Ski Famille: fine food on the slopes

by Great British Chefs 20 October 2021

A skiing holiday is just as much about the evenings as it is the time on the slopes. Ski Famille’s executive chef George Dyer tells us how he’s elevating the menus served at the resorts’ chalets and how chefs interested in joining him can get involved.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

People who go on skiing holidays generally tend to go because of – you guessed it – the skiing. But after all that high-energy sliding on snow throughout the day, what you do in the evenings is just as important as the main activity. You want warming, hearty dishes that are filling enough so you’re ready to hit the slopes again the following day, but you also want to be treated – you’re on holiday, after all.

That’s something Ski Famille – which operates sixteen chalets across four French alpine resorts – knows all too well. While the company prides itself on its childcare and family-friendly experiences, the business’ new head chef George Dyer is pushing the food offering forward and hiring a new cohort of chefs to help him do it. ‘At the moment it’s hearty home-style chalet dishes, but I’m looking to elevate everything slightly,’ he explains. ‘I want it to be a high-quality dinner party sort of vibe which celebrates local produce at the same time. I’ve been in and around skiing and ski holidays pretty much all my life, but I’ve always felt the food has been the same. There’s definitely something more we can offer.’

George’s first taste of hospitality was in fact during a ski season, but since then he’s worked at all levels of the hospitality industry, from consulting for London gastropubs to a stage at the legendary Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. He’s able to bring those little fine dining tips and tricks into the menus he’s developed, creating dishes which comfort, warm and satisfy but are a step above the usual chalet fare. This new way of preparing food will continue to progress and change with the new chefs George brings on board – chefs who might want a change of pace and work environment compared to what’s available to them in the UK.

‘It’s a different setup to your average professional kitchen, as there’s usually just one or two chefs cooking in each chalet, working in a kitchen that’s a sort of hybrid between commercial and domestic,’ says George. ‘The kitchen is open, which gives guests and the chefs plenty of opportunity to interact with one another, and that’s something that both parties seem to really enjoy.’

Cooking great food halfway up a mountain isn’t without its challenges, of course – getting suppliers who are willing to make the trek to drop off quality produce can take a bit of research. But that’s exactly why George wants to celebrate the local products and dishes from the areas around the resorts. ‘These mountainous regions are perhaps not as well known for their food as they should be, and by incorporating that into what we cook and serve at Ski Famille we can create a real sense of being on holiday.’

Presentation of dishes is a key part of how George is improving the food. ‘Previously we might have cooked a stuffed chicken breast with some roast potatoes and green beans,’ he explains. ‘It had that home-cooked feel but perhaps wasn’t special enough. Moving forward, we’d like to serve dishes such as duck breast with a parsnip and smoked garlic purée, pickled blackberries and braised cavolo nero, with a little bit of white chocolate on there to make things interesting. It’s still got those intense, rich, hearty flavours, but everything’s a little more refined.

The focus is always on the guests who are staying at Ski Famille’s chalets, but the chefs that work there get plenty of perks too. Of course, there’s ample opportunity to ski or snowboard during downtime, but George is keen to bring aboard chefs who want to cook first, ski second. While there will of course be menus and recipes created for the business, chalet chefs who want to put their own spin on things are more than welcome to. There’s a somewhat more relaxed work environment compared to the intensity of a restaurant kitchen, and the opportunity to cook in beautiful surroundings, talk to guests as you do so and learn new skills along the way is bound to inspire.

‘We work with several large cookery schools in London but we’re looking to recruit chefs from all walks of life,’ says George. ‘So long as they are passionate about food and want to create top quality dishes – with a bit of skiing and snowboarding during the downtime of course – then we’d love to hear from them. We tend to do a big recruitment drive over a three-month period in the run-up to winter, which is when we operate, however we’re also working on creating year-long opportunities which also help with employment through the summer too.’

Ski Famille is treading new ground when it comes to the food served at ski chalets. If you’re a chef and interested to find out more, visit skifamille.co.uk/ski-jobs