Chef Robert Brouillette, of the storied Gold Pan Saloon in Whitehorse, is passionate about showcasing local ingredients. Brouillette began working in restaurants at age 16. After working in his family’s Québec vineyard for six years and studying in fine French bistros with chefs from Paris, Bretagne and Alsace, Brouillette’s sense of adventure brought him from Montréal to the Yukon in 2016. At the Gold Pan, Brouillette is creating a “sustainable kitchen,” which offers local produce and farmed meats from Yukon farms and suppliers, as well as craft beer from Yukon Brewing and Winterlong.

“The Gold Pan saloon is an institution in the Yukon,” he said. “We’re proud to have developed new menus in partnership and collaboration with local suppliers, farmers and crafters. Working together creates lots of good outcomes and makes a strong local economy in the community.

Abundant carrot harvest at Sarah’s Harvest, at Lendrum Ross Farm, located 50 km north of Whitehorse on Lake Laberge, this August

“We’re part of a sustainable initiative where we compost or donate our organic waste and used oil to Flat Creek Farms for animal feed and for their research in developing new heating sources. Our actual waste has gone down dramatically. We are reprocessing whatever we can.”

Brouillette sought out local farmers through Yukon Agriculture Society listings. “At first I kind of did it on my own. I was new in town, so I didn’t know who was out there. I started contacting farmers directly and it grew from there … I love working with this amazing fresh produce. It’s organic, so well-cared-for and grown. We have booming farmers in the Yukon right now, their products are high-quality.”

Brouillette’s latest Gold Pan Saloon menu, released in early August, is packed with local ingredients from local suppliers like Little Red Hen’s Farm, Sarah’s Harvest, Yukon Gardens, Can Do farms, Flat Creek Farms, Horse Haven Ranch, The Deli, Naturally Northern Meats, Yukon Berry Farms, The Maple Rush, Uncle Berwyn’s Birch Syrup, Elemental Farms, and Sunny Side Farms. There’s farmed elk, bison, haskap berries, wild-caught B.C. salmon, organic pea shoots and tons of other crunchy greens, 20-oz ribeye steak, duck confit, housemade duck paté, farm fresh eggs, pork belly, birch syrup, venison, heirloom tomatoes, scratch-made beef and vegan Pho, and housemade venison jerky. 

“I love to showcase these local proteins,” said Broulliette. “There’s lots to work with! Our burgers are made of 100 per cent Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms. We carry local produce and protein in season and as long as availability allows us to do so.” 

Always happy to experiment in the kitchen, Brouillette said that when fresh greens are out of season, he plans to work with root crops.

“It’s up to us to get creative, to start preserving and canning to stay local and sustainable.”

Weekday lunch specials and a charcuterie board appetizer feature local suppliers. Tuesday nights, there’s a new rotating tapas menu with items such as elk carpaccio, king crab dip, and crisp tempura with local veg. New desserts, include a vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake, apple crisp, Kalua lava cake, Bailey’s cheesecake, and old favourite Gold Pan Nuggets (house made mini-donuts) complete the new menu.

All told, how does buying local affect this busy kitchen’s bottom line? Broulliette explained, “Most of the Yukon suppliers and farmers have practiced price-matching to work together with us. This makes it a lot easier on me as a chef, in terms of keeping the company’s practices viable.”