Sometimes you just have to let the food speak for itself.
From succulent lamb loins to melt-in-your-mouth chicken breasts topped with morel mushrooms, Semiahmoo Resort’s new culinary director Eric Truglas is finding a myriad of ways to let the flavors of the Northwest’s best meat and produce be heard.
Hired in August, the Paris-born Epicurean World Master Chef has revamped the newly reopened resort’s menu and has brought his passion for the bon vivant, or good life, and philosophy of farm-to-table cuisine to the forefront, and is sticking close to home for his ingredients. “I’m visiting the farmer’s markets, meeting people and seeing what’s available,” Truglas said. “We’re just following the seasons.”
A classically trained French chef, Truglas said this emphasis on preparing local, seasonal foods stretches his talents and
causes him to constantly innovate in the kitchen, since he has to adapt to what’s available. “It can be limiting sometimes,” he said, “But it also makes me depend on my creativity. You have to have a respect for the ingredients you are using, a certain savoir faire and the skill to prepare them. You have to adapt.”
He anticipates that the menu will change several times throughout the year to stay in step with the what’s growing at the time. But, ultimately, simplicity is the key to making meals stand out, he said. “We’re using fresh, good produce and simple techniques,” he said, leaning on his French cuisine roots. “Too many ingredients can take away from the taste and flavor. It’s best to keep it simple.”
Truglas said he found his calling when he was young, as he became entranced with the vibrancy and abundance of the farmers’ markets near his mother’s workplace. “I would see them bringing in the fish first thing in the morning, and setting up their stands to sell produce,” he said. “I saw these people two to three times a week, and it seemed like fun. And, of course, with eight kids at my grandmother’s house there was always something cooking. I liked to eat and I liked food. I was the first one to decide to be a chef.”
It was a surprise for his family, since in France becoming a chef is typically a family tradition, and he was the first to embark on that life path. “They didn’t mind, though,” he laughed. “I was always experimenting at home. That’s the heart of this career. There’s always something new. You’re always learning.”
Now, he’s taking that zest for learning and is passing his culinary knowledge on to his staff at Semiahmoo, which includes a number of graduates from Bellingham Technical College’s (BTC) Culinary Arts Program, and has taken a position on the advisory board at BTC as well. “It’s really nice to have that resource in our backyard,” he said.
“He’s a great teacher,” said assistant general manager Ousmane Diop. “He’s very open minded when it come to involving the staff and creating the menu, and he takes the time to show the team the littlest things.”
Truglas said staying in the kitchen and keeping an open mind is the key to his success. “I love to play, and I’m always trying new things. It can be a challenge being an executive chef,” Truglas said. “You get pulled away from what you love in order to handle other things, so I make sure to spend time cooking on the line. I became a chef to cook.”
And while Truglas enjoys innovating and creating in the kitchen, he’s quick to key into traditions as well, and will be serving up Semiahmoo’s Thanksgiving banquet.
“People expect it,” Truglas said. “So we’re going to honor that tradition.”
“It’s part of Semiahmoo’s history,” said Diop. “Some of the first inquiries we had when we reopened were asking about whether we would have Thanksgiving here. We didn’t want to break tradition. Families have come here for years and years to have their meal.”
Truglas and his crew will be serving up a traditional, buffet-style Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings on Thursday, November 28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The meal will cost $36 per person and reservations can be made by calling the resort at 360/318-2000.