by Nickolas Neely | Photo © Ruperts
In recent years, “local” has become the culinary equivalent of “location” in real estate. Chefs have come to understand it’s a major selling point in the food they create, and for good reason. With fresh quality ingredients, sourced locally, you ensure a fresher, healthier product; you support the community economy; and you know exactly what went into the production of your food.
In the small town of McCall, Idaho, with a population of less than 3,000, Chef Gary Kucy of Rupert’s at Hotel McCall takes “local” as seriously as any upscale restaurant chef in a major metro area. McCall sits on the southern shores of scenic Payette Lake and draws its fair share of visitors in its active, snowy winter and its hot, busy summer. Between these two extremes is a relatively short growing season.
In this environment, Kucy manages to maintain a varied seasonal menu wrought from local ingredients and local flavor. Oftentimes, Kucy is able to find the ideal ingredients from the farmer’s market right across the street, and he forages for mushrooms and huckleberries in the nearby wilderness. When supply permits, Chef Kucy incorporates local meats into his menu, venison, elk and bison being favorites. The bison come from neighboring North Wood Buffalo Farm where owners Eloris Chisholm and Larry Wilhite raise their stock on a natural, grass-fed diet. The elk, from Black Canyon Elk Ranch, also enjoy a natural grass diet.
Kucy’s plates tend toward specific world cuisines, including Southwestern, Mediterranean and Asian. Since he ensures his ingredients maintain a fresh, vibrant flavor, he rarely incorporates sauces into his plates, as he believes they only serve to dilute the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients.
Kucy’s attention to sourcing, freshness and flavor recently earned him a semi-finalist award for “Best Chef: Northwest” from the James Beard Foundation, a significant achievement, considering the Northwest has become a food hub teeming with great chefs. His interest in cooking began at a young age in his family’s pizzeria. When he began his formal culinary education, it was with a three-year apprenticeship at the famed Five-Star Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. He has since brought his southwestern flair to restaurants in Singapore, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and Seattle. After such successes in major cities around the world, why McCall, Idaho? Few places are as close to the source of natural farm-, ranch- and forest-fresh ingredients.
For more information about Rupert’s, visit rupertsathotelmccall.com. To learn more about the historic Hotel McCall, go to hotelmccall.com. For information about visiting the scenic lakefront town of McCall, go to mccallchamber.org.