Hell's Kitchen Tastes Like Pemberton
Photo by Dave Steers
The Gordon Ramsays of the world have helped turn chefs into celebrities, but if James Walt had his way, the fan-followed rock-stars would be the farmers. The publicity-shy head chef of Whistler’s lauded Araxi restaurant has had his fair share of spotlight this year, with all eyes on his coolly unhell-like Hell’s Kitchen and a brand new cookbook hitting the shelves just in time for the Olympics. But the fame-deserving executive chef (the only Whistler chef thrice invited to New York’s James Beard House, Slow Food advocate and former Guest Chef to the Canadian Ambassador at the Consulate in Rome, where he recently spent 16 months) much prefers to deflect his share of the spotlight to the growers. “Here where we live, we couldn’t have it any better. We’ve got the ocean and the farmland out our back door. We actually can make a commitment to support growers year-around. As chefs it gives us a lot of options.” Walt’s commitment to seasonal produce means you won’t see a tomato in a winter salad at Araxi, but you may discover a love affair with crosnes, golden beets, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms or Desiree potatoes, all lovingly grown in Pemberton. He also has worked closely with Bob Mitchell and Don Millerd of Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef, who wanted to grow happy, drug-free cows. “When they started five years ago,” Walt says, “it wasn’t what I wanted – too grassy, too lean. I told them what I knew about finishing the beef on grain; now it’s fantastic.”
To complete his cookbook, which he made accessible for the everyday cook, Walt took photographer John Sherlock to Pemberton for a couple of days. The best part of putting the cookbook together, says Walt, was having the chance to showcase some of the Pemberton farmers that he’s had relationships with for years. Local growers could not have had a better ambassador.
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