EXECUTIVE CHEF KIRSTEN WEST
What attracted you to the Covered Wagon Ranch? Well, actually it was my best friend Danielle’s idea to go to Montana. Without her I probably would never have ventured outside my comfort zone and applied for the job. In fact, the first time she asked me if wanted to go with her I turned her down, I had a job already was kind of settled into a routine. But then one day I started thinking and I realized that the only thing holding me back was me. So, I took a leap and applied to work at The Covered Wagon Ranch. Best decision ever, I’ve learned so much since working there and have grown in so many different ways.
Why cooking? My mom started teaching me to cook and bake when I was pretty young, so it’s always been a big part of my life. We always sat down to dinner as a family. It didn’t matter of it was some huge, elaborate meal that took hours to prepare or ramen noodles, we sat down as a family every single night. So, to me cooking is a way of connecting with the people. There is almost nothing more satisfying than putting your heart into creating something for someone and then seeing people enjoy your hard work.
What do you consider your cooking style? That is a tough question, it is very hard to define my cooking as any one style: I like to try different things, and I want to keep going outside my comfort zone more and more and really test myself. The biggest defining factor in my cooking is authenticity, I like to make things from scratch whenever possible and I spend time reading about different ethnic cuisines and trying to use real ingredients. I do not believe in shortcuts. If I am going to do something, I want to do it right.
What kind of food can guests expect while vacationing at the Covered Wagon Ranch?If you come to the Covered Wagon you can expect to be VERY well fed! We do a lot of grilling and southern inspired food. Think home cooking meets fine dining.
What is your favorite thing to make? I do not think I can pick just one favorite, anyone that knows me knows I love making desserts. I especially love the precision of French style pastries. I love making chocolate eclairs and different kinds of tarts and cakes.
What do you consider your specialty? I would have to say my specialty would have to be a mini pavlova with lemon curd and berries! They are really fun to make and they look so pretty when there are do
What are you goals and visions for the ranch? I want the food I make to bring people together. The most meaningful compliments I have received about my cooking were from people telling me that my food reminded them of something their mother or grandmother used to make. I want to bring people back to their roots and remind them of the simple pleasure of a good meal shared with family and friends.
What do you like to do on your off time? I love riding four wheelers in the hills, the faster the better. And snowboarding when I get the chance. I love long drives into the hills, exploring caves, and camping. I also enjoy reading ridiculously long books when I have the time. Les Miserables and Crime and Punishment are my favorites. What is one thing people do not know about you that you would like to share that would help them get to know you better? That I am not as serious a person as I seem at first glance. It sometimes takes me awhile to open up the people because I am shy (although I’m trying to be better at that) but once people get to know me, they realize that I am basically hilarious.