Spending time in kitchens with amazing chefs is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. On a recent trip to Yosemite National Park in California, I had the honor of spending an hour in the kitchen of Embers at the Tenaya Lodge with Chef Frederick.
First, let’s talk about the man. He’s pretty amazing beyond his culinary skills and it’s all about how he runs his kitchen. In a world where the restaurant business has one of the highest turnover rates, Chef Frederick has not only
maintained his staff for years, but they leave for wonderful opportunities, come back, and then bring friends and families in, because they love working for him so much.
Chef Frederick is also actively involved in the local high school, where he has students intern. He believes in idea seekers, allowing staff to take chances and to be involved in all parts of the kitchen.
He began at one of my favorite classic restaurants in Denver, the Brown Palace Hotel, and much of what you see at Embers has that same classic feel, such as Caeser Salad made table-side and Bananas Diablo lighting up the restaurant.
The chef is inspired by travel and travels often, but his favorite restaurant is the Fat Duck in London. He believes in fresh ingredients that are rustic and real, and maintains that sourcing locally and sustainably are key to providing customers what they desire.
Most recently the chef’s recipe for Braised Bison Short Ribs was featured in a newly released cookbook, Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison, by Jennifer Baines.
Now, for the kitchen. It is not just for Embers, as Chef Frederick is the Executive Chef for all dining experiences at Tenaya Lodge. But, let me just say that the kitchen is massive, orderly, and clean and I didn’t want to leave. The pastry area alone was as big as my bedroom and I have a huge bedroom.
Shall we talk food? Yes! Not much to say other than AMAZING! I believe that when engaging in a dining experience, what the chef serves is what you eat and to always order something you might not try somewhere else. Be an adventurous diner!
Quick note: We did have special diets in our group, gluten free and vegetarian, both of which were not just met, but the chef took the time to make sure the GF options were the same as the regular menu, just without gluten.
Our four course meal began with a not so little, Little Pack Mule Cocktail, a first for me, and I must say,it will not be my last! This was served with appetizers, which included an assortment of vegetable choices, such as stuffed artichoke hearts and strawberries stuffed with Brie and drizzled with balsamic vinegar; simple and done right. We also had family style panko and herb crusted lamb and Okinawa sweet potato shrimp with garlic, ginger, and green onion. I admit I had two of each.
Memories of the Brown Palace and my honeymoon all fresh in my mind from meeting with the chef, I had to have the Caesar Salad. I got a taste of the rich and delicious lobster bisque as well.
It was now time for the main course and although I was full, I kept going. Everyone’s meal looked wonderful and while I wanted a bite of each one, I restrained myself. I rarely order chicken out; the last time was four years ago at Blue Hill in New York. But, it sounded so delicious on Ember’s menu, it was chicken for me. Served seared over a beautiful bed of just wilted greens and white corn polenta, the dish had just enough sundried tomato-Gorgonzola cream as to not over power the fresh ingredients. I was super impressed.
To wrap up the evening, dessert was made tableside and flames and sparks were beautiful, as the team made us Bananas Diablo.
I certainly have to say hats off to Chef Frederick and his team. He has sold me on going back and enjoying some more of this beautiful menu. I can’t wait.
One final note. Embers is THE fine dining option at Tenaya Lodge and young children are requested not to dine here. They have a wonderful children’s programs for the kids to enjoy while you dine, if you have little ones with you. There are also many other options on the property, so everyone will leave very happy.