Chef Terry Port's connection to the Columbia Icefield began when he was 14 years old. "I remember standing on the glacier, next to a huge Ice Explorer," he says. "That was back before the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre was built. It was still the old chalet with it's red roof."
After Chef Terry's teenage visit, he returned home to Ontario and embarked on what has become a 24-year journey in the world of hospitality. When he started his first position as a dishwasher, Chef Terry never imagined that he was taking the first steps in a career that would lead him back to the Columbia Icefield. "I learned so much in that first role," he says. "I went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu [Culinary Arts Institute] in Ottawa, and I just fell in love with the industry."
More than two decades later, Chef Terry is now Executive Chef at the Columbia Icefield for the Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit. Throughout the culinary journey that lead him back to the Columbia Icefield, he has picked up his share of important life lessons. He shared a few of his rules to live by.
1. It's all About Respect
"I've had the opportunity to work under some phenomenal chefs who were very influential," says Terry. "Being able to work with a great leadership team and seeing how they've reacted to different situations has taught me so much."
In Chef Terry's kitchen, every team member is treated with respect and every role matters. Having worked in a full range of roles himself, Chef Terry knows firsthand how essential team cooperation really is. "I very much value and respect every position," he says. "Especially in such a high-volume environment, working together as a team is paramount."
2. Search out Inspiration
When designing a menu, Chef Terry doesn't wait for inspiration to find him. He actively searches for it, and often draws culinary inspiration from his cultural background. The unique flavours of his mother's Ukrainian fare and his father's Persian cooking have inspired signature dishes like his tea-smoked duck with pomegranate and pistachio.
Chef Terry is also a big believer in traveling near and far to learn about old classics and new trends in the culinary industry. And if he's not traveling then he's likely reading. Chef Terry believes that books are the next best way to expand your world. His top pick is The French Laundry Cookbook by Chef Thomas Keller. "Every cook should read this book," he says. Chef Terry can rattle off a book title for every level of experience and method of cooking. Currently, he is happily working his way through the five volumes of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.
3. Take the Next Big Step
Chef Terry is shifting from city life in Toronto to mountain life in the Canadian Rockies. It was a decision that he didn't take lightly. He's a self-proclaimed extrovert and knows that the remote lifestyle at the Columbia Icefield will be a change for him - a change he is very much looking forward to. "I am going to be literally living and breathing the Columbia Icefield," he says.
In Chef Terry's experience, trying something new is the best way to find out if it's the right fit for you. He understands that the remote location of the Columbia Icefield can be intimidating to someone considering working a summer season at the Columbia Icefield. "We're focused on finding the right people," he says. "We're looking for staff who are self-sufficient and enjoy the outdoors. We need people who will thrive on a sense of comradery."
This summer, Chef Terry and his team will feed up to 5,000 hungry explorers every day at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. Chef Terry is looking forward to the exhilarating rush of running the two dining establishments at the Columbia Icefield. Both Altitude Restaurant and Chalet were fully renovated just last year and will soon re-open their doors for the summer season.
Interested in joining Chef Terry's team and spending a summer in the heart of the Canadian Rockies? Check out current positions at the Columbia Icefield.