Filling hungry post slope tummies.
Founder of The Hive Cookery School and former Ski Beat Area Manager, Christina Hadden, talks about filling hungry post slope tummies, cooking soft-boiled eggs at altitude and what it takes to keep the kiddies smiling.
Christina (centre) and her Hive team
High up in the French Alps, nestled snuggly in the Vanoise National Park, lies the prestigious Hive Cookery School. The high altitude headquarters for all things food, this is the place where many Ski Beat ‘chalet hosts-in-training’ gather before the ski season to develop and hone their cookery skills. Here, Christina talks about cooking the perfect soft boiled egg at high altitude, the intricate process of creating the Ski Beat meal plan, and the return of some food favourites to the menu!
It sounds like you’re certainly living the dream up there in the snowy French Alps, working with your two great loves – skiing and cooking?
I think I’ve got it alright! It suits me massively. It’s great to be out here all year round.
Let’s talk food – just how much thought, time and effort goes into creating the Ski Beat menu plan?
Since the company first started, it’s been a work in progress. Each year, we look at the guest and staff feedback; their thoughts on each dish, what they liked and what they didn’t like. We compile that information and analyse all the results, which then dictates the direction that the menu plan will go in.
So, you consider both the Ski Beat chalet host and the customer’s needs when creating the recipes?
Yes, you want to ensure that the chalet hosts enjoy their season and get plenty of time on the slopes. You have to factor in how long a meal takes to prepare, whether they have space in their oven, and whether they have the right equipment – a lot of practical stuff.
And what about guests’ needs?
One of the most important things for guests is the nutritional value. You need to make sure each meal has a good balance of protein, carbs, vegetables, and so on. Generous portions are important, and you want to think about different flavours, textures and colours – you don’t want the plate to be just beige!
And what about cooking for children, Christina? We all know that they can be the most discerning guests of all!
They certainly can – just as much thought, effort and energy goes into researching, testing and producing recipes for kids. We offer a variety of fun, exciting and nutritional meals for children, and our hosts will speak to the parents at length about likes and dislikes to ensure that the kids are kept happy all week. As we all know, happy children equal happy parents!
Dietary requirements must play a huge part when it comes to creating menu plans, too?
Dietary requirements are becoming increasingly common, and the menu plan has been revamped to reflect that. We make sure we cater for everyone. Vegetarian, coeliac, lactose intolerant – whatever the intolerance may be – we try to find alternative ingredients, so that they can eat what everyone else is eating.
Does that mean more work for the chalet hosts?
Yes, they might be cooking two versions of the same dish, which does create more work for them, but they definitely enjoy the challenge.
How do you manage to cater to everyone’s tastes?
That’s the challenge we face! It comes back to the research, which really gives us an insight into what people like. We ask our guests and our staff what they’d like to see on the menu, and we test the recipes vigorously.
Is there one dish that proves popular with everyone?
There is! It’s a local dish called Tartiflette; a deliciously rich and creamy dish made of potatoes, onion, bacon and cheese. It’s delicious! We have had so many requests to put it on the menu plan, and that’s why it’s there. The challenge we now face is to find the best recipe for it. It’s the perfect dish after a day on the slopes. We believe that with the right recipe and the right accompaniments, it’s going to be a cracking dinner.
Tell us, do you have a personal Ski Beat recipe favourite?
I certainly do – the tarragon chicken. It’s something that used to be on the menu plan a long time ago – nearly ten years ago. I’m delighted we’re bringing it back this year. It’s a hugely popular dish.
Let’s talk cooking at altitude. There’s a little test Ski Beat chalet hosts- in-training must master before their guests arrive...
There is indeed. One of the first things we get them to do is learn how to cook the perfect soft boiled egg.
Sounds pretty easy
You would think, but altitude plays a huge part in getting it right. At a higher altitude, the air pressure makes water boil at a lower temperature, so the correct cooking time for the perfect soft boiled egg differs, depending on altitude.
We didn’t realise altitude played a role in cooking!
Another effect of high altitude cooking is that liquid evaporates faster. When you’re cooking meat or anything that contains liquid at high altitude, it tends to dry out. We do use sauces and other accompaniments to counteract the effects, and all our recipes are adapted to be used at altitude. It’s important that our chalet hosts understand the effects of high altitude cooking.
Tell us, do all of Ski Beat’s chalet hosts boast a natural flair for cooking?
Our chalet hosts are hired for their sparkling personalities, as well as their ability to create good food. It’s important to remember that they are not professional chefs – they’re just really passionate cooks, who have been through the Ski Beat training. By the time our guests arrive, all our chalet hosts will have the skills needed to run a chalet.
We get the impression you’re a strict task master?
Well, we have high standards, so I guess I’m firm but fair!
the ski beat menu
Baked Camembert with Onion Marmalade
Tomato Tarte Tatin
French Onion Soup
Pea & Mint Soup
Ginger Beef Casserole or Moroccan Chickpea Casserole
served with sides of Parsley Couscous, Cumin Roasted Carrots, and Buttered Savoy Cabbage
Tarragon Chicken or Leek & Squash Cannelloni
served with sides of Paprika Potato Wedges, Sautéed Leeks, and French Style Peas
Salmon with Parsley & Parmesan Crust or Ratatouille
served with sides of Haricot Mash, French Beans with Onion Garnish, and Crispy Cauliflower
Tartiflette or Vegetarian Tartiflette
served with sides of Crusty French Bread, Crispy Green Salad, and Cornichons
Spiced Pork Filet or Falafel
served with sides of Stock Cooked Rice, Red Onion Salad & Raita, and Sweetcorn, Peppers & Spring Onions
Roast Duck Breast in Cassis Sauce or Ricotta Rice Cakes & Red Pepper Relish
served with sides of Creamy Mashed Potato, Broccoli Spears, and Courgette Ribbons
Apple & Orange Crumble with Ice Cream
Coffee Panna Cotta
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
Tarte au Citron
Cheese & Port
Please note that this is a sample menu for the season and may be subject to change.