The Fairmont Banff Springs - Chef of the Month
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Tyler Thompson is the Chef behind the recent transformation of Grapes Wine Bar at The Fairmont Banff Springs. Originally the hotel reading room, this intimate dining room has long been a favourite of our guests and is the perfect outlet for Tyler to showcase his passion for food. With a menu focused mainly on charcuterie, he is involved with every step of the process. From selecting locally-sourced meats and cheeses, to hand pickling preserves, to preparing pâtés and terrines, and finally, arranging the perfect combination of tastes at your table.
We wanted to find out more about Tyler, what brought him to The Fairmont Banff Springs and what drives his passion for sharing great food.
Q: Where do you work at the Fairmont Banff Springs?
A: I work in Grapes Wine Bar, a small 25 seat artisanal charcuterie and cheese restaurant hidden in the Castle in the Rockies.
Q: Where you did you go to culinary school?
A: I attended Georgian College in Barrie Ontario for the Culinary Management program…
Q: What is your favorite food to eat?
A: My favorite food to eat is Phö. I love the noodle broth which is super meaty and has a charred onion flavor, and then they top it off with super thin cuts of raw meat. With your dish you usually get basil, lime, bean sprouts, chili sauce, hoisin and some other condiments and sauces. It’s my ultimate comfort food.
Q: What is your favorite food to cook? Why?
A: My favourite food to cook would be wood fired pizzas. I love the fact that the crust gets lots of blisters and a light smoky flavor to it. With pizza there are endless possibilities for toppings. It’s one of those foods that everyone if comfortable eating and it's easier for people to try new flavour concepts and get out of their comfort zone. My favourite is with fresh eggs on the pizza before it goes into the oven. The eggs cook perfectly, and when you’re eating the pizza the egg acts as a rich dipping sauce.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant?
A: It’s a tossup between Richmond Station in Toronto, and Kenzington Burger Bar in Barrie. Richmond Station is a small restaurant in a big city, but it’s one of those destinations to hit up if you’re in Toronto. They offer house cured charcuterie, and some wicked plates that are clean flavors. I went in one time with the owner of a restaurant I was working at, and got a dessert that was impeccable. It was a chocolate cake with berry compote and clove foam. All the components where super rich, but when you got to the foam it was comparable to putting a cloud on your tongue, and in a split second it was gone, but the aftertaste was amazing and just enough to taste over the chocolate. KBB has always been a favorite, they do some awesome burgers and poutine with some pretty cool combinations of flavors that make you come back for more. And for a kitchen the size of a cubicle manned by 3 people its nothing but impressive.
Q: Why did you choose to become a Chef?
A: When I was younger I was an artist, doing watercolor paintings and drawings. I needed money so I started working in restaurants thinking it was going to be easy money, and then I would get back to my art. But slowly I realized that my drawings where one dimensional… Where as cooking was so much more, not only did it have the visual aspect of it, but the smell, the taste, the pairing. It was a dance, a more in depth form of art that I couldn’t get enough of. It really hit home for me when I visited Peller Estates Winery in Niagara on the Lake. While I was touring all the wineries I went in and I remember they had a booth set up in the corner of their tasting room with a $5 pairing... They gave you an ounce of a Riesling and a small piece of puff pasty topped with BBQ chicken. The wine was terrible, and the puff pastry was mediocre at best, but together it was probably one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. From then on in I knew what I wanted to be, and that is a Chef.
Q: Do you cook at home?
A: I try to as much as I can, when I cook all day, then get home, I find the last thing I want to do is cook… But then there are times where I get super excited about cooking at home… I get cravings to cook certain things, it lasts for days, and when my day off hits, I just spend the day planning the most stellar dishes. Sometimes it’s a classy meal, or something experimental that I would want to serve to a guest but haven’t perfected yet. But usually I like making comfort food, like wicked eggs Benedict, or some dirty smoked BBQ ribs.
Q: What is the most exotic food you ever ate?
A: I don’t know if this would be categorized as “exotic” but I would have to say raccoon, it was actually delicious. It was brined and braised for 2 days, it was super tender and extremely “beefy”. If I had the option to eat it again, I would do it in a heart beat.
Q: What is your dream job?
A: My dream job would be to have a small restaurant on some property. I would like to grow my own crops and livestock, and do farm to table tastings on site. It would be a lot of work, but being able to do food from the ground up is spectacular and a lost art. I want to share my passion and love for food with other people, and make them care for it the way I do. But until then, I’m quite content here in the mountains.
You can find Tyler in the intimate Grapes Wine Bar at The Fairmont Banff Springs.
About The Fairmont Banff Springs - Chef of the Month:
Each month we will feature an innovative Chef who is making great food happen every day at The Fairmont Banff Springs. With 14 dining outlets and world-renowned culinary leadership, we are very lucky to have so much talent to highlight. Come experience the tastes of The Fairmont Banff Springs.