Preparing a three-course meal for several hundred guests is a
test of any chef's mettle. Add to that the challenge of
prepping, cooking and plating aboard a moving train and you'll get
an idea of Frederic Couton's job as executive chef on the
British Columbia's luxury rail line, the Rocky
Mountaineer runs its glass-domed, double-decker trains from
Vancouver up and over the Canadian
Rockies and into Alberta. I
recently had a chance to experience the
Journey Through the Clouds, a two-day trip up the Fraser
Canyon, through Kamloops and over the Rockies at Yellowhead
For the train aficionados aboard, it was the trip of a lifetime - a
ride through stunning alpine scenery on Canada's equivalent of the
Orient Express. But, as I was surprised to
find out, the trip has a lot to offer foodies as well, especially
if you opt for the
top-tier Gold Leaf
Breakfast, for starters, is no casual affair. As the
train entered the mouth of the Fraser Canyon, we were led from the
upstairs viewing car to the dining car on the lower level.
The narrow space holds an intimate dining room: banquettes with
window views laid out with white linen tablecloths and gleaming
I opted for the Sir Sanford Fleming breakfast, a variation on eggs
Benedict named after one of Canada's rail pioneers. The
poached egg was served over Montreal smoked meat on top of a fluffy
crumpet and topped with creamy tarragon Hollandaise. While
the scenery blurred by outside, I got to know a few fellow
passengers dining at my table, travelers from Los Angeles visiting
Canada for the first time.
After breakfast, I took a peek inside the car's galley, a space no
wider than a shipping container where 144 gourmet meals are
prepared every day. A crew of seven white-aproned cooks were
already hard at work slicing and grilling for lunch.
Overseeing the controlled chaos was
executive chef Couton.
French-born and trained - with a thick accent to prove it - Couton
worked at Vancouver's famous Cannery Restaurant before coming to
the Rocky Mountaineer. "It's not like other kitchens.
There are a few tricks you have to learn," he said over the rumble
of the rails. "When you open the fridge, you open it very
When we crest the Fraser Canyon and enter the arid BC interior,
it's time for lunch. Locally sourced and organic ingredients
- including BC Salmon and Alberta beef - feature prominently on the
menu, as does wine from the nearby Okanagan
Valley. I opt for the Alberta pork tenderloin, which
comes with a confit of sweet onions, as well as market veggies and
whipped garlic potatoes. How the food was plated so artfully
on a moving train - each carrot in its place - remains a mystery to
By the time we finally reached the Rockies on our second day, talk
focused almost as much on food as on the stunning peaks outside.
Over the duration of the trip, we were treated to black tiger
prawns and Alberta sirloin, Fraser Valley chicken and honey-glazed
salmon. The highlight for many, however, was a much simpler
pairing: local cheeses and B.C. wine, served each afternoon as the
province's mountains and canyons rolled by.
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Has anyone else dined aboard the Rocky
Mountaineer? Please share any thoughts or favorite
meals by leaving a comment below.
Remy Scalza is a food and travel writer who appears in The
Washington Post, Wine Spectator, National Geographic Traveler and
other outlets. He blogs about his adventures in Canada and
elsewhere at RemyScalza.com and InsideVancouver.ca.
Posted: Tue, Aug 24 2010
by Guest Blogger