A temporary change of pace from Quebec’s hectic restaurant scene drove Sebastien Vickers to the slopes of Whistler in 1999. He’d no sooner set foot upon the winter terrain when he landed a third cook position at the Roundhouse Lodge, beginning his culinary journey at this world-class ski destination.
Canadian-born and raised in France, Sebastien grew up around food and knew early on that he wanted to cook. Upon returning to Canada as a teen, he began studying culinary arts at a local Quebec college. After a few years of restaurant work he sought an outdoor lifestyle, opting to take on a season of fun before continuing his career. But his career, in fact, followed him.
He quickly rose to the second and first cook positions, followed by a move to the in-charge role at Steve’s Grill. A serious mountain bike accident kept him away from the kitchen for six months and he returned to the offer of a more operational, less physical sous chef position. To him, this period was a step in a managerial direction and, proving himself to excel in this area, he was soon named senior sous chef.
Sebastien now oversees operation of the 2,000 seat Roundhouse Lodge atop Whistler Mountain. Compared to his previous restaurant work, the hours and type of food service are most different. He views his highest priority as keeping his team of 60-70 winter and 25-30 summer staff happy and delivering high-quality food in this fast-paced, high-volume establishment. Managing labour, cost of goods, plus maintenance issues and organization of the fridge and kitchen consume the other moments of each day.
Sebastien stresses that “lots of things happen simultaneously” in such a hectic workplace and the pressure is high when the season is peak. The ability to “crisis manage” by leading, delegating, organizing and resolving are his keys to success and his ultimate career high at the end of the day.
From finding trained kitchen staff to working through front-end issues, the people part of the job is most challenging. The relaxed, social environment also requires managing the lines between being the boss and a friend. Keeping employees on your side is critical; they will work hard for you when they like and respect you.
Sebastien praises the industry for its opportunities for starting out and moving up. He’s quick to state that caring a lot about what you do and continually giving 110% gets you recognized by employers and rewarded with new challenges. The greater your commitment, the sweeter the benefits, both monetary and intrinsic.
Currently, Sebastien has his sights set on Red Seal certification, with the goal of eventually moving into the top two Roundhouse positions of executive chef and manager. Long-term, he sees himself as director of a large food and beverage operation. For now, this professional soaks up the mountain energy and takes advantage of the job’s greatest reward: walking into daylight hours after work and hitting the slopes every day.