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Turning flavour into emotion: Chef Dan Bracko
by Lynn Martel

When Dan Bracko planned the Heather Mountain Lodge menu, one of the first places he shopped was the museum in Golden, BC.

As head chef, Dan wants his guests to rave about his food as much as they do about skiing with Great Canadian Heli-Skiing. To accomplish that, he turns to the same source of the powder slopes skiers love – the wild mountain landscape.

I like to combine elements of the natural environment and blend it in with heritage food,” Dan explains. “I’ve gone through the museums in Golden and Banff to see what people were eating 100 years ago. Then, every time we hire a new chef, I go out and shoot a rabbit and tell them to impress me. This is food.

To his delight, some of the new hires enthusiastically embrace his kitchen style and ethics, creating exciting soups, stews, appetizers and main courses. He’s particularly proud of his own Snowshoe Hare Galantine, served alongside Pemmican, Friend Bannock Medallions, Canned Chicken Mousse, Lamb Prosciutto and Red Hairy Skunk Currents. Like a well-planned fireworks display, each bite lights up your taste buds, one explosion after the next.

Pemmican, a mixture of air-dried beef jerky and wild blueberries tied together with duck fat, was carried in pouches by Les Voyageurs on canoe brigades while trading furs across Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Another heritage food is Dan’s tantalizing Canned Chicken, employing a nearly forgotten method. But it’s his BBQ smoked ribs, served with molasses and maple syrup baked beans, and cornbread as light as angel food cake, which elicits what Dan describes as, “Flavour turning to emotion.

That emotion is utter joy!

A Calgary native whose passion for cooking and skiing lured him from Whistler to Vancouver to Blue River to New Zealand, Dan landed at Heather Mountain Lodge in 2005 and hasn’t looked back.

With his wife, Carrie, working as the lodge’s general manager, and toddler daughter Daisy helping him feed the free-ranging ducks and chickens on the property, Dan feels he’s got the perfect work-life balance.

The lodge’s wine storage room, he adds, is the perfect temperature and humidity for drying meat. Incorporating fresh picked beans, carrots, honeyberries, rosemary and garlic from the vegetable garden right outside the lodge, and topping his creations with nasturtiums, pansies and purple lobelia, Dan captures the excitement of mountain wilderness on the plate.

Don’t just smell the flowers,” Dan says.

Eat them!