Perched at the top of the Creekside Gondola, Raven’s Nest is raising the bar for healthy on-hill eats.
It’s here that Paul Street, Whistler Blackcomb vice president of food and beverage, and his talented team have sprouted their first all-vegetarian and vegan restaurant (and one of the first of its kind at ski resorts in North America).
The transformation is the delicious brainchild of Whistler Blackcomb executive chef (and vegetarian), Wolfgang Sterr and Whistler Blackcomb’s most passionate vegan, Kristine Leise (now Raven’s Nest supervisor), who kickstarted the idea with the support of Sean Richard, general manager of alpine restaurants.
Recognizing the snowballing momentum of vegetarian and vegan diets, Whistler Blackcomb had toyed with the idea of a vegetarian concept in the past, but Street credits the combination of the trio’s skill, passion and experience for making it all happen. “It has been a rewarding project for all of these leaders, especially since it has been so well received,” said Street.
The green trend, growing
In an industry so closely tied to nature it’s easy to understand the rise in visitors craving natural sources of nutrition. This team saw how important it was to offer a choice that respects this.
“Vegan and vegetarian diets are important food trends for health-conscious, active people and these are our customers,” said Street. “We collect and analyze a lot of guest feedback and it was clear that they were looking for these options.”
Leise, who embraced a vegan lifestyle a few years ago, also noticed a growing interest and she saw an opportunity. “Since I discovered this new way of living (going vegan) a few years ago, every aspect of my life improved. I felt unexpected lightness in my body and soul. Aligning my career with this new vision was a dream that magically manifested in Raven’s Nest.”
Like Leise, a growing number of guests are embracing the power of plant-based menus to energize their outdoor adventures. The key was to listen carefully to the demand and make it available in a way that was approachable to an even broader public audience.
“Since I discovered this new way of living a few years ago, every aspect of my life improved. I felt unexpected lightness in my body and soul. Aligning my career with this new vision was a dream that magically manifested in Raven’s Nest.”
Happy bodies, healthy planet
Serving up dishes that are friendly to the environment and our bodies is important. “We are a company that promotes and relies on a healthy environment for our long term success, so opening a vegetarian restaurant supports that,” Paul Street explained. “Raven’s Nest can serve as a platform to better educate people about dietary choices, and the downstream effects of those choices on our environment and our communities. The team at Raven’s Nest is educating me about that, too.”
Executive Chef Sterr works with local food distributor, UNFI because of the companies respect for the environment and commitment to supporting sustainable practices. This offers Sterr a one-stop-shop for a variety of smaller suppliers with natural and organic products.
His culinary imagination stretched beyond the standard vegetarian pasta and salad staples and he found innovative alternatives like Gardein, plant-based proteins that mimic the texture and flavour of meats as well as Daiya, dairy-free cheese out of Vancouver.
Creating a menu that is good for his guests and the planet is a priority for Sterr. While he admits that it isn’t always easy for a large corporation feeding the masses, he believes that they owe it to themselves and their guests to have these options.
Creating an appetite for change
Cautious carnivores need not feel intimidated. Raven’s Nest offers a menu that is approachable for everyone. The wholesome dishes will start your day right, warm you at lunch and fuel your afternoon energy without compromising taste. While not noted on the menu, substitutions offering milk and dairy cheese are available on request.
“Lots of people mistakenly think making plant-based foods are too complicated or that they have to give up flavours they’re used to. Raven’s Nest is exactly for them — it’s vegan made easy. You ski, we make the good (plant-based) food and together we create a happier, healthier planet,” said Leise.
Chef Sterr sees this as an opportunity to get folks to taste new things. “They may try something here, go home and embrace these practices.”
The responses to the dishes may also inform other Whistler Blackcomb menu options. It makes a perfect testing ground where products that see successes here can make their way into menus elsewhere on the mountain.
Whistler Blackcomb Executive Chef Wolfgang Sterr on their fresh idea:
“When we make healthy eating choices it’s better for the environment and you feel better. It’s an education piece that allows you to feel good all around.”
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