At just 26 years with a degree in commercial photography, Jules Laporte is clear about a few things.
He loves cooking, snowboarding and photography. He grew up in Victoriaville, Quebec, where he says kids either play hockey or snowboard. But skates and hockey sticks never really appealed to the sous chef at Ric's Grill, so he took to the hill.
"I've been riding since I was 12 years old," says Laporte, smiling through his soft French accent.
He explains that Whistler is a very popular place with people he knows from Victoriaville.
"I know at least a thousand people came here to spend a full season," he says.
Laporte gets high praise from his boss because the young chef pays close attention to details. His training started with health and nutrition education in Quebec. While in school he worked at restaurants. Laporte explains that his work became a passion so he focused on learning to cook.
While he has training in both photography and cooking he doesn't mix the two. He has some experience in photographing food commercially, but he says he didn't really enjoy it. This is a guy who likes to prepare food for eating, not photographing because photo food needs to be able to look good for hours.
"I assisted on a few shoots for the SAQ, which is the liquor store in Quebec, and it usually lasts for a good 12 to 14 hours of shooting the exact same plate," he recalls. "It's fun but it's really not my aim to do only that because it kind of goes against what I love in food and what I love in photography. I still think it's fun doing it but it really isn't the thing that I'm passionate about."
He likes to photograph the landscapes around Whistler and the people of Whistler. He also likes preparing food for the people of Whistler.
The people he works with are a key ingredient at Ric's. When Laporte first came to Whistler his first job was at The Mix by Ric's.
"I always have a blast working with people here," he says while seated in one of the comfortable chairs at Ric's Grill well before opening time on a Monday. "I always meet amazing people and the food is great. I come from a background of fine dining and I was used to working split shifts — 16 to sometimes 18 hours on the split — and when I decided to move here it was to be able to snowboard and enjoy living in Whistler, so this allows me to cook great food and to actually make sure that I can go onto the hill in the morning and come here and work with some amazing people."
With a look that is wise beyond his years he says that he gets to work with great ingredients like fine steaks and seafood for diners who demand quality.
"It allows me to be happy on a different level," he says of where he is.
"I think it is, really, what Whistler is all about. Most people that I know are professional first and ski bum second. I moved here for those exact same reasons. Whenever we are at work, we work hard and don't necessarily live for work."
After saying that he notes that he started his day with a quick morning trip up the mountain after working a long shift the previous day on Sunday, March 3, a day many say has been the best one of 2013 so far with blue sky looking down on more than 30 centimetres of fresh snow from an overnight powder-coated gift from Ullr.
"My aim today was to get just one good run and then come here," Laporte says.
He got his epic run in on the second bluebird day in a row.
Back in the kitchen the young chef says one of the things he enjoys about his job is training the new people who come into the kitchen.
"To be training over and over again is also a good way to learn about your self," says Laporte.