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Alyeska Resort Brings Innovation to its Culinary Offerings with New Hire Chef Michael Cairns and Promotion of Chef Jason Porter as Seven Glaciers’ Executive Chef


November 21, 2010 (Girdwood, Alaska) – As Alyeska Resort’s mountain teams prepare for opening day, November 24, the culinary team is also ramping up for a busy winter season. The resort’s commitment to the guests’ overall experience includes raising the bar in areas of hospitality service and culinary experience. This winter, notable changes on the food and beverage team include the promotion of Chef Jason Porter to executive chef of Seven Glaciers Restaurant and Danielle Thomas, to lead chef of Aurora Bar & Grill. In addition, the resort has retained the services of Chef Michael Cairns, notable industry leader and chief executive officer of Urban Chefs AZ.

Cairns is known for his creative approach to food – whether for a party of five or 5,000.  His clients include major banquet facilities, upscale restaurants, and special events including “Phoenix Cooks,” Arizona’s premier food and wine event. The resort first tapped into the Cairns’ expertise to support this summer’s substantial corporate groups and meetings clientele.

“The hiring of Chef Michael Cairns reflects my commitment to the quality of our food at the Resort, particularly with respect to banquets, weddings, and conference services,” says John Byrne, Alyeska Resort owner. “My team remains focused on making Alyeska Resort the finest resort in Alaska. Michael is a brilliant team leader, his cooking is fabulous. I am thrilled to have him on-board.”

Before starting Urban Chefs AZ in 2007, Chef Cairns excelled as a chef in the hospitality industry for over 22 years.  Most recently, he served as Executive Chef at the legendary Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, where he managed 11 kitchens including banquets and restaurants overseeing a total staff of 200 culinarians and stewards. On a typical day, he and his crew prepared breakfast and lunch for 2,000 guests, followed by dinner for 5,000 – translating into more than a million covers annually.

Cairns has received numerous accolades throughout his career including the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award in 2004.  In 2003, he recognized for his culinary skills with the “Best Chef” Critic’s Choice Award at the Vail Wine & Food Festival over top chefs from across the country in a competition judged by leading food and wine writers. Prior to joining the Arizona Biltmore, Cairns’ credits range from corporate executive chef at Chateau Elan Hotels & Resorts, which has luxury properties in California, Florida, Georgia and Scotland, to executive chef of the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida.  His career also includes stints at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa in Maui, Hyatt Grand Champions in Palm Springs and the Hyatt in Sacramento.

Cairns’ specialty is his understanding of the customer. He believes that the creative process begins with the guest: “You have to first understand what customers are looking for, what will satisfy them, and then you can put your personality into a dish.  Innovation comes from studying trends and experimenting with flavors and textures.”

The award-winning Seven Glaciers Restaurant, located at 2,300 ft above sea level and accessed by the scenic Alyeska Aerial Tram, is also the beneficiary of change this winter. In September, the resort promoted Chef Jason Porter to executive chef at the resort’s flagship fine-dining restaurant. Seven Glaciers is the recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

“I am very excited to cook the food I love,” says Chef Porter, which he describes as refined comfort food. “My vision for Seven Glaciers’ new winter menu is to feature seasonal ingredients and flavor combinations that will warm you up on cold winter days.”

Porter joined the Alyeska Resort team in November 2007. He stated cooking at The Pond Café and was quickly offered the position of head chef at the Aurora Bar & Grill. Under his tutelage, the Aurora became a workhorse restaurant offering local’s favorites as well as special menu items that sold-out regularly. Under Porter’s guide, the restaurant successfully experimented with new menus focused on seasonal ingredients and wine flight pairings.

Porter began his culinary career in the Navy, and honed his skills in Las Vegas, where he worked with Chef Julian Serrano at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. He arrived in Alaska in 2000, working throughout Alaska as a lodge chef and private chef, as well as a chef on the remote oil fields of Alaska’s North Slope. When he is not in the kitchen, Jason can be found fishing, snowboarding and exploring the great outdoors with his wife, Maggie, and two boys.

Filling the shoes of Chef Porter is newly promoted Danielle Thomas, Aurora Bar & Grill’s head chef. A native of south Florida, Danielle’s love for water and cooking has brought her to Alaska in 2007. After a season in Seward, Danielle moved to Girdwood and has been with the resort for two years. Danielle got her start working on boats in Key Largo and made the move into culinary endeavors at LaTrattoria Venezia as a prep assistant. Thomas worked her way to sous chef quickly, and with the support of the organization, grew in her field. Danielle also worked at Sarabeth’s Kitchen in Key West, Florida under Chef David Case.

“I’m coming into my own as the Aurora chef, I want to continue the high quality in the restaurant and serve good simple food that resonates with our repeat Alaskan guests and our summer visitors.”

With the leadership of Cairns and positive momentum of the resort’s culinary team, guests of Alyeska Resort can expect an exciting culinary experience this winter. The resort operates year-round banquet services and eight dining establishments including: Seven Glaciers, Aurora Bar & Grill, newly remodeled Sakura, The Pond Café, Sitzmark Bar & Grill, as well as two high-volume cafeterias and a coffee shop. For more information about dining at the resort, please visit www.alyeskaresort.com.

About Alyeska Resort (www.alyeskaresort.com)
Alyeska Resort is Alaska's premier year-round destination featuring The Hotel Alyeska, an award-winning 304 room full-service property. Located just 40 miles from Anchorage and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Alyeska Resort is your base camp for summer and winter excursions. The resort is within close proximity of three national parks and the Kenai Peninsula, and is home to the northernmost temperate rainforest, part of the Chugach Mountains. Alyeska Resort stands out in ski season with 650” of average snowfall annually and the longest-continuous double black diamond ski run in North America. Learn more about the resort and plan your Alaskan adventure at www.alyeskaresort.com or 800-880-3880.


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