BANFF – One of the newest eateries in Banff is putting Alberta-produced foods into the spotlight.
Farm & Fire officially opened at the beginning of June and Chef Scott Hergott said while COVID-19 has been affecting the restaurant industry since March, his new menu was designed for both dine-in and takeout options.
"Obviously with COVID-19, it got a bit hairy," Hergott said.
"When we built the menu, we knew it can get from the restaurant to your plate at home without compromising quality. We wanted to make sure that if a guest was ordering takeout, they are getting the same quality they would be if eating in the restaurant."
The whole-roasted rotisserie chicken, brined for 24 hours beforehand, is the perfect example of a meal from Farm & Fire's menu that travels well as a takeout option, he said. With reduced capacity inside restaurants due to the coronavirus, having a strong takeout option has been critical for many in the industry this year.
Hergott said he has been working on the new restaurant concept since August 2019, when he began researching and travelling to restaurants in the U.S. for creative inspiration.
"We came up with this concept of using forno and fire and showing off that fire by using farm-fresh and locally produced ingredients," Hergott said.
Alberta based food producers are trending – and are also part of the province's economic diversification strategy for the recovery from COVID-19.
Being able to connect patrons with the farms their food comes from is part of the experience at Farm & Fire. Proudly displayed on the wall is a list of all the farms that support the menu – from all across Alberta and with one from B.C.
The chef visited each farm and is working directly with them to ensure they are able to provide the quantity and quality needed for the menu.
"We are working with the farms to understand our capacities, what it is we are trying to achieve and the number of guests," Hergott said. "We are looking for those small farms that need the support of a restaurant and are able to support [our needs]."
Bear and Flower Farm and Poplar Bluff Farms are two examples of farms the chef has been working with. Bear and Flower – located in Rocky View County – was already featured on the menu at Sky Bistro.
"We have three different items of theirs on the menu," Hergott said. "It is definitely a good partnership."
Farm & Fire also marks a shift for Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection, which owns and operates a number of tourism-based businesses in Banff. That include several hotels and the Sulphur Mountain Gondola.
Sky Bistro, at the top of the gondola, has been a well-received higher-end restaurant experience the company spearheaded after its $26 million upgrade of the facility in 2016.
The mountain-top eatery has done well, earning a coveted top ranking on TripAdvisor. Hergott said as executive chef at the bistro and having developed its menu, he wanted to bring what they were doing on top of Sulphur Mountain down to the valley.
"I wanted to bring something into town that was easier for people to get at," he said. "This is an opportunity for us at Pursuit, with our great culinary team, to have something in town that is readily available."
The restaurant is located inside one of the company's hotels in Banff, the Elk + Avenue Hotel, a space that was previously occupied by a popular chain.
It is a combination and trend that Banff residents and visitors may start to see change, said Hergott.
"This has given me an opportunity to work with this company and grow Pursuit as a food destination," he said. "Pursuit is known for our attractions ... but we are definitely not known for our food. Sky Bistro was a catalyst to get that started."
Being able to demonstrate there is an opportunity to create memorable visitor experiences around culinary offerings has been an exciting role for the chef.
The newly renovated space for Farm & Fire was designed by Calgary's Frank Architecture and provides an open and airy experience. Natural materials pay homage to the new restaurant's location inside the national park.
The kitchen is open concept with guests being able to connect with the culinary team. It also shows off a brand new forno oven, a $40,000 imported rotisserie and an urban cultivator.
"We have beautiful equipment in the kitchen," said the chef.
As for the new requirements of COVID-19, Hergott said a well run and clean kitchen should have no issues with the increased standards to protect public health.
"This is what we do," he said "We wash our hands after touching anything, we sanitize and we clean."
He also acknowledged the hard work and skills of the culinary team he gets to work with. Hergott said many young, energetic and creative chefs are working in local kitchens, including his, doing amazing things – which is inspiring for the future of food in Banff.