Thursday, 8 November 2018

If only my teeth were as white as my legs in the winter… #BanffLife

Lake Louise October 2018

For those of you who just started following this blog but don’t know me I am Tom.  For the first part of my international year I choose the Fairmont Banff Springs Banff, Alberta, Canada. Like my colleague Derek I am also working as a pastry chef at this property. Banff is a town located in the heart of the Rockies in Banff National Park.
Since my last post we have seen quite a change in weather. The start of October brought approximately 40 cm of snow. This snowfall was unprecedented and broke records set back over 100 years. Autumn fell on a Tuesday, I think,  then straight into winter. Since the end of September, the day temperature has not reached above 10 degrees Celsius, most days barely above 0. The lowest night temperature so far has been around minus 16, with the average around 0 to minus 4. Preparing for winter comes at a significant cost, this is something you have to take into account before coming to the mountain region. You have to buy winter boots which cost me $180 and then your winter layers which can cost up to $800. A key thing to remember is one coat doesn’t suit everything. You have to have insulating, windbreakers and high-water resistance jackets. You also need thermals and fleeces. It is vital to have all these layers for maximum warmth.  If you want to do winter sports such as skiing, or snowboarding a season pass costs approximately $800 for a midweek pass (Monday to Thursday). This does not include equipment which can be rented or bought for additional costs. For example, a second-hand pair of skis can cost about $300. I decided not to buy a ski pass as I am only here till the start of January. Day passes with equipment rental costs about $150.
New Deck Oven with Sourdough 
The start of September brought a very different kitchen scene. Lots of colleagues left to go back to college or because their visas were up. This finally opened up the opportunity for overtime. Almost everyone in the pastry shop was doing six days, and overtime other days. This was great as it allowed me to save extra money and also made the time go a little quicker. I find the days seem to go slowly but the weeks fly by. The end of October gave me the opportunity to move into the overnight bake shop which was the only area of the pastry shop that I had not worked in yet. I was delighted to be given the opportunity as I am interested in breads and doughs. The bakeshop produces lots of different breads daily. These include brioche, ciabatta, sourdough, rye, baguettes and many more. The volumes of bread being produced is also vast. For example, we produce approximately 50 loaves of sourdough every day. I have learnt a lot about dough feel, different starters, breads and techniques. Working the bake shop shift challenges me as there is a lot more responsibility. Flipping my sleeping pattern also came as a challenge. This took a while to get used to and still causes difficulties especially after days off. I am enjoying working bakeshop and hope to stay here till I finish my internship, however, I would not do my entire placement on bakeshop as you can become very isolated in terms of having a social life. At the start of October, the bakeshop became a whole lot easier with the installation of a new deck oven (Which was meant to be installed in April). The deck oven contains four decks and increased our bread production from 12 loaves at a time to 48. This means that we can bake most of our bread for the day in two batches. It is very interesting to get used to using a deck oven. It requires a little more attention as they are not as sophisticated as other ovens in terms of technology. I have yet to use the deck oven for pastry items but according to my colleagues the end result is also of a very high quality.

The Walk to Banff Town Center September 2018

Sustainability is becoming a huge part of the hospitality industry. Recently one of my colleagues has embarked on an eco-ethical venture in the form of a platform called EachtBia ( venture aims to help change how we view the planet we live in, by adapting lifestyles to save it. It is our duty as chefs to take into consideration our practices and how our choices affect the food we produce. A part of Fairmont’s ethos is to promote the healthy and sustainable production of food. This involves sourcing produce locally from Alberta and surrounding provinces. They have also introduced targets for the reduction of waste being produced, this involves weighing all the food waste from the kitchens and recycling as much as possible. One recent change within Fairmont was the change from using non-degradable cloths to using bio degradable cloths produced entirely from flax plants. Although, these practices have been introduced Fairmont is like most other hospitality businesses where the customers want comes first. This means that seasonality is very lightly taken into consideration. A lot of the winter menus have been launched but still contain ingredients such as raspberries, cherries and other fruits that are not in season. These ingredients cannot be locally sourced so therefore the distance the food travels offset the locally sourced produce. It has to become acceptable not to have certain ingredients throughout the year.

Lake Louise before the Slip and Slide
One of the big advantages for working for Fairmont is the access to the benefits scheme. My benefits started the middle of September approximately 3 months after starting at Fairmont. As I am only on my internship till January the benefit scheme is particularly lucrative to me, as you get the same amount of benefits as staff that are permanent. Some of the benefits available are $230 towards glasses and contacts one pair of orthotics and matching shoes, $500 towards massage and chiropractor, $1500 towards physical therapy. As a resident in Alberta you automatically have free health care but the Fairmont benefits scheme covers any prescription you may need. If you are an employee for one year you become eligible for dental and hearing benefits.
Again, I can say the experience has its ups and downs but it is generally positive. I have  some new skills; however, I feel the smaller restaurant or hotel moves at a faster pace which keeps the adrenaline flowing. I miss having live service, where the buzz you get from working in this industry comes from. I still feel that quality can be passed in exchange for quantity in the larger hotel. I am enjoying the outdoors, but have learnt all about wearing the appropriate footwear for the season after a hike that ended up being a comic display of someone trying to stand on ice for the first time or discovery of the fact that being on your back is a great way to look at the sky. (I ended up sliding down the mountain on my backpack). I wasn’t deterred by this and am very excited to try out winter sports, I’ll just put mountain rescue on speed dial….

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