If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at Sonora Resort over the past four years, then you’ve been fortunate enough to sample a masterpiece at the hands of Executive Chef Lukas Gurtner. We recently caught up with the dynamic young man to gain some insight into his formative and delicious years.
Warning: this post contains photos that may cause excessive drooling.
Executive Chef Lukas Gurtner. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
Could you tell us a little bit about what you're up to these days and how you got there?
I am currently the Executive Chef at a Relais&Chateaux Resort called Sonora Resort Canada. It is a secluded luxury resort nestled away on Sonora Island located amongst the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. I started my culinary career in 2008 at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria where my first position was a dishwasher, which lasted about a year. This position led me into doing my apprenticeship and then obtaining my Red Seal. After my apprenticeship is when I first started working at Sonora, completing my first season as a Chef de Partie and then completing my second season as Junior Sous Chef. I ended up continuing my career and training to become a Chef in Montreal, QC. I did the grind and worked under Chef Daniel Vezina at restaurant Laurie Raphael for about a year and a half. This is when I was fortunate enough to compete in Chopped Canada and train/work under some of the top chefs in Quebec/Canada. Opportunities came up on the west coast and I ended up finding myself back at Sonora Resort as Executive Sous Chef. I held this title from 2014 until the middle of 2016 when I ended up becoming Executive Chef mid-season through.
I am currently working on a cookbook which will be published May, 2018. The book will be focusing on my philosophy and style of cuisine and what we have to offer at Sonora Resort.
Chorizo Scaled Ling Cod. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
What was the main motivation behind starting this pursuit?
For me, I was always surrounded by food. My father being a Swiss chef and my mother always found in the kitchen preserving or canning something. Growing up we always had a big garden full of fresh produce in the backyard. Cooking was never something I thought I would do for a living but it seemed to always surround me while growing up. I have strong memories of gathering around the table every Sunday eating family dinner and nothing would get in the way of missing that meal. To be honest, there was no strong starting point or motivation to start my pursuit of cooking at all. I told my father I wanted to become a chef, he called me an idiot and it kind of went from there. I did my time in the dish pit and moved forward quickly. I feel fortunate and lucky that at a young age I found not only my career, but most importantly my true passion. After I realized this, my motivation grew and the pursuit got stronger.
Grilled Octopus. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
What do you believe is the difference maker in your brand/business?
Cooking for me is a style of art; a way to express yourself as a chef with your work and how it gets there. My philosophy of food is: use what is fresh and in season, source local and use the whole damn product! Far too many bad practices are being used when it comes to the usage of product. Certain parts are not even used, or in many cases, they’re discarded and thrown out. I will always remember a chef telling me while doing my apprenticeship “Turn s#*t into gold”. This has stayed with me and will stay with me forever. My style of cooking is simple; I source only the best local and seasonal product I can find while practicing good habits and techniques. When it comes down to it, it is as simple as respecting the product! Dealing with a vegetable, for example, I use the root, the vegetable itself, the herb and it’s seed to complete and compose a dish. I preserve, can and ferment product so they last me throughout all of the seasons. I find myself using traditional and classic techniques which are not being practiced or used anymore. The real and true way of cooking, I find, is being lost and I am trying to pass on what I have learned to keep these lost techniques alive.
Duck and Cherry. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
What motivates you/inspires you?
For me the kitchen is my happy place. I tend to find myself in the kitchen more often than not at any part of day. The atmosphere and energy which an oiled team can extract into a kitchen is second to none. To see my cooks and chefs grind it out every night and day with a smile on their face is what motivates me. Constantly pushing themselves to learn and to grow; their commitment to not only myself, but the industry, is inspiring and this is what keeps me getting up every day doing what I love. My mother, father, sister and niece are also big motivators. I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to the industry and if it wasn’t for their support I would be lost.
Ramp Top Risotto. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
What might our readers not know about you?
The culinary path was not my first choice. During high school I trained to be a mechanic, and after high school I completed my first year in college. After I completed my first year at college, I felt like pursuing mechanics wasn’t for me and I wanted to focus on a different career path. That’s when I decided to get into cooking and I started my apprenticeship to become a Red Seal Chef. One other thing you may not know about me is I extremely dislike yellow mustard. You name it, I like everything else! Dijon is not a problem, but when it comes to yellow mustard though, I just can’t stand it!
Chicken, Rice and Broccoli. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
If there was one thing you could tell the world, what would it be?
Stay humble, give back and live for the push! Strive to be the best you can be and push yourself everyday; it will only benefit you in the long run! Respect and listen to your mentors and give back to the world in some way. Remember, life is a journey and you only live once, so live it!
Wagyu Carpaccio. Photo by Darren Bernaerdt.
Keep an eye out for Lukas' new cookbook, "Tastes of Sonora - The 3rd Edition” on Sonora Resort’s website in May 2018.
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