For Chef Patrick Grogan, the journey from the kitchens of Brisbane, Australia to a kitchen at the top of Banff has been phenomenal.
“This is the most incredible restaurant I’ve ever seen,” Grogan says, sitting at a table in Sky Bistro and looking out at the Canadian Rockies.
Photo: Chef Patric Grogan
Grogan’s first task as Executive Chef for Sky Bistro and Banff Gondola was to develop the new 2017 Fall/Winter menu. Like any menu development, he says this one relied a lot of alchemy. Menus, after all, must check a lot of boxes. They should be on-trend, show good value to guests and offer enough options to please a variety of guests’ palate – but not too many!
It’s all about the season
At Sky Bistro, the new Fall 2017 menu—launched October 10—is all about the season. And like the menus have been at Sky since the bistro opened in late 2016, it’s a celebration of Canadian food.
“Canadian cuisine to me is about produce," Grogan says.
“For me, it’s seasonal,” agrees Brewster’s Executive Chef Martin Brenner. “Across all our restaurants, we’re striving for local, sustainable, organic and fresh menus as much as we can. This is what we use to give our guests the best taste of this incredible part of the world.”
At Sky Bistro, the location at 2,281 meters (7,500 feet) at the top of a gondola poses extra challenges. The kitchen is relatively small. Timelines are tight. “We need to use the space wisely,” Grogan says. “And our guests are conscious of the time they’re spending here, so we want to be wise about how long it takes to get their food out to them.”
Narrowing down the menu
Brenner says the menu-development process took a month and involved brainstorming with the team, planning, meetings, testing and refining. There were tastings with the top executives of Pursuit and Brewster—and lots of feedback. Grogan, however, had been thinking about it for months. His personal process involved eating out “a lot”, watching television shows, staying on top of trends and talking to chef friends here in Canada and back in Australia. You could call him “food-obsessed”.
“I started with a long-list and eliminated items based really on what we think people will want,” he says.
Photo: Sky Bistro Chef Patrick Crogan and a colleague makes notes on the new Fall 2017 menu. Feedback is "essential" to creating a new menu, he says.
In the fall, soups and game are popular as comfort food comes into season. The style should be more like home cooking. And of course, it’s the harvest season, which means new offerings.
“Fall is one of the most exciting times of the year for what natures gives us,” Brenner says.
Building strong relationships
For 20 years, Brenner has been developing relationships with local suppliers—like Valbella and the Canmore Pasta Company, as well as farmers from across Western Canada. “With produce and menus changing so frequently, you have to always be informed about what is available,” he says. “I’ve established a large base of excellent suppliers.”
The two chefs collaborated closely and are very proud of the end result. “We’re always striving for balance,” Brenner says.
Of course, at Sky Bistro, the chefs know it all comes down to the view. And that a meal here is part of the experience.
For dinner guests, that includes sunset and stargazing out on the rooftop watching the mountains glow.
“I’m hoping people take photos of both the food and of the view, ideally,” says Grogan, who is still stunned each morning by the beauty he sees on his drive to work. “The view is really inspiring to me, like it is to visitors.”
Photo: Dining with a view at Sky Bistro
Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival
For the annual Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival on October 13 and 14 in Calgary, Grogan and his team will be serving their confit duck croquettes—and Grogan describes it as rich, yet balanced. “For me, duck’s comfort food,” he says. It’s slow cooked and then paired with a watermelon radish salad and topped with Sriracha aioli and fresh basil.
They’ll also be giving samples of the Grogan’s Nanaimo Garden creation. "The first Nanaimo bar I had, I thought ‘Oh my God what is this!?" he says. This dessert is a decadent deconstruction of the classic Canadian bar inspired by forests and gardens.
Photo: Twice-cooked Alberta Pork Belly, Red Beet Jus, Holy Smoke Roasted Vine Tomato, Buttered Cabbage & Roasted Butternut Squash
Taste for Adventure
With the upcoming 16-day Banff and Lake Louise-wide Taste for Adventure Culinary Festival coming, Chef Pat Grogan had a deadline. He’s developed a five-course tasting menu that showcases the new menu. “The timing’s perfect,” he says. “It was a mission for us to be ready.”
Sky Bistro’s Signature Menu for Taste for Adventure features Grogan’s personal favourite in the 2nd course—Confit Duck Croquette, as well as the Twice-Cooked Alberta Pork Belly in the 4th course. “I’ve always loved pork belly,” Grogan says. “It’s full of flavour.” With a price of just $85 that includes Banff Gondola admission, it is superb value! An optional wine pairing with three courses is available for an additional $35/person. Visit our website to reserve or call 403.762.7486.
Taste for Adventure runs October 25 - November 9. 2017.