Exhausted. Exhilarated. Tired. Happy. Proud (I actually did it! And survived as did the staff and the guests!)
After two days as the ‘guest chef’ at Mount Engadine Lodge, I’m feeling content. Mellow. Weary and energized. I want to keep cooking. Just not in quite such a high-stress (to me) environment!
The stress isn’t because of the work environment or the people — they are all incredible. The stress was because I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it ‘perfect’ and, I was working in a new environment doing something I’ve never done before — be in charge of a commercial kitchen for paying guests, preparing breakfasts and dinner on a schedule that met the high standards of the Lodge in providing guests with a special experience with exceptional surroundings, service, care and food.
No small order.
And I managed to serve it up!
It was an amazing time thanks to the team at Mt. Engadine. They were friendly, accepting, supportive, kind, patient (and believe me that was a necessary ingredient for this newbie who had no idea where things were or how things ran in the kitchen at the Lodge). Tony. Andrew. Jenna. Bianca. Helena. Francoise. Mark. Cornelia. Leschak. (And if I’ve missed you I apologize. It is my tired memory cells. Not you!) Thank You!
It takes a special someone to be able to work in a remote mountain lodge. You have to be independent. Willing to work and live 24/7 with your teammates. You have to appreciate and tolerate differences and be willing to seek value in all things and people. You have to be both introvert and extrovert. Able to create your own little bubble of quiet amidst communal living which is also your workspace, and able to get along with both fellow employees and the public.
The staff at Mt. Engadine do it all with grace, laughter and a whole lot of fun!
My two-day sojourn as ‘guest chef’ at the Lodge was wonderful thanks to the team. Because believe me, while I might cook at home for our dinner parties of 10 – 20 people, it is a very, very different experience in a commercial kitchen in a backcountry lodge where the food experience is as important as the outdoor one.
The pressure is intense. Particularly when you don’t know where many things are and, in particular, how the ovens work. The stove is a black looming castiron monster with 10 burners (most but not all of which light up) and two massive ovens, both of which have their own temperamental ways of heating up. That Moffat stove has sat along the southern wall of the kitchen for over 3 decades. It is a…. (hmmm let’s call it a delightful antique… that has its own rules of operation which seem to change hour by hour. If the oven in the kitchen at Mt. Engadine could speak I am sure it would regale you with countless stories of Soufflés risen and fallen, bread baked golden and bread baked blackened. Roasts cooked to perfection and roasts charred as dark as the mountain night, simply because, in the moment, the oven decided that’s the way things should be cooked.
Distance definitely does make the heart grow fonder. Memories of my adventures working with that stove and its ‘peculiarities’ make me smile this morning as I sit at my desk typing.
I didn’t have much time for typing while at the Lodge. I didn’t have much time for anything else other than cooking — Not because there wasn’t time to go for a snowshoe or fat bike ride. There was.
But, my mind was so consumed with worrying about planning, prepping, preparing, presenting food, I didn’t have room in my head for thoughts of getting out to enjoy the outdoors.
And that’s okay. I don’t regret spending most of my time in the kitchen. I was having too much fun. And, the antidote to my worry was to prepare, prepare, prepare while holding myself mindful of being present in the moment, savouring al it had to offer.
Which goes to show that worry and fun can co-exist, as long as you don’t let the worry override your enjoyment of whatever you’re doing in the moment.
For me, that was made easy because of the staff at the Lodge. I knew that whatever came out of the mysterious workings of the oven would be okay. Because the staff would help make it so.
And so it was.
I just spent two days cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. Surrounded by soaring snow-covered peaks, the crystalline stillness of winter-shrouded air and the exquisite environment the Lodge creates for its guests (and staff) I feel grateful for the experience and blessed to have had it.
It was a blast!
And now… I’m going back to bed!