Fernie's Finest Chefs

For a small resort town, Fernie has a number of talented, dedicated and passionate chefs that add to the cultural diversity of our little town. I thought they were worth finding more about.

Keith Farkas, Head Chef at Picnic Restaurant & Social is passionate about food and his career, which began at age 15 in a family run restaurant in the neighbourhood he grew up in Winnipeg. Later, while pursing an engineering degree, Farkas took a one year break to live in Lake Louise. He fell in love with two aspects of living in a resort town; the snowboarding lifestyle and working with accomplished chefs who had immense passion for their craft. There he found a friend and mentor (Yan Therien, also one of Fernie’s finest chefs) who worked with him while pursuing his Red Seal, Canada’s standard of excellence in the industry.

More recently Farkas has worked in various fishing and ski resorts (when I met him he was head chef at Island Lake Lodge) where he held positions from Head Chef and Sous Chef to line and prep cook, and banquet chef. In 2008 Farkas graduated with honours from Dubrulle’s Restaurant and Culinary Management Program in Vancouver where he had the opportunity of working with one of Canada’s most accomplished chefs; Frank Pabst.

I asked Farkas if he had food memories from his childhood that instilled a love of food and inspired him to become a chef and he said, “Absolutely. My grandparents were both Hungarian and I have really fond memories of my grandmother’s cooking. My mother adopted a lot of her recipes and I grew up with them. I often make my grandmother’s cucumber salad; all of her recipes are timeless, like her cabbage rolls, fried pork chops and chicken soup.”

These days Farkas is on the mountain by day and at Picnic Restaurant & Social by night where he has directed the kitchen since its inception in late 2009. His inspiration is to bring diners a new “Fernie standard of fine cuisine – extraordinary yet approachable.”

Here is a recipe from Farkas. If you can’t get Wild Boar in your local grocery store use a pork rack. “When the servers deliver food to a table, I like to watch and see the first reaction of the guest. I call this the ‘wow factor’. This dish has had a few ‘wows’, mostly because of the intense aroma of the mustard melons,” says Farkas.

Wild Boar à la Provençale herb Dijon crust and mustard melons

For the rack
2 whole Wild boar rack – frenched and cut into 6 portions
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
5 sprig Thyme - picked and chopped
5 sprig Italian parsley – washed, picked and chopped
20 ml Olive oil
200 ml Panko bread crumbs
To taste S+P
75 ml Vegetable oil (like grapeseed or canola) - for searing

250 ml White wine vinegar
250 ml Sugar
2 medium Shallots - fine slice
2 clove Garlic - minced
135 ml White wine
40 ml Regular mustard
1/4 bunch Italian parsley - coarse chop
3 lg leaves Sage - coarse chop
1/4 Honeydew – 3/4" dice
1/4 Cantaloupe – 3/4" dice
To taste S+P
30 ml Butter

For the Sauce:
1. Make gastrique with the vinegar and sugar and reduce to 1/3 volume
2. Sweat shallots and garlic in butter
3. Add wine and reduce to almost dry
4. Add mustard - whisk
5. Add gastrique simmer and strain
6. Thicken with 2 tbsp of slurry (cornstarch and cold water) only if necessary
7. Add melon and herbs – season with salt and pepper
For the Rack:
1. Heat oven to 375°F
2. Rub racks with the herbs and olive oil - season
3. Sear in skillet on high heat with the vegetable oil and cool in fridge
4. Rub racks with Dijon and coat with panko
5. Roast rack in hot oven until medium rare (approx 15 min) let rest before cutting
6. Cut the boar in 2 pieces arrange with center facing to outside of plate

Local Food News ~

Mezzaluna ~ Bruschetta: Italian pronunciation: [brus-ketta] is a hearty appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. This dish offered a way of salvaging bread that was going stale. Try Mezzaluna’s new bruschetta’s; artichoke and sundried tomatoes, olive tapenade and classic with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella served with homemade crostinis - also available on their new bar menu.

Fernie Wine Club ~ The first Wine Club event of the year is Sunday, Jan16 at Lizard Creek Lodge at 6:30pm. It’s $75 per person for a 4-course gourmet meal paired with wine from Orofino Winery, presented by John and Virginia Weber, winery owners from the Similkameen Valley, BC. Pairings consist of '09 Riesling with Shrimp, '08 Pinot Noir with Duck, '08 Beleza with Buffalo and a '08 Merlot with cheese. Limited to 40 seats.

The Old Elevator Restaurant ~ Après ski specials at the Elevator. Visit between 5-6pm and receive 25% off all appetizers. You can chill in the lounge with the fireplace or dine in the main restaurant, whatever you prefer you will love the new winter menu created by head chef & owner Paul Haddon.

Picnic social & Restaurant ~ Visit their new website with Henry Georgi pictures and profiles. Barrie Elliott recently accepted the Sous Chef position after completing her last year of apprenticeship and receiving her red seal. Also, the newest menu items have quickly become hits - Duo of Duck with Blood orange marmalade and Fried Squid with Moroccan spices and chickpea salad.

Red Tree Lodge ~ CP Catering (who bring us Corner Pocket and The Clubhouse) are now running Red Tree Lodge's restaurant. New menu offerings include Rotisserie Chicken and Ribs, Swedish meatballs, Alberta beef, and pastas. They will continue to offer breakfast and dinner, along with drink specials and brunch on weekends. Another great place for après ski.

Corner Pocket Brasserie ~ While the popular lunch menu is similar to last year, the dinner menu has many new menu items such as vegetarian ravioli, “ocean wise” fish dishes and new appetizers and pizzas. Soup and sandwich and drink specials change daily. Open every day 11am - 10pm. A great place to take the whole family for lunch, après ski or dinner.

Loaf Bakery, Café & Pizzeria ~ is now open late four nights a week. From 5pm-close on Thursdays through Sundays you can enjoy delicious Italian-style pizza in their fully licensed cosy café or order take-out. Throughout January they're also offering all Loafers Card holders 15% off the lunch menu from 12-3pm every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday.

Bulldogs ~ Along with the popular Tuesday Burger and Beer special, Bulldog’s has lowered their Wednesday wing price to $.50 a wing, and Thursdays you get a second appy at 1/2 price. It’s also a great place to enjoy après-ski with appy specials from 4-6pm, and they now offer beer and ticket deals for Ghostrider game nights.