At a place like The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, fruits with blemishes aren’t fit to be set out for buffets or placed on diners’ plates. And even with the fruit that does make the cut, there are leftovers — strawberry stems, for instance, with a bit of berry left on them.
These may seem like damaged goods and remnants, but they’re perfect for creating vinegars — and that’s just what the luxury hotel is doing with them.
“The interest for me is looking at the dish and seeing how far back I can go to take care of whatever ingredients are going into it,” says Jason Mitchell, sous chef at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
In the past, he had used fruits and herbs to infuse vinegars, but it wasn’t until last summer that he began fermenting from scratch at the hotel, crafting completely custom-made creations that can go from rooftop garden to tonight’s menu.
Along with his desire to get as close to the root as possible in creating his meals, Mitchell wanted to reduce waste.
“Take the pineapple, for example,” he says. “You have a core you cut out of a pineapple, and there’s really nothing else to do with it — you can’t make it into a compote, but it’s the perfect element to make vinegar from. It’s a bonus product; for just the cost of a little bit of sugar and water, you can turn it into a nice pineapple vinegar.”
Visitors of the Fairmont are the beneficiaries of his kitchen experiment, enjoying vinegars created from strawberries, pineapples, plums, nectarines, pears, cherries, lemons and grapefruit. These house-made vinegars are primarily used as the base for salad dressings. Unlike many specialty fruit vinegars that often taste more like just plain vinegar, these have an intense fruit flavor that balances nicely with the vinegar.
While you may have to make a trip to British Columbia to enjoy Mitchell’s concoctions, you don’t have to be a sous chef to try making your own.
“I encourage people to try it at home because it’s a simple process that you get a great product from, and it’s surprising how easy it is really,” Mitchell says.
Next page: Creating Your Own Fruit Vinegar