For Keith Ilavsky and James (Jimmy) McDonald, launching a new business together is a sign they’ve planted their Fernie roots for good.
The two chefs have completed the restructuring of the Red Tree Lodge’s restaurant, which is now officially known as Smokehouse.
The new addition to Fernie’s already booming culinary industry will give food-lovers yet another dining option.
With over 40 years of combined cooking experience, the two chefs have joined forces to put all of their favourite food items on the menu.
Smokehouse will feature cajun inspired, slow-cooked smoked dishes, for vegetarians and carnivores alike; a brand new menu featuring what the two chefs describe as elevated comfort food.
When you open the menu, the first item you will see is one of their signature dishes, the Applewood Smoked Pork Belly appetizer, served with house pickled melon, smokey onion and fennel puree.
Another feature item is their Hushpuppies Cornmeal Fritters served with smoked jalapeno and ginger honey, as well as their Blackened Red Snapper served with salsa verde, sweet potato infused polenta frites, smoked eggplant, roasted red peppers, grilled avocado and pickled tomatillos.
Ilavsky and McDonald pride themselves on making all of their food in-house, with the help of three other cooks.
The two foodies met at the Fernie Golf Club four years ago, where Ilavsky was sous chef. After the head chef resigned, Ilavsky took over and McDonald stepped into the position of sous chef.
The Red Tree Lodge restaurant was previously called Frida and McDonald worked there during this time. As word spread that the restaurant was soon to become available, the two friends got talking. They thought that Fernie could really use a smokehouse.
“We thought the town needed it, we felt that it keeps food in a really accessible price range, but still challenges us creatively in the kitchen as well,” said Ilavsky.
“And I just like the whole smoking-factor too, it really allows you to try new things… it’s a neat style of cooking, it’s kind of the way I’ve always liked to cook for myself at home, so why not bring that to people.”
Red Tree Lodge partners with Nonstop during the winter months, a program that allows adventure-seeking individuals the opportunity to learn more about skiing and snowboarding in some of the world’s best snow spots. Every year the lodge welcomes about 140 people. Some come for an educative vacation, while others want to become certified guides.
During the summer, Smokehouse will be open every evening, aside from private events. But in the winter, they will switch into a catering business with the potential to open one night a week for dinner.
The two chefs hope that some Nonstop workers will be interested in their culinary business.
Smokehouse’s first trial night was last Thursday. They served 64 guests and the night was hailed a resounding success.
“The feedback we’ve been getting… kind of brings a tear to my eye. I was really choked up seeing all of our hard work paying off,” said McDonald.
When the two businessmen took over the kitchen, it was in dire need of restoration. Both worked hard to transform it into an environment that they would enjoy working in.
|James (Jimmy) McDonald and Keith Ilavsky|
Both chefs look forward to growing their business and introducing exciting new features in the future. They’re also excited to be able to do what they’re doing in a place they both love.
“It means Fernie’s home,” said Ilavsky when asked what opening the Smokehouse means to him. “Even though I’ve felt like Fernie’s home since I moved here 10 years ago.
“We’re devoted to this… I think we’ll be happy to retire (here) if we can make this a sustainable venture, which I believe it’s going to be. Fernie’s home. And it’s an awesome place to call home too.”
Smokehouse will be open June 1, closed June 2 for a private event and open again on June 3.
Visit Ferniesmokehouse.com to take a closer look at the menu, or book your evening out.