Rocky Mountaineer's Chef Guerin

French chef orchestrates a symphony of taste for Rocky Mountaineer passengers.

There’s a symphony taking place on the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer train, but passengers will never hear it. That’s because maestro and executive chef Jean Pierre Guerin is conducting what he calls a logistical symphony in the train’s galley. The end result is a season filled with well-orchestrated and delicious meals.

On a recent Rocky Mountaineer trip, I was fascinated by the work of the train’s culinary staff. Theirs is no simple feat.

Guerin, one of three executive chefs employed by Rocky Mountaineer, said each train usually has three chefs per galley; 26 chefs in total were working during my trip. Keep in mind that these kitchens are approximately 15 feet long and less than 5 feet wide. 

“A lot of the staff has never worked in such a small space before,” Guerin said. “And when you add hosts plating food, that makes things really cozy.” 

When the travel season begins, Guerin said it takes a few days for everyone to get their “train legs” and find a working rhythm on the moving train. The precision of service is perfectly timed, down to placing the garnish on top of a breakfast dish and hitting the mark perfectly on each plate.  

There are two levels of food service offered by Rocky Mountaineer: SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf. If you believe food to be an integral part of any trip, opt for GoldLeaf service. The meals are freshly prepared on the train. In SilverLeaf class, warming ovens are used to reheat prepared food brought on board. And like in-flight food service, SilverLeaf passengers eat at their seat.

However, the domed bi-level GoldLeaf train cars have a lower-level dining room. Twice a day, we walked downstairs to be served by our hosts. This also provided opportunities to enjoy a meal with fellow passengers. Entertaining conversations were the perfect side to these lovely meals.

Breakfast featured dishes such as softly scrambled eggs with delicate smoked salmon and Eggs Benedict. Lunch menus include vegetarian dishes, as well as locally sourced chicken, beef, lamb — even elk — and fresh salmon. 

“You have to serve salmon in British Columbia,” Guerin said, adding the beef dishes also are among the most popular. And as the day’s main meal, local wines are offered at lunch.

Add in morning scones and tea, an afternoon cheese and wine tasting, and appetizers and drinks just prior to leaving the train for the day, and you’ll get the idea of hospitality enjoyed on board. 

Not surprisingly, feeding more than 100,000 passengers in the six-month season requires meticulous planning. The train stops running in late October, and after a brief holiday (Guerin said he likes to go “someplace warm”), menus for next year are developed in November and into December. Guerin incorporates comments from passengers to help him tweak the menu. Procurement begins in January and February — including nearly 1,000 pounds of smoked salmon and 3,300 pounds of white cheddar cheese from Canada — so that everything is ready for the first departure in mid-April.   

This year marks Guerin’s 12th season with Rocky Mountaineer. Born in Bordeaux, France, Guerin began his career at high-end restaurants in France, Canada, and the Caribbean. He was executive chef at Five Sails Restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., as well a restaurant in Hong Kong. He’s made meals for former President Bill Clinton, actress Meryl Streep, and Princess Diana. The award-winning chef credits his mother and business partner Frederic Couton (also a Rocky Mountaineer executive chef) as his biggest culinary influences.

He developed the cookbook, Eat, Play, Love, for Rocky Mountaineer passengers that features some of the most popular menu items. Passengers can select the cookbook among the souvenir choices ordered on the first day’s journey. Your memento will be waiting for you at your seat the following morning.  

Guerin realizes what’s asked of him and his culinary team has its challenges. Cooking for a train car full of people in what amounts to a space the size of a butler’s pantry is no small task. But the job does have its perks. He said he always tries to find a moment each day to stand on the train’s viewing platform and take in the beautiful sights and sounds. Visiting with passengers is another enjoyable aspect of the job.

All in all, not a bad day at the office.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Midwest and AAA Southern Traveler magazines.

 

Before You Go

Your AAA Travel professional can help you plan a trip with Rocky Mountaineer. Call (800) 281-7916 or find a branch nearest you.
Rocky Mountaineer train

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