In Profile: Chef James
The next time you enjoy a meal at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, say a silent thanks to James Loiselle.
Loiselle has worked at the Resort for nine years, the past eight as Executive Chef. He is the brain behind the food at the Resort cafeteria, Fat Teddy’s Bar and Grill, Fresh Restaurant and the pizzeria, where pizza dough is made from scratch.
Loiselle’s first job was as production chef, when Kevin Wallace lured him to the Resort from a restaurant in Courtenay.
'I said I would give it a try. I liked the atmosphere and the people; I’ve been here ever since,' says Loiselle.
When he started at the Resort, Loiselle prepared soups, stews and sauces. He was part of the move to bring fresh food to the Resort.
'We started making everything homemade,' he says. 'That’s what my objective was, to make more fresh products.'
These days he works with dietitians to offer gluten-free soups and gravies (he uses rice flour instead of wheat), caters to other special diets and uses local produce as often as possible.
A hint of European influence can be found in the menu selections; Loiselle comes by that honestly. Trained at North Island College, he also apprenticed under several European chefs, including Chef Ferdinand Bogner at the original Old House Restaurant. He has worked at several restaurants in the Comox Valley, like the Kingfisher Oceanside Inn, Coast Westerly Hotel and the Heritage Restaurant. He also spent some time at the Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, gaining valuable hands-on training.
Loiselle has remained true to his roots: he has established a fresh first philosophy in the Resort’s eateries, and he still creates the soups, stews and sauces.
His creamy, fire-roasted tomato soup and chicken chipotle chowder are both big hits in the cafeteria. He likes them for their unique flavour profiles.
'I’m a hands-on kind of Chef,' he admits. 'I’m not a good office Chef.'
He thrives on the kitchen pressure cooker, starting his day at 7 a.m. 'If it’s busy, I stay there until it’s not busy,' he says. This could mean an eight-hour day or a 12-hour day.
During the busy times, he is available seven days a week. In peak season he is responsible for 40 to 60 staff, from prep cooks to dishwashers. During the shoulder seasons he has a core staff of six to eight employees.
'My staff are very loyal to me,' he says proudly. 'I’ve had the same core staff going on six years now - which is unheard of.'
Loiselle began his cooking career in the kitchen at Courtenay’s Courtyard in the Barn - washing dishes. His sister was working there but was headed off to college; her employer asked if she knew anyone who might be able to take over for her, and she recommended James.
'Within six months I was cooking in the open air kitchen with Austrian Chef Fritz Meier, who had come from Vancouver to open the restaurant. That’s where I started with the European (cooking),' says Loiselle.
When Loiselle is finished in the kitchen for the day, he heads into his home workshop to unwind with his wood lathe. 'I do a lot of crafts on my lathe, like turning wood bowls,' he says.
'I really love working with wood, because when you’re finished it’s still there. It’s not like a hamburger; that’s the thing I like about it.'