Hirsch gets cooking with Dumas
July 1, 2006
Although many critics said it would be impossible to replace an executive chef like Jean-Louis Montecot, Hope Eccles, owner of the Goldener Hirsch Inn, might have done it.
Eccles recently named James Dumas as Montecot’s replacement, he has already begun to make a mark at the four-star restaurant at Deer Valley.
"We did a search for a chef who would continue the excellence we had achieved," Eccles said. "His reputation for excellence and his local knowledge of having been a participant at Deer Valley was great, but his reputation as an excellent chef was of the most interest to us. He’s already doing great things."
Dumas used to be the executive chef of Sai-Sommet, which he still owns, but he went across the street to the Goldener Hirsch because he said it felt like home. Having trained in Switzerland, Dumas blended in immediately with the Austrian-Swiss-American feel of the hotel.
"We’re not exclusively an Austrian restaurant — we’ve always called it contemporary alpine American cuisine — but he’ll be able to take his roots and apply them to what he does. However, his roots certainly do not limit him. I think he brings a level of excitement to the Inn.
Dumas became well known at Sai-Sommet for presenting a constantly revolving menu, depending on the season. Eccles said that, although the main menu will remain the same throughout the year, Dumas will constantly run seasonal specials.
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Dumas said he often doesn’t even know what food is being brought in on his next shipment.
At Sai-Sommet the menu changed constantly, and I’ll probably bring that idea with me," Dumas said. Everything is fresh and most of the times I don’t have any idea what I’m getting. There’s always a surprise in the FedEx truck."
He also said the previous menu will be changed somewhat, that the courses will have a strong Austrian sway to them, but that there’s some room for him to "play around."
"The history of this Inn is pretty cool and a lot of what I have on the menu will come from that. It’s modeled after the Goldener-Hirsch in Austria, which is why they want to stick with the Austrian flavor. The decor, the paint, table clothes, everything was kind of taken from the Salzburg property."
The menu will feature breakfast, lunch, après ski and dinner. Each will have its own menu.
Breakfast will focus on a Swiss-Austrian continental, which Dumas said is a big step up from an American continental. It includes meats, cereals, yogurts, pastries, dried fruits, nuts, omelets and a sourdough waffle station to be added in the winter.
"Lunch is going to be tablecloth dining, so the trick with doing that on-mountain is to know that the clientele is looking for good food, but that they want it in a hurry so they can get back out and enjoy the world-class skiing."
The lunch menu will include soups, salads, authentic wild-game goulash and other entrees.
Après ski will feature signature items such as raclette and fondue, which are both alpine cheese specialties, as well as other hearty alpine items.
A third of the dinner menu will be comprised of traditional Austrian dishes, such as wiener schnitzel, wild game and fondue, as well as what Dumas calls "dishes we can have some fun with."
"It will change with the mood and feel of the week and the products we can get," he said. "I’d like to keep my product mix interesting."
Dumas implemented the idea of the revolving menu at Sai-Sommet, which his wife Kris Dumas will now run.
"I’m basically turning over ownership to her to make it sure it’s being run the same way."
Much like Sai-Sommet, Dumas will get the chance to use his background and training in his work. Dumas has dual citizenship with the United States and Switzerland, although he said he was 100 percent for the Swiss team during the World Cup.
"I went to the Culinary Institute in New York and I externed with a guy who sort of pioneered American cuisine," Dumas said. "I was asking him how I could get to that next step and he said to go to Europe. We used to switch chefs every week and different ones would come in and talk to our class and the ones from Europe were always the best, so I went. That experience was invaluable and gives me a calmness in the kitchen you can hear a pin drop when we’re back there."
Dumas started poking around with cooking in high school, but said the motivating factor was chemistry.
"I was in chemistry class and there was a chapter called ‘Chemistry in the Home.’ I started skimming ahead and everything was associated with food, and it really got me going," he said. "I still really don’t work with recipes, but instead with ratios and how things blend together, like in chemistry."
From high school chemistry to studying in Switzerland and now back to the U.S., Dumas said his experiences help him learn every day. But, he concluded, it’s home he longs for.
"It’s the first time I’ve ever worked for somebody in the States I’ve always owned my own place," he said. "But when I walk into the Hirsh, I feel like I’m back in Europe. I feel like I’m back at home it’s the strangest thing."