Chef Alain Stahl and his French Pasta Recipe
Alain Stahl was born and raised in North Eastern France where he lived between his family home and his grandmother’s house. “We all lived really close to the same small village in Alsace and every weekend we would get together at my grandmother’s place to work in her garden harvesting and then in the kitchen canning.” These family gatherings always included big meals together.
When it came time for a career choice it was a toss up between a baker, a chef or a cabinet maker. In order to have an informed decision Alain worked in a local bakery, then a restaurant and was about to take a job with a cabinetmaker but chose to become a chef. He apprenticed in a restaurant for two years, cooking for three weeks at a time with one week of theory in school and eventually received his diploma.
Cooking took Alain from his first job close to his hometown, to a few seasons in a ski town in the French Alps and summers on the French Riviera and then on to Switzerland for a winter. It was in Switzerland where Alain met someone who had been a nanny at a French Resort in Haliburton, Ontario and was always taking about how wonderful Canada was. He decided to give it a try, wrote to the owners and was hired. “That’s when my six month visa turned into 20 years,” laughs Alain.
Eventually the lure of the west struck and Alain moved to Canmore. That summer Alain took road trips in the region and found himself in Fernie. While camping in Mount Fernie Provincial Park, Alain got curious about where the dirt road leading west went, so he started biking up it. At the end of the road he found the beautiful and surreal scenery of Island Lake Lodge. “There was only one lodge then and I met this guy (one of the owners at the time) and started talking to him about the place. He told me about catskiing and as it turns out they were looking for a chef for the upcoming season. I basically got hired on the spot.”
Alain was the head chef at Island Lake Lodge for eight years and saw the resort grow from one group of 12 skiers to two groups of 12 and eventually 36 skiers with three lodges.
When Alain decided to try his hand at his second love – woodworking, his first big client was Island Lake Lodge. Alain opened his own woodworking business Bisaro Woodworking about ten years ago and has been working with wood ever since, specializing in custom kitchens and handcrafted one-of-a-kind wood furniture. He still loves to cook and regularly prepares a traditional French pasta from his region in France called Spaetzle for his daughter. “I hide spinach in it,” grins Alain. “It’s the only way to get my daughter to eat vegetables.”
Alsacian Egg Pasta or Spaetzle
2 cups of unbleached white flour
1\2 cup of milk or water
2 TBS of sour cream or yogurt (optional)
1 Tbs of butter
1. Mix the wet ingredients and add to the flour, mix with a wooden spoon until smooth, this will make a stiff mixture, let it sit for 1/2 hour.
2. Boil 2 litres of water in a medium-large size pot with 1 tsp of oil and salt.
3. Working in small batches and using a rubber spatula, gradually press the batter through a large hole colander in the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute and scoop them into a medium bowl filled with cold water. Once all the Spaetzle are boiled and cooled, drain and reserve.
4. Heat butter in a skillet over medium high heat, add the Spaetzle, season salt, pepper, nutmeg tossing often until golden, about 6-8minutes.
Serve as a dish or as a starch with your favourite meat dish. Serves four.