow of people eating the food they prepare their formula doesn't work. The two chefs and everyone they work with have what Deacon-Evans calls a passion for the game. Anything less, he says, would result in millions of dollars squandered.
Chef Cote's Chicken Penne with Sun Dried Tomato
(Serves Fred, Matt and two lovely ladies)
- 8 oz boneless chicken breast cut into half-inch pieces
- 1 oz shallots diced
- 2 oz roasted garlic
- 1.5 oz sun dried tomatoes
- 4 oz sun dried tomato pesto
- 2 oz white wine
- 2 oz green onion chopped for garnish
- 500 ml cream
- 32 oz penne pasta — cooked
- .5 oz extra virgin olive oil
- .25 oz Grano Padano parmesan cheese
Heat oil in pan until hot, add shallots, cook until translucent, sear chicken, season and add roasted garlic. Then deglaze pan with white wine and add sun dried tomato then cook together for one minute. Add the cream, let reduce for one minute, stir in sun dried tomato pesto quickly (do this quickly at the end, as the oil in the pesto will split from the cream). Add cooked noodles, toss together and reduce heat in pan to as low as possible and allow to sit for one minute.
Pour some wine for your lovely guests, serve pasta, garnish with fresh grated Grano Padano parmesan cheese and green onion.