Juniper dining series all about collaboration and conversation

Chefs from across the country being brought into beautiful Banff bistro to share their skills and make new friendships.

Arguably, the Bistro at The Juniper has one of the best views in Banff, looking south to the townsite, the mountains and Vermilion Lakes.

Once the food is placed on the table, though, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.

Under the leadership of Bistro manager Chris Irving, the restaurant that feeds guests of the Juniper hotel and those who want to stop in for a bite and enjoy the view, has undergone a renaissance with a contemporary menu and Irving’s efforts to create a dining series that is bringing top-notch chefs from across the country to cook in the mountains.

So far, chefs at the Bistro have shared the kitchen with Nick Nutting of Wolf in the Fog (read more about a dinner at that Tofino hotspot at Patent and the Pantry), Kelowna’s Miradoro Chef Jeff Van Geest and Angus An of Vancouver’s Maenam and Longtail Kitchen in New Westminster. This fall, Top Chef Canada favourite and the chef-owner of Newfoundland’s Mallard Cottage, Todd Perrin, will be coming out for a dinner, as well as Ned Bell, noted chef and the author of Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast.

The man behind the idea, Irving, says he was inspired to create the dining series by his travels and the connections he made on them.

“Inviting close culinary colleagues to Juniper Bistro to join me in executing these dinners and events keeps things exciting for the town of Banff, for myself and my team,” he says. “These collaborations foster gathering, social interaction and togetherness.”

Such was the case at the recent Maenam dinner when eager guests were seated at two long tables that stretched across the dining room. Through the night, conversation was raucous and friendly as people compared notes about their favourite dishes and, at the end of it, made plans to meet new friends at future dates.

Which was exactly what Irving wanted.

“I enjoy the long table format dinners; it puts our guests in situations where they have no choice but to interact with their neighbours,” he says. “I love being able to be the catalyst to conversation and potential new friendships.”

Along with the guests enjoying an incredible meal – the Maenam focused on the just-in-season spot prawn and featured the Thai flavours An is known for – the chefs at the Juniper also benefit from having new ideas in the kitchen. (The guest chefs also get to push their boundaries and, perhaps more importantly, get to hang out in the beautiful Rockies for a night or two.)

“Introducing new ideas and techniques to (the Juniper team’s) daily routines brings excitement and interest,” says Irving.

With a few successful dinners already done, tickets are getting snapped up more quickly for the dinner series. A healthy portion of guests at the Maenam dinner had already been to previous events and were quick to say at the dinner table that they will be looking forward to announcements on future dates.

Bell will be at the Juniper in October for a seafood-themed dinner, which will include a copy of his new book for guests. Proceeds from the book are going toward Chefs for Oceans, a non-profit initiative dedicated to giving all Canadians easy access to sustainable seafood.

Mallard Cottage in the Rockies, which will see Perrin make his way almost across the entire country from St. John’s, Newfoundland, is set for November.

Dates for both Bell and Perrin have not yet been announced.

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For more on the Maenam dinner and about The Juniper Hotel, head over to Patent and the Pantry.

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue Magazine, the Calgary Herald and is the restaurant columnist for Where Calgary. She shares her cooking and eating adventures – and occasionally some of her shoes – on Twitter and Instagram at @gwendolynmr.