Culinary Adventures on the Rocky Mountaineer
Photos courtesy Rocky Mountaineer Vacations.
If ten hours in a hot car isn’t your idea of a pleasant journey from BC to Alberta, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations has a few more soothing options for those who want a little culinary pampering while soaking up the landscape of Canada’s West Coast. Executive Chef Mark Jorundson of Rocky Mountaineer Vacations has created two regional menus that read like poems, mirroring the journey onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a two-day all daylight rail journey through BC and Alberta.
Jorundson brings years of hotel experience and gold medals from culinary competitions around the globe along with a passion for rock climbing, snowboarding and travelling. He draws on both his sense of adventure and his culinary expertise working in the dining room of North America’s largest privately owned passenger rail service. I caught up with Chef Jorundson to find out more about one of Canada’s leading chefs, to see how Rocky Mountaineer Vacations copes with cooking for people with special dietary needs and to hear what it’s like to cook in a moving kitchen.
Q: Being a Canadian, the vast scenery that surrounds us inevitably becomes a big part of our life, as a chef who represents Canada not only in competition internationally but also to tourists who travel the rails everyday, how do you use the scenery around you to define yourself as a distinctively Canadian chef?
A: “I believe people come to enjoy the local products. Bison, wild rice, local cherries, food that represents Canada; locally grown and produced – I serve a honey-lemon ginseng cheese cake while passing through Kamloops (where the ginseng is grown) you can see and taste the scenery.”
Q: I see that your menu has a vegetarian option but with a set menu, is the Rocky Mountaineer able to accommodate guests with special dietary needs?
A: “Yes, when a guest books a trip they can make special requests for meals. We can do diabetic, vegan or religious menus etc. We also have chefs on board so we can go out and talk to the guests and find out if they need something special.”
Q: How do you prepare your staff and kitchen for these types of requests?
A: “Well we designed the menu with different diets in mind. A lot of our clients are seniors so we have to be flexible to all kinds of diets. We also have a handbook that outlines different diet restrictions and we go over that with our staff.”
Q: Your mentor Anton Mosimann is well-known for being an adventurer, once even driving from Beijing to Paris in a Triumph, do you have any hobby's that fulfill that thirst for adventure?
A: “I love snowboarding. It even helps with balance on the train, especially going around corners.”
Q: Cooking on a train presents many challenges for a kitchen team including issues of space, stillness and dealing with dangerous elements like gas, and sharp knives, how do you deal with these issues and still provide a gourmet dining experience?
A: “Everybody goes through safety training and we have a health and safety committee. We also never leave knives out, don’t use gas to cook, we keep saucepots half full and every door has a latch on it. With no windows in the kitchen, corners can really come as a surprise so we have to be really careful.”
Q: What do you do on a regular basis to keep yourself inspired, motivated and satisfied as a Chef?
A:“I love traveling and meeting suppliers, tasting local products and getting to meet the people who make them.”
Q: I see that you've done a lot of traveling in you career as a chef, do you think that soaking up the different culinary styles is an essential experience for a chef?
A: “It’s not essential but if you want to understand international flavours and blend them, it’s good knowledge to have.”
Q: What direction do you see the Canadian Culinary community going in?
A: “It’s getting a lot better with the influx of immigrants bringing new styles of cooking. Indian food, Vietnamese, Japanese, there is so much diversity, so many different chefs and styles mixing.”
Q: Ever have the presentation of a perfectly executed dish ruined by a sharp turn or a small bump in the tracks?
A: “Yes we have dishes hit the floor all the time. After you work on the train for a while you get used to it. Just be quick to remake it. It’s all in the recovery”
Article by Roy Vizer, who is a local freelance writer, musician and cook.
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