At the Top of His Game
on the Top of the Mountain
A Biography of Iain Rennie,
Executive Chef, Bear Mountain Resort
Posted On 11.12.06
Victoria, BC - Iain Rennie was born with a spoon in his mouth. In his case, the spoon was not silver but a ladle used to taste soup, stir cake batter or mix a rich sauce. Bear Mountain Resort’s executive chef is a third generation chef and Rennie wears his culinary lineage with pride.
Born in Ayr, Scotland, Rennie’s father followed his father to Canada. Rennie’s grandfather, a pastry chef, had immigrated to Canada in advance of the rest of the family. He opened a Scottish bakery in Parksville, B.C., where he deftly crafted the much-loved confections of Scotland such as oat cakes and shortbread, while also building a business that supplied many of the local grocery stores with fresh bread.
Rennie’s dad was also an expert chef in Scotland, who, upon arrival in Canada, translated his cooking talents to the shores of Vancouver Island, first working in a local hotel, and later as a chef instructor at Qualicum College and then Malaspina College in the Culinary Arts Program.
As a boy, Rennie was always under foot, be it in the kitchen of the hotel with his father or at the bakery with his grandfather. He literally learned the business from the ground up.
His was a passion for the savoury. In high school, Rennie started his own pate business. At the age of 14, he could be found peddling about Parksville delivering his pates from a basket at the back of his bike. In the heart of his parent’s kitchen, he would spend hours mixing up delectable concoctions using his own recipes, such as his chicken liver pate with Cumberland sauce, for which he developed a degree of local fame and a loyal following.
His jobs during high school were all food related. For two years he worked “on the line” at the high-end Tigh-Na-Mara Resort in Parksville. Upon graduation from high school he enrolled into Malaspina’s much lauded Culinary Arts program. Here he learned the basics of contemporary French cooking and graduated with a Professional Cook’s certificate in 1990.
He left Vancouver Island to work with respected Executive Chef Ernst Doffler at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver. It launched Rennie on a learning curve that included intense yet gratifying hours in every facet of the food and beverage operation at the Pan Pacific. During this time Rennie also participated in numerous international cooking competitions in Asia and Europe, both as a member of acclaimed Culinary Team BC, and as a solo chef, bringing home “gold” on numerous occasions.
At 36, he ventured off shore and worked at the famed Savoy Hotel in London. Here, the orders were called in French, the hours never-ending and the lessons learned indelibly etched. It taught him discipline and it honed his skill in multi-disciplinary cooking modalities. He earned his stripes during this year away, and lived to tell the tale.
Back in Canada, he returned to the Pan Pacific for a short-period and then moved to work with the Fairmont Hotel chain. His first posting with the Fairmont was as Executive Sous Chef at the Empress, where, in short order, he was honoured with Employee of the Year by Vancouver Island's hospitality industry. Rennie won the honour over a field comprised of Vancouver Island's best hospitality employees, nominated by the Executive Food Services of B.C. and the Federation of Chefs de Cuisine for the award.
From 1996 to 2006, he worked his way up the Fairmont ladder, from The Empress in Victoria, to Executive Chef of the Fairmont YVR and for two years prior to his move to Bear Mountain, as Executive Chef at the ultra-exclusive Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver.
Presented with the opportunity to return to Vancouver Island and assume the helm of the flourishing and diverse food and beverage operations at Bear Mountain, including the newly opened Westin Bear Mountain Victoria Golf Resort & Spa, Rennie, up for a challenge, picked up his knives, ladles and laptop and went to the top of the mountain.
Bear Mountain has evolved into one of the most dynamic food scenes on Vancouver Island. The range of offerings runs the gamut from international high-end cuisine at the acclaimed Panache Restaurant in the Westin Bear Mountain, to Jack’s Place, for the best burgers possible at 1,200 feet above sea level or Kuma for sushi with a twist. With Rennie now overseeing the food and beverage expansion, the vision is to add more outlets and pull in many world flavours in unique and interesting ways.
A man should dream. Rennie does. He wants Bear Mountain to become a “must experience” food destination for Victoria, Langford and The Highlands. He is putting the team in place to do exactly that. His only handicap, and he is working on fixing it, is not being able to play golf, but he figures he just might be able to source some professional help to rectify that.
About Bear Mountain Resort
The premier destination and first and only master-planned resort community on Vancouver Island, Bear Mountain Resort provides a complete lifestyle experience, offering a variety of residential and vacation real estate opportunities as well as The Westin Bear Mountain Victoria Golf Resort & Spa. Situated on 1,500 acres of mountainside property, the community features the first and only 36-hole Nicklaus-Design golf offering in Canada, medical and traditional aesthetics at the Santé Spa, three world-class restaurants and the state-of-the-art Mountainside Athletic Club, all within minutes of the beautiful seaside harbor of Victoria, British Columbia. For more information, visit www.bearmountain.ca or call 1.888.533.BEAR.
Credit: Bear Mountain PR