STYLE

Tips on cooking in cramped kitchens from the Rocky Mountaineer's executive chef

04/07/2015 04:52 EDT | Updated 06/07/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Cooking meals for dozens of people in a tiny kitchen would try anyone's patience. For Jean Pierre Guerin, it's also a balancing act.

The executive chef on the Rocky Mountaineer train — which runs sightseeing trips with breathtaking scenery of the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies — heads a team that works out of the cramped kitchen car, measuring just 5.5 by 1.5 metres.

Employees must be "strictly organized" and are also screened for their ability to keep their balance.

"The kitchen is constantly in movement," Guerin said during a recent visit to Toronto.

"Working on board the train is a little bit like working on board a ship. On board a vessel you have to kind of get accustomed to the constant rolling of the ocean. Well, on the train we have the same except we're developing train legs, where basically you're moving from one foot to the other and you're constantly looking for your balance."

The train's kitchen has to be meticulously well organized, with space carefully reserved for cooking equipment, utensils and plates.

"We have cupboards to basically stow away anything ranging from knives to pots. Nothing can be left on the counters. Again, because we are a moving platform we don't want anything to slide off," said Guerin, who has worked at five-star hotels and restaurants in France, Canada, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

The setup means Guerin and his 80-member team can cook efficiently even in very close proximity.

With more Canadians living in condos and other small spaces, Guerin said some elements of working on the train also apply in galley kitchens.

He recommends clearing the counter of all extraneous items, prepping ingredients in advance, and cleaning as you go.

Guerin measures ingredients, such as seasonings, into ramekins so they're ready at hand as he's cooking. He suggests that home cooks keep ingredients within arm's reach of the stove in sealed containers so they're protected from the environment.

Menus on the Rocky Mountaineer, marking its 25th anniversary, are regionally inspired and feature locally sourced produce and wine. Pork and beef come from Alberta. Seafood comes from B.C. Train guests consume some 30,000 wild Pacific salmon per season, which runs May to October.

Passengers might rub elbows this year with some Oscar nominees and Grammy presenters and performers, who received the gift of a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer.

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