Lifelong chef reflects on his 14 years in Invermere

THE FOOD LIFE  Peter Panneton has learned a lot about managing a restaurant during his 14 years at The Bistro Family Restaurant in Invermere.         Photo by Kevin Nimmock
THE FOOD LIFE Peter Panneton has learned a lot about managing a restaurant during his 14 years at The Bistro Family Restaurant in Invermere. Photo by Kevin Nimmock

The Bistro Family Restaurant has been serving guests for 14 years in Invermere under the management of Peter Panneton.

The food industry has grasped Mr. Pannetons attention from a young age, and he consistently worked his way up. As a teenager, he was a McDonalds All-Star, earning accolades for the speed, quality and presentation of his french fries.

I was the Eastern Champion for french fries, Mr. Panneton said. I was flown to Winnipeg for the Canadian Championships.

Thereupon, the match was lit. Mr. Panneton became a brasserie cook in Montreal, learning several French Canadian classics, which have found themselves on the menu at The Bistro Family Restaurant. After years of refining his skills in Quebec, he moved west to pursue new scenery and different styles of food.

His first stop was Banff, where he learned to cook in a tourist-friendly environment. Then, Mr. Panneton did an apprenticeship in Kelowna, completing his certification as a Red Seal Chef. Finally, he decided to switch gears and take another step up the career ladder of the food industry, leasing The Bistro Family Restaurant.

Going into business for myself has been a real eye-opener, Mr. Panneton said. It is not just cooking, because there is way more to do. I do my own payroll, book keeping, banking, scheduling and food ordering. It is real management.

Over the years, Mr. Panneton has shaped his restaurant into a product he is passionate about. Where food preparation is concerned, he has put time, effort and money into getting as much fresh food on the menu as possible.

A lot of businesses in the food industry have gone to boxed frozen food, Mr. Panneton said. We try to bring a fresh aspect. I bake my own breads, we still do fresh turkeys and we still do fresh roast beefs.

In addition, Mr. Panneton purchases fresh ingredients daily from the grocery store. He said his customers are quick to notice the extra effort put into getting quality ingredients.

People have commented about how much they like our hash browns, Mr. Panneton said. They call the frozen, deep fried ones bullets.

But the way Mr. Panneton and his team prepare food is sometimes misunderstood by first-time customers.

People dont realize sometimes that we are a whole food restaurant, Mr. Panneton said. Some people will get annoyed with having to wait 25 minutes. Because of the fast-food industry, everybody wants their food right away, but in this type of business, it does not happen that way.

Instead, he works hard to make the dining experience as comfortable as possible. Mr. Panneton can often be seen in the dining room, mingling with customers and taking feedback. You need to talk to your clients because you want to know if they are happy or not, Mr. Panneton said. If they are not, you need to have the guts to ask what they would like changed.

Because of Invermeres fruitful tourism industry, Mr. Panneton has found the need to adapt to a variety of preferences and dietary concerns.

Over the years, I have incorporated some vegan dishes, which have been very successful, Mr. Panneton said. People enjoy that difference because it is hard to find in Invermere.

Moving forward, Mr. Panneton said his biggest fear is the slowing economy, which has made the decision to eat out at a restaurant a more serious one for both tourists and locals.

Restaurants are luxuries and not everyone has to eat out, Mr. Panneton said. When people come into my business, I want them to feel that they have had a quality meal for the money they spent. I want them to leave happy and full.

As a manager of a restaurant thats lasted in Invermere for 14 years, Mr. Panneton said he has learned a lot about customer satisfaction.

Food is an individual thing and I have learned in this industry that I will never please everybody, Mr. Panneton said. Wholeheartedly, the restaurant business is the hardest and toughest to succeed in. If you can survive in a restaurant, you can run any business.

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