Going to the source
A jewel of the Rockies ever since opening its doors more than 100 years ago, Alberta's Emerald Lake Lodge continues to draw visitors form the world over.
A jewel of the Rockies ever since opening its doors more than 100 years ago, BC’s Emerald Lake Lodge continues to draw visitors from the world over in search of adventure–both on and off the plate.
Tucked away near the provincial border within Yoho National Park, this shimmering gem was discovered during the construction of the CPR in 1882 and, aside from the guest lodge built originally in 1902, Emerald Lake remains pristine.
In terms of idyllic settings in which to ply a trade, it’s hard to beat, which explains Chef Valerie Morrison’s decade-long tenure in the kitchen at the Mount Burgess Dining Room. While just 25 miles west of Lake Louise, Morrison does not have ready access to a corner store or a surplus of local growers from whom to source. As a result, her menus offer exactly what people travel to her remote neck of the woods for in the first place–regional Rocky Mountain cuisine. Making strong use of hearty seasonal ingredients and meats from the CP ranch outside of Calgary, Morrison takes pride in both her protein sources
and the preferred palates of her guests.
“I admit, we are not a light and fluffy dining room. We raise our own free-range and nonmedicated elk, buffalo, and caribou on the CP ranch,” said Morrison.
While vegetarian fare can be whipped up easily enough, requests are few. “When it comes to the greens and grains, especially in the fall/winter, I go for a lot of grains, pulses, root vegetables, sauces with dried fruits, and mushrooms. It is hardier fare, but you have to remember that our guests have been out hiking and taking in the outdoors. That works up a hunger.”
Morrison has been following her own recipe for success ever since she began cooking in high school. Working in the all-hands-on-deck atmosphere of a small restaurant in Calgary before trying her hand in a hospital kitchen and eventually apprenticing under Chef Fred Zimmerman at the Westin Calgary, her experience has run the gamut. Long before immersing herself in the professional kitchen, Morrison had turned to her mother’s cookbook collection as a means of relaxing after a long day.
“Cooking always made me happy. It was a release, a soothing thing to do,” said Morrison. On the home front, her husband is also a papered chef, and their seven-year-old son is already showing the familial flair in the kitchen.
“My son has his own chicken recipe, and he likes to get in there and throw the flour around,” she says with a laugh. “Cooking is very much a do-it-together thing, and you just can’t be afraid of a little mess. It all cleans up.”
When it comes to keeping the pantry prepped for sure-fire family fun, Morrison has her tried-and-true arsenal of ingredients. Grapeseed oil is a must–both for its neutral flavour and high-heat flexibility. Chili paste keeps the heat up, and garlic and ginger are both kept in the freezer where they stay plump.
Morrison has been kind enough to open the pantry of the Mount Burgess Room to share a quartet of recipes very much in the vein of Emerald Lake itself: nourishing, pristine, and regionally rooted.