A new restaurant — The Venue — is rising in the place of a beloved Whistler favourite.
Husband and wife chefs Ryan and Melissa Leitch are moving into the Alta Lake Road location that was for many years home to French cuisine restaurant, Le Gros.
"We were looking for a venue, and we found this place! Things really worked out," Ryan Leitch said.
With the passing of beloved local chef Pascal Tiphine in November 2013, Le Gros was closed and has remained on the market until the Leitches snapped it up — a new restaurant in an iconic location.
The couple already owns the The Goodlife Café in Pemberton's industrial park and run the Pemberton Catering Company.
Leitch said The Venue would be opened by the holidays for restaurant service and available for special events.
"We're a team, Melissa is taking care of the café and the catering business... and we hope to do a lot of weddings here, hence the name The Venue," he said.
"I like the word integrity. We will be serving our food with integrity. We're not a corporation that has to hammer out 'X' number of plates every day."
It's a short drive from Whistler Village, but Leitch says it is a neighbourhood staple — and he will make it as worth the drive as Tiphine did.
"It has been a really positive experience. I've seen so much excitement about this place reopening and this is obviously encouraging when your head is down scrubbing an old building that's been closed," Leitch said.
"Sometime you get a little worried with it being outside the village but the upside is that it is huge. I look out the windows and I see nothing but forest and greenery and I've got parking for 100."
Leitch first learned to cook with a Swiss-French chef in Venezuela and became immersed in the classic Tuscan style while at Umberto's in Whistler for several years from 1992 onward. He also worked at other restaurants around the resort and in Vancouver.
"I'm excited to be back in Whistler after time in Pemberton," he said.
The aim is to create a menu and drinks list that is local and smaller than average."I'm going to work with a few select wineries and support Whistler Brewing, and the Pemberton Distillery does a ton of things. I want to push it... We want to use Hops Connect in Pemberton, the only hops producer in Canada," Leitch said.
"The food is a no-brainer. There is so much great food that comes from Pemberton, from the farms."
The menu will be contemporary classic, he said.
"I like my fresh food; French classic I consider a little creamy, buttery, heavier. Lots of pastry, but the sauces are rich and beautiful. And the Italian side switches out the butter and cream for fresh herbs and olive oils."
That will be mixed with grilled food and some special requests they've received.
"I've been asked if I'll be serving some of the dishes that Pascal did at Le Gros. I've been looking at some of his old menus and talking to people. I'm going to give them what they want," Leitch said.
"We'll have some beautiful duck and lamb, that seems to be what people are interested in."
After almost four years, this is the final Chef's Choice column. Pique's journalists have interviewed over 100 chefs in that time, all sharing their best recipes with Whistler diners.
If you would like to check out some of the recipes we've carried, buy our newly published cookbook. Chefs' Choice Cookbook is $24.95 and available at Armchair Books, Nesters, Pique's Function Junction office and online at www.chefschoicecookbook.com.Christmas Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cup pistachio nuts
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries and nuts by hand.
Mould into a 1-inch-high, flattened log, about 2 inches wide, and bake on parchment paper at 300 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes — you can make two logs if it is easier. Slice the baked log of biscotti into 3/4 inch thick pieces on the diagonal. Arrange on parchment covered baking sheet on their sides and return to oven, now set at 200 degrees, and bake until dry but not coloured.
Allow to cool and enjoy.