Meet Your Chef: Four Seasons’ Simon Purvis tells stories from cooking around the world
Chef Simon Purvis is enjoying a brief stint with the Four Seasons in Vail while the Four Seasons in Denver undergoes extensive renovations. While he’s returning to his position in Denver when the hotel plans to reopen in spring 2021, Purvis is already getting his feet wet here in Vail.
Originally from a town called Gosport in sourthern England — “I like to call it the English Riviera,” he jokes — Purvis first came to the United States in 2002 after working in Four Seasons properties around the world, including Singapore and Indonesia.
1. How long have you lived in the valley and what brought you here?
I had an amazing opportunity to come to this beautiful property while they are undergoing a full renovation of restaurant, bars, rooms. … I get to spend the next four months here.
2. Where did your passion for cooking come from?
I think like most chefs, it’s because of family. My grandmother was a great cook. Getting together for family reunions and Christmases and Easters, I think that’s where my real passion for food came from. When I was a teenager, I was trying to find a career that would allow me to use my creativity, to work with my hands, and I decided to go to culinary school. From day one, I haven’t looked back. I feel so fortunate to have a career that I continue to be so passionate about.
3. What do you enjoy about being a chef in the Vail Valley?
I will definitely say that the staffing is quite different here compared to Denver, where I worked before the renovations. Similar to Jackson Hole, it’s a very seasonal property. Busy winter months, some off season months, and then busy summer months. Making sure that you find the right staff, and tapping into their passion so we can ensure they are enriching their lives, is key to maintaining a strong team.
4. Skier or snowboarder (or neither)? How often do you get out and where do you go. Also, what are your favorite summer activities?
I can do both. I enjoy snowboarding on a powder day. I also really enjoy cross-country skiing, there’s something about being so peaceful and surrounded by nature while exercising that I really love. I get to see the mountain every day. I plan on going once or twice a week. For the summer, I love walking around, enjoying nature, golf, tennis — and recently I picked up pickleball, so, looking forward to that this summer. Fly-fishing, anything in nature is my favorite.
5. What do you like to eat?
I always get asked this. People often say, I couldn’t have you over to my house because I don’t even know what I’d cook for you. I always tell them that my favorite food is something that I don’t necessarily have to cook myself. I like to be treated by others. There are one or two dishes that I’ve learned to make in a very particular way. One of them is a dish I used to make back in Bali, Indonesia, and it’s called char kway teow — a traditional rice noodle dish — and nasi goreng — a traditional Balinese style fried rice. I love making grilled salmon too, perhaps on a salad, as it’s such a delicious and healthy meal.
6. Who has helped you along the way/what inspires you?
I have a couple of great influences throughout my career. One was Jeff Bland at the Caledonian Hotel. He was a very calm person and his demeanor would reflect throughout the kitchen. I’ve worked with some very crazy people that were screaming and shouting, and I always thought that I’d like to be a chef like Jeff Bland. The other one was a gentleman named Chef Wolfgang von Wieser. When I started with Four Seasons back in 1990, he was my chef and I just loved his never-ending passion to be the best and find the best products, have the best team. Those are two of my primary influences.
7. Any funny stories over the years?
I was the restaurant chef in Melbourne and there was a very busy service, and a severe mushroom allergy came in. I remember checking the ticket and checking the food prior to sending everything out. A few minutes after the dish is served, the restaurant door opens and a guest is being carried out in a chair. I thought for quick second it was the mushroom allergy. Luckily he was simply inebriated. But, that realization of, “oh my goodness, it’s the mushroom guy,” to, “no it’s a guest that’s drunk,” was a really funny story to me.
8. What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I think I’d be pilot. I love to travel. And, now as I get older, I think I’d love to be a fisherman. Going out every day on the ocean and enjoying the sea.
9. What can diners expect from a meal at your restaurant?
I want them to know that we put a lot of thought into everything that we do. The dish that you receive is something that we’ve worked very hard on. From planning through trials, tastings, experiments with the recipes: We really put a lot of effort into everything we create. We are very fortunate to have an exceptional team back in the kitchen that are very passionate and professional and they really care about providing an exceptional experience.
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