When Bearfoot Bistro and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation teamed up to create the SkyHigh Dinner back in 2014, the multi-course tasting served aboard the Peak 2 Peak Gondola was marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.
But, two years later, with demand for the opulent dinner — excuse the pun — through the roof, organizers decided it was high time to bring back one of the most memorable fundraising events in Whistler's history.
"I guess now it's twice in a lifetime," laughed Mei Madden, executive director of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, which provides thousands of dollars in grants each year to community organizations across the corridor.
The tasting on June 25 is such a hot ticket — not to mention, a pricey one, at $8,500 per gondola cabin — that a handful of seats were released at the last minute.
And who wouldn't want to be a part of one of the most unique and extravagant dinners the resort — or anywhere else, for that matter — has ever seen?
"It's something very unique and something unique to Whistler," said Bearfoot Bistro founder André St. Jacques. "Whatever we can do to put Whistler on the map, this is one of those top things. A lot of people who took part (in 2014) said it was the best thing they'd ever done."
As one of those lucky guests, I can certainly attest to that. There are few chefs with the ability and ambition to devise a six-course menu that could match the breathtaking backdrop of the Peak 2 Peak as it glides 424 metres above Fitzsimmons Creek, and Bearfoot Executive Chef Melissa Craig is one of them. A master of refined decadence, Craig is sure to deliver once more on the highs promised from this "dinner with altitude" with such imported delicacies as caviar, succulent Kobe beef and delicate sablefish planned for the menu.
"There's really a focus on the culinary aspect of it," St. Jacques said, adding, "We'll try to make sure it's sunny as well."
But the weather should be the least of the organizers' worries. As you can probably imagine, serving multiple courses to 260 well-heeled guests out of a pair of makeshift kitchens on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is an organizational feat of epic proportions. Each gondola cabin has to be dismantled to create a private dining room flush with enough seating for 10, a glittering chandelier and a personal stereo system for ambience. Each course is timed down to the second so it doesn't take longer than one gondola loop between stations. Once there, servers will have a grand total of 82 seconds to clear plates, refresh wine glasses and get the next course on the table.
"The gondolas don't stop, so it's not like you can go, 'Whoops, I forgot something.' You can't miss," St. Jacques said. "It's like a race car, it's like an F1 (pit crew)."
Even with the added pressure, St. Jacques said it's an event that his staff can't wait to take part in.
"We have old staff... that used to work for us that come back and do it because it's so unique. The staff is looking forward to it," he said. "We're all about celebration, we're all about moments, and this is obviously one of them. For us, we really want to feature the ability of our team and what we can pull off. We're very proud of that."
A portion of the dinner's proceeds will go to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. The event raised over $65,000 for the non-profit in 2014.
For tickets, visit www.bearfootbistro.com/skyhigh.