As the Rocky Mountaineer marks its 30th anniversary executive chef Daniel Stierhof gets culinary on track
Dining for the three Rocky Mountaineer trains is created by Rocky Mountaineer Catering – a separate company but one that collaborates closely with the operational team. It’s run by three French chefs.
Our brief is broadly to create high-end menu options that reflect the landscapes the train travels through and meet the luxury perceptions of this iconic journey. We also try to offer comforting dishes, familiar to our often more elderly demographic, but then we evolve those concepts to a higher level.
The train operates April to October during which time we carry 700-900 guests each day and serve them breakfast and lunch in two sittings. Gold Leaf passengers dine on freshly prepared dishes in our dedicated dining carriages; Silver Leaf meals are pre-prepared and served to seat.
The culinary team is made up of 105 staff in total’ chefs, dishwashers and servers’ and each carriage has its own galley. The multicultural mix of the team helps us be innovative and creative. We all bring different styles, ideas and cultural traditions to the table.
We aim to offer five to seven choices’ and try to ensure the menu is on trend, healthy and uses sustainable local produce. Sockeye salmon and AAA Albertan steak are among the most special, uniquely Canadian, features and are always popular. The rise of special diets has become a big consideration too. We have made everything gluten- free to cater for coeliacs, and trends in diets. The galleys are restricted in space but I’ve certainly worked in smaller kitchens. Gold Leaf galleys each have three chefs while for Silver Leaf carriages dining is prepared in advanced and loaded ready for serving to seat, so these galleys have just one chef.
The biggest challenge is onboarding the correct supplies, and keeping focused despite crew commentary, passenger activity and operational issues. The only things pre-prepared in Gold Leaf are soups and sauces as liquids are hard to handle with the movement of the train. The same is true with dishes such as pasta as the train moves the boiling water about!
Of course, once we set off on our journey, we only have what we have’ if anything is forgotten we simply have to improvise!