Traditional pubs, charming cottages or guest rooms, each accommodation offers typical food iconic of the mountain and the region.
We have all heard about the Raclette Savoyard, a mix of melted cheese, potatoes and hams, or the Tartiflette, a typical French dish very smelly made with one of the strongest French cheeses, and onions, and potatoes and bacon cubes (lardons) or even the fondue Savoyard. This last dish is a marmite of melted cheeses and wine in which you dip a piece of bread and eat it with the family. Those traditional meals are all substantial, you have to be sure to be hungry before tasting.
But resorts are now starting to offer sophisticated and much lighter menus with fine European cookery. Gastronomic cuisine is now prepared on the mountain to delight skiers who now eat sophisticated meals at the foot of the slopes.
And it is a perfect match for gastronomic restaurants who are looking for clients with a sufficient budget to pay for such a cuisine. It is a success in ski resorts, which are competing to be the one offering the more elaborated meals.
For instance the iconic resort Les 3 Vallées features a “starlit slope”: its twelve restaurants gather 20 stars, breaking all the records of the mountain! The restaurants located in Méribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires and Val Thorens feature 3 stars restaurants ran by the family Les Meilleur: Jean Sulpice, Yannick Alleno and Pierre Gagnaire, the father and his two sons.
It is a differentiating factor for this amazing domain the 3 Vallées which features the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the smaller territory! An added value for the French ski area where skiers can enjoy the iconic spot and the finest meals.
However, cooking such meals is extremely challenging for the chefs who have to face the constraints of the altitude. We interviewed Chef Arnaud Gorini, chef at La Marine Restaurant in Val Thorens:
“What is more difficult is the routing, even if our chalet is not far from the main facilities, in winter you is only accessible by the slopes. The food is delivered with our snowmobile or a groomer 5 to 6 times a week for the drinks only! Snowmobiles transport up to 200 kilos of food and groomers 800 kilos. We have staff entirely dedicated to delivery, it is a work by itself”. Arnaud takes advantage of the off season for wine supplies, using a truck in summer. But on November, 15th, the work must be finished because the road is not accessible afterwards. And transport is not the only difficulty for these restaurants:
“The way of cooking and preserving food is slightly different, we have to adapt. The low temperature helps preserving food however for vegetables it is another matter, they have to be kept are room temperature. We have to be extremely careful and we accumulate more losses than the restaurants of the cities. Cooks also have to manage the altitude, cooking times are slightly longer as well as boiling times but that’s our job, as long as you know it, that’s fine.”
“Here, you have to be both plumber and electrician, to drive a snowmobile and to cook well. We always have to anticipate and be creative and resourceful, think that the snowmobile cannot be used between 9 am and 5 pm while slopes are opened… If you have a problem you can only count on yourself and the resources of the chalet”.
“That’s true at the beginning it was quite difficult but we are getting every day more experienced and better with altitude constraints!”
“You should also know, it happens our costumers think we rob them and think our prices are too high, but the equipment requires high investments: a snowmobile costs 15 000 euros and a tanckette 150 000 euros. And obviously these costs impact on the price of the menus”.
The ski resort Châtel in Haute-Savoie in the Northern Alps organizes the 5th edition of the festival des Neiges Etoilées (Festival of the Starred Snows). It is a culinary rendezvous of the Michelin starred chefs. A competition between professional chefs and a jury of starred chefs, cooking classes and workshops, children’s entertainments, gala evenings… entertainments at the heart of the event Neiges Etoilées.
The event takes place under the Grand Chapiteau, a Big Top, 1000 m² large where kitchens are settled including refrigerators, ovens and cooking utensils. To fulfill the expectations and have the greatest event possible, Madame Peillex, responsible for the events at Châtel, told us the resort started to heat the Big Top a week before the event starts. It attracts many visitors every year and this season the event will be hosted between January 19th and 22nd.
Including the indoor slope Snowhall in Amneville, France, perpetuates the gastronomic tradition of the ski resorts. It featured the “gastronomic Mondays” in October and September 2015. It is a rendezvous of the chefs on the indoor slope of the Snowhall, at the restaurant Le Chalet. Chefs from Moselle, a region in North Eastern France cooked an amazing gastronomic menu every Monday of the event and organized a gala evening.
What about Italy?
Italian ski resorts in the Alps, the Dolomites or the Trentin or even the Piémont are famous for the culture and the food.
Lambrusco, tiramisu, pastas, pizzas, speck, ricotta… Such a large choice of traditional and delicious ingredients. Each region has its own traditional dishes and after a long day skiing you can enjoy the local food of high quality.
The cuisine in Alta Badia in the Dolomite Mountains is famous for the tradition and local specialties such as the barley soup, the turtes (a type of spinach pies), raviolis… In Alta Badia you have all types of restaurants, including taverns and starred restaurants.
In Scottish ski resorts, most of them being located in the Cairngorms National Park, skiers can enjoy the traditional meals, very different from French and Italian ones. What French people call “Petit déjeuner anglais” refers to the traditional Scottish breakfast. A nourishing breakfast perfect for skiers before a long day of sport.
You can even experience the traditional Haggis, a pudding made of sheep’s plucks and spices. As for drinks, the Malt Whisky trail is a traditional route in Scotland gathering the main distilleries of the country often at less than an hour from the resorts. A whisky on the rocks is perfect to warm you up on the mountain!
And you, what are your favorite mountain specialities?