When Kristie Bradbury and Greg Doucette took over as executive chefs of the Kuskanax Lodge, they hit the ground running. Not many Nakusp natives even realized there were two new additions to the Kuskanax and to our town. For the first two months, both chefs were working ridiculous hours each day, which meant they went from their hotel room to the kitchen and back again, and that was it.
When I ask what it’s been like living and working together in the hotel for five months, the couple exchanged a wry glance at each other and laughed before answering.
“It’s great it’s got everything we need, but we’re at work all the time,” said Bradbury, “We’d like a place where we can stop thinking about work.” Living at the Lodge means the restaurant is the first thing on their mind in the morning and the last thing before they go to sleep at night.
For the two, who are from Newfoundland and P.E.I., the draw to water was huge and they were delighted to get to live on the shore of Upper Arrow Lake.
In their eighth year together, five of which have been spent working side by side in kitchens, the couple have learned the art of separating work and at-home life.
“We work pretty good together,” Bradbury modestly agreed. Thanks to a multitude of reality cooking shows, many people are now aware of the kind of intense work environment found in professional kitchens, which the pair have successfully learned to navigate through.
“You have to really learn to leave work at work and home at home,” she disclosed, “There are days when we’re mad at each other at home but you come to work and that’s all forgotten because that’s something that’s home, and then by the time you get home, you’ve forgotten about it.”
The duo have been looking for a place in town to make their home, but setting up and working in the kitchen was their first priority, one that kept them busy sixty hours a week for months. Working at the lodge is a change from seasonal to year-round employment with CMH, and both chefs look forward to the opportunities a steady work situation can offer.
“We came into an understaffed kitchen,” Bradbury told me when I sat down with her in the Lodge banquet room.
Fortunately, the new chefs and the staff have really hit it off, with no “Euro-style” kitchen drama, as Doucette characterized the temper tantrums often seen on T.V. In contrast, as Red Seal Chefs, both are offering to apprentice staff, a huge opportunity who are interested in working on earning their own Seal.
“People like to hang out at work,” Bradbury noted, which speaks to the friendly cooperative atmosphere that exists between co-workers, a huge relief to the newly arrived chefs.
Now that they have sufficiently stocked the kitchen with a good team of staff, the chefs are looking to incorporate more of our local culinary treasures as they are available.
Unfortunately this year, there was no fun in fungi picking, or money. Mushrooms this fall were impossible to find, a radical change from last year’s bumper crop when it seemed you could hardly step and not tread on a pine or chanterelle. Buying stations closed down early, and many professional pickers didn’t even bother, once they realized they would have to scour the forest floor to find a few mushrooms. Huckleberries were also scarce, but Bradbury is hoping next year’s crops will be plentiful, as she’s planning to use them in their in-house jams and desserts.
“About ninety percent of what we do is from scratch and we’re trying to make it as much as we can,” said Bradbury, who is keen to keep it as fresh and as local as possible in the restaurant.
Doucette mentioned as an example that the Lodge is looking to have all its breads made by Sappho’s Bakery out of New Denver in an attempt to keep the money in the local area as well.
Bradbury and Doucette look forward to adding their culinary creations to Nakusp’s dining options, a cuisine they call “Canadian.”
“I like to call it Canadian because we’re such a smorgasbord of cultures,” said Doucette. “Canada has one of the largest multicultural demographics anywhere,” something he feels is reflected in their food which takes its influences from everywhere.
The new menu, which has everything from crispy salmon served with a vodka soy glaze to vegetarian quinoa cakes, shows this mix of cultures. Because, as Bradbury stated, “people eat with their eyes first,” the meals are served on new flatware. The pair wisely decided to keep a few popular classics like the borscht and souvlaki, and added a reuben due to popular request.
As far as their own preferences are concerned, seafood is what both miss from back home.
“Lobsters, mussels, and oysters,” listed Doucette, “Sorry Vancouver, but it’s not the same.”
Bradbury misses the traditional Jig’s dinner, cod tongues and cod cheeks. Just talking about it nearly made her cry from missing her family in Newfoundland.
But even though they are almost as far from home as they could get, they are discovering they have found a great place to make a home.
“Our first impression of Nakusp was that it was gorgeous and everyone was crazy nice,” recounted Bradbury.
Crazy nice is right, as Doucette recalls.
“My first week here I had someone run across the street and say ‘I haven’t seen you around here before I’m so-and-so, nice to meet you,’” he laughed, “Ok; welcome to a small town!”