When it comes to the fast-paced world of catering, thinking on your feet is as essential a skill as precision knifework, or temperature control.
Working large-scale events in unfamiliar kitchens, at the mercy of a demanding and diverse list of clientele, catering chefs must be both virtuoso and crisis manager, prepared for the worst while expecting only the best.
It's a dichotomy Patrick Beveridge knows all too well as the chef-owner of Cracked Pepper Catering for the past seven years.
"The biggest challenge in the catering world is being outside of your element and dealing with all the issues other than the food," he said. "You just have to kind of roll with the punches."
Even with the many challenges the catering industry can pose, it ensures that every day on the job is different — something Beveridge enjoys after spending years toiling in kitchens across Whistler.
"It's great being your own boss," he adds. "Lots of freedom, but also lots of responsibility."
Beveridge, who cut his teeth at the old Merlin's location as well as for Whistler Blackcomb's catering arm, decided to strike out on his own in 2008 after seeing the example of his fellow chef, Ryan Liebrecht, who took over at the now-defunct Ciao Thyme Bistro the same year. "I saw this young chef-owner and I thought I should do it as well," he said. "So I bit the bullet and (bought Cracked Pepper) in 2008 ahead of the Olympics."
The Winter Games were for Beveridge, like a lot of resort chefs, a sort of trial by fire — a chance to welcome the world and test his limits at the same time.
The Olympics also brought an interesting list of clients to the resort — Beveridge even had the honour of cooking for a famished group of Canadian downhill team members.
"That was a good party," he recalled.
But, Whistler being Whistler, even the non-Olympic years can come with a bit of intrigue. Like the time Beveridge catered a small dinner party at a home where the diners were already half in the bag by the time he and his crew arrived.
"One of the guests left in the middle of dinner and everyone was looking for him," he said. "They found him downstairs. He had passed out... I guess he couldn't make it through all the courses."
Pesky guests aside, Beveridge loves the interactive aspect of catering events. Instead of being holed away in a kitchen away from the diners like at most traditional restaurants, he gets to have a back-and-forth dialogue with the guests, offering them a rare glimpse into the high-end cooking process.
"My kitchen's a pretty open concept, and I like that sort of interaction with people who get to see what you're doing and watch you prepare food," said Beveridge.
That transparency in the kitchen means he also gets to perfect his poker face when calamity strikes.
"You definitely have to be a people person and put on a smile even though you could be totally in the weeds," he said.
Cracked Pepper caters a whole gamut of event types, from intimate dinner parties to blowout weddings, and customization is the name of the game. Beveridge can tailor-suit his organically inspired menus to the whims of the client, which, in Whistler come in all different forms.
"Basically you get people from all different walks wanting different catering options," said Beveridge. "You get the Whistler locals that don't have a big budget, all the way to high-end weddings.
"We try to put a good, personal touch on everything we do."
Since February, Cracked Pepper has been about more than just catering, too, opening for lunch service on weekdays at its Function Junction location. With a rotating selection of hot and cold lunches, soups and pastas, customers can take away everything from a slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich to a chicken potpie or gourmet mac and cheese.
Visit www.crackedpepper-catering.com for more information.Wild mushroom blue cheese soup
5 oz shiitake mushrooms
5 oz portobello mushrooms
5 oz porcini mushrooms
5 oz button mushrooms
2 Tbsp truffle oil,
2 yellow onions, diced
5 cloves minced garlic
2 leeks, chopped
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 a cup blue cheese, crumbled.
4 Tbsp corn starch mixed in 1/2 cup cold water to thicken.
Clean mushrooms with paper towel and roughly chop them.
Heat a pot on high heat with enough vegetable oil to coat bottom. Add onions , and leeks — sauté until onions and leeks begin to brown. Then add garlic, and mushrooms, stir, and continue to sauté for two to five minutes until mushrooms begin to soften.
Have a sip of wine and then add the rest to your soup and stir for a minute or two. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add blue cheese and cream to finish, pulse with hand blender. Add the corn starch and water mixture to the soup and slowly bring to a boil. Along it to boil gently for at least one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add truffle oil.
Garnish with fresh thyme .