Gourmet dining in Alaska–meet the chef

After cutting his teeth in the kitchens of some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world, Chef Brendan Nolan made his way to provide gourmet dining in Alaska at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, bringing with him a distinct and creative culinary style that he continues to share with our guests on a daily basis. But besides being a world-class chef, who is Brendan Nolan and what makes him tick as a person? Here’s a little Q&A to shed some light on the life of the man who fuels up our guests with good eats every morning, afternoon and night.

Chef2

Where are you originally from and how did you come to offer gourmet dining in Alaska at TML?
I was born and raised in New York, starting in NYC and then jumping around until I flew the coop at 18. I was teaching at New England Culinary Institute when I met another Chef named Jeremy Storm. He had a circuit between Vermont and Alaska which sounded quite amazing to me. I asked him a few questions and expressed my interest in coming north to cook for skiing, not fishing as he did. Eventually, Jeremy Storm introduced me to Mike Overcast. I wrote a smarmy cover letter and after a year I got the call. I have been back every year since for winter, Cast and Carve and even some summer stints with one coming up this July. Alaska is like no other place.

Everyone has started somewhere in the culinary business, where did you get your start and gain experience before coming to TML?
I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. I cooked in Switzerland, NYC, Chicago, California, Vermont and Boston in a number of different settings.  All of those past experiences have led to where I am now.

Due to the short growing season and location of Alaska, sourcing local and/or organic goods can be difficult. How do you go about incorporating local, seasonal goods into your menus?
I have a lot of good resources over in Anchorage after having done this for a while and it is fun to cook here. King Salmon, King Crab, Halibut, Kachemak Oytsers, AK spot shrimp and more keeps things fresh and local. Produce can be a challenge, but is usually pretty good if the plane doesn’t get shut out for weather with all of the groceries on the other side.

Seafood is naturally top of mind when it comes to Alaskan dishes, but what are some of your favorites dishes, besides seafood, to prepare at TML?
I love to use veal, beef, elk, pheasants, ducks and more when I am not serving seafood. The number one skill required of all chefs to cook up here in Alaska is flexibility. Being flexible keep things interesting food wise and helps keep me sane.

When you’re not in the kitchen, what does Brendan do to take up his time?
I play music and we entertain ourselves here with jam sessions from time to time. I also play in an acoustic trio when I’m not here which is pure fun. Traveling is something I love to do, especially when I can get some work done along the way. I’ve been to Corsica and Mexico recently and I’m working on finalizing plans to head to Switzerland and maybe Brazil in the next year. Cooking in all these locations is really a blast as the local ingredients and seasonality roll along. I also try to get out for some skate skiing here at the lodge every day. It helps keep me on an even keel.

What are you listening to on your ipod right now?
That’s a tough one. I like most any kind of music. But blues, jazz and rock are tops for me. Pick your favorite artist in these genres and chances are you’ll find them in my selection.

Have you had any first descents in the Tordrillos? If so, what did you name it?
I have been lucky enough to be on a handful of first descents and have had my mind bent in these mountains. One time I suggested “Grandmas Underpants.” I was overruled.

What was it about the TML opportunity that was attractive to you – the chance to be creative as a chef, the chance to heli ski . . . or both?
I love to ski and always have. Obviously, going out into the mountains to heli ski is a shot that lasts for days and an opportunity that not many people get. I definitely do not take it for granted.  However, I got into cooking because I loved the act of cooking and I love to move around and see the world while I’m doing it. I’m not lying when I say this job is the best of both worlds.