Meet Executive Chef jW Foster of the Fairmont Banff Springs
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Inspired by his grandmother and their leisurely Sunday afternoons in the kitchen, Chef jW Foster has always been passionate about food. His culinary career began more than 25 years ago as a teenager growing up in Guelph, Ontario. From the beginning he prided himself on providing guests with an extraordinary experience they would always remember.
Chef Foster’s first introduction to Fairmont Hotels & Resorts was a season at Chateau Lake Louise in 1992. After a journey west he returned to southern Ontario to run historic Four Diamond country inns which led him to return to hotels at The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. As Executive Sous Chef, the Royal York afforded him the opportunity to supervise more than 100 cooks and oversee daily operations of a food and beverage department. In addition, he spearheaded the hotel’s apprenticeship program, inspiring dozens of young cooks as he helped them hone their skills and harness their creative talents.
His next post was at The Fairmont Dallas as Executive Chef. Chef Foster’s passion for local, regional flavours led him to plant a 3,000 square foot garden on the hotel’s terrace. From heirloom tomatoes; to watermelon and pumpkins; from Turkey figs to Meyer lemons and a myriad of herbs; guests savoured the bounty from the garden in every meal. Foster formed partnerships with local farmers and ranchers, showcasing the very best Texas had to offer. Continuing his connection to the community of young cooks, he served on the boards of culinary schools for Johnson and Wales, the Art Institutes of America, and the Cordon Bleu. Foster gave frequent talks to students and established an externship program to provide them with real industry experience.
Chef Foster’s commitment to local, sustainable cuisine and creating strong partnerships with regional producers attracted frequent attention from local and national media. It was his guiding philosophy of sustainability that drew him next to Northern California and the storied Fairmont San Francisco. Chef Foster partnered with a local honey producer to place beehives on the roof of the hotel, drawing attention to the serious plight of the honeybee and the importance of urban apiculture to ensure their survival. The honey produced by the bees was used throughout the hotel’s restaurants and lounges in a variety of dishes and beverages. Chef worked with a local brewery to create a signature honey beer for the hotel. Chef Foster’s relationships with local purveyors allowed the kitchen to showcase the exceptional bounty of the region. As he did in Dallas, Chef Foster served on the boards of the local culinary schools including the Cordon Bleu and the Art Institutes of America. He advised and inspired students seeking a career in the culinary arts. Deeply committed to his community, Chef Foster donated his time and expertise to events and organizations such as St. Paul de Vincent and their community kitchen program for women victims of domestic violence; Homeward Bound’s program to provide career training for street youth; Art for AIDS, the annual fundraiser benefitting the UCSF Alliance Heath Project; the annual fundraising gala for the San Francisco Ballet; the California Vintners annual cystic fibrosis fundraiser at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, and many more. During his time in San Francisco he was a member of the Honey Advisory Board of America, the Food Arts Magazine panel discussion on local sourcing, and he gave frequent talks and cooking demonstrations for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), as well as at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
When Fairmont presented him with a unique opportunity to travel abroad and help reposition Fairmont’s Peace Hotel in Shanghai, Chef Foster could not resist the challenge. From its prestigious perch on the historic Bund, the hotel is the venue for gala events, visiting world leaders, celebrities, and international business meetings. Foster created extraordinary experiences for dignitaries from around the world, luxury brand events such as Louis XIII Remy Martin, wineries from various regions including France, Australia, and Spain, and countless international conferences. Wishing to extend his contributions to his new community, Chef Foster partnered with Shanghai Young Bakers, a charitable program that provides training to disadvantaged youth; empowering each to find fulfilling jobs in the hospitality industry. Foster worked closely with its’ sister property Fairmont Yangcheng Lake on their organic farm and cooking school projects. He travelled to the Fairmont Nanjing to advise and assist with the opening of the food and beverage outlets.
The stars aligned in the spring of 2013 when the Executive Chef of The Fairmont Banff Springs retired. Foster knew it was time to come home to Canada and take the helm of one of Fairmont’s crown jewels. The culinary team at The Fairmont Banff Springs prepares 4,000 to 6,000 meals per day, a staggering 1.3 million meals a year. With his strong commitment to providing guests with an authentically local and sustainable dining experience, Chef Foster looks forward to building strong relationships with regional farmers, artisans and purveyors, and making lasting contributions to Banff and the Bow Valley.