Whistler played host this week to some of the top chefs and restaurant owners from across North America and they left completely impressed with the resort's culinary offerings.
Members of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) were in Whistler for a day as part of a conference and reunion based in Vancouver.
Imagine the Bearfoot Bistro filled with flamboyant restaurant operators and driven chefs, all looking for new and fresh ideas to take back to their fine-dining establishments across the U.S and Mexico.
They started their visit with a tour of the Bearfoot Bistro wine cellar led by owner Andre St. Jacques. As he's known to do, St. Jacques insisted some of the guests open a few bottles of chilled champagne using a sabre St. Jacques shared the story of how soldiers in Napoleon's army started the tradition of champagne sabering.
St. Jacques led his guests out of the cellar and up into the dining room guiding them, one table at a time, to the famed Belvedere Ice Room.
Bruce Gerleman of Des Moines, Iowa, donned a goose down-filled coat, flipped up the hood and followed his chef, Dom Iannarelli, into Whistler's most famous freezer.
Gerleman owns a group of restaurants in Des Moines and was voted the Iowa Restaurant Association Restaurateur of the Year in 2012. He opened the first oyster bar in Des Moines. It kind of started as a joke.
Really, an oyster bar in Des Moines?
Des Moines was apparently waiting for an authentic seafood bar and Splash quickly became a huge success.
After doing what everyone does in the ice room, Gerleman took off his massive borrowed coat and turned to look at Iannarelli with an expression that said he may have had a life-altering moment of enlightenment.
"We need to create more experiences," Gerleman said to Iannarelli.
Joey DiSalvo from Pennsylvania is the DiRoNA chairman of the board and he completely agrees. As a restaurant operator he knows that in a fine-dining atmosphere the food is important, the décor is critical, service has to be great and it all has to come together as an experience.
"Experience is the end of the rainbow," he said with his colleagues enjoying milk-fed veal tenderloin and sweetbreads at tables all around him.
DiSalvo's Italian family operates a fine-dining outlet in a historic landmark Pittsburgh train station.
Pino Posteraro, the famed chef at Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill in Vancouver and organizer of the reunion, said getting together with colleagues is important.
"We are watching out one for each other," said the award-winning chef.
Posteraro said he took on organizing the gathering because he wanted to share with his colleagues what is happening here.
"I'm Italian, I'm Canadian and I'm well travelled," said Posteraro. "Nothing matches what we do here in British Columbia."
He reported that the culinary scene in Vancouver and Whistler blew the DiRoNA visitors away.