One of the largest diamonds ever found in the United States, a nearly 20-carat gem, was once unearthed near the Central Idaho town of McCall. These days, McCall is getting its sparkle on the culinary scene, thanks to the efforts of chefs like executive chef Steve Topple at The Narrows and Gary Kucy, a 2013 James Beard semifinalist at Rupert’s at Hotel McCall. At Ruper’s, Kucy pairs local ingredients with flavors from the Southwest, Asia, and the Mediterranean.
After apprenticing in the kitchens of Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Phoenix, Kucy spent eight years working with Southwestern cuisine guru Mark Miller at Santa Fe’s Coyote Café. His next assignment was as sous chef at the fine-dining Snake River Grill in Jackson, Wyoming. Relocating to Idaho, he opened and became executive chef of Morels at Tamarack Resort, before moving to Hotel McCall in 2009. His culinary skills at Rupert’s commanded the attention of the James Beard Foundation, which led the prestigious organization to name Kucy a semifinalist in the “Best Chef: Northwest” category.
The talented toque took time out of his busy schedule to share specifics on McCall, what he’s cooking at Rupert’s, and how he and his wife Stacey Kucy are keeping Central Idaho happy with sweets.
What makes McCall special?
McCall is a relatively small mountain town just 100 miles, or two hours’ drive, north of Boise. It’s a home base to many outdoor enthusiasts. Summer is primarily mountain biking, golf, and fishing on the lakes and rivers, while in winter, it’s Alpine and Nordic skiing (Brundage Mountain Resort is just 10 miles from town), snowmobiling, ice fishing, and hockey. In midsummer and winter, our sleepy town doubles and sometime triples in population.
My wife Stacey and I moved to McCall in 2002. While Stacey loved the area from vacationing here as a child, I moved sight unseen — no job, starting back at ground level. I actually shoveled snow the first winter I was here.
Let’s talk food. What are your signature dishes at Rupert’s?
I am all over the place with dishes. Since I did quite a bit of world traveling when I was younger, I really appreciate ethnic foods and cultures, but I still respect the classics. My venison meatballs have become a staple at Rupert’s, along with the cattleman’s pot roast (made with beef cheeks) that I do on Sundays.
Basically, I am fortunate that I have free reign to treat our guests to just about anything I desire. I do “Thursday Thai,” which is always fun, and I have to say that my massaman beef is really good. “Fed Ex Fish Fridays” are a great opportunity for me to bring in the freshest fish every week. My “fish guy” tells me what is looking good, so I can serve seafood from all over the world, and I feature local products, such as Dungeness crab, Copper River salmon, and Idaho sturgeon.
What other Idaho products do you incorporate into your menus?
I use venison, beef, and elk from local suppliers all yearlong, and during the summer, I buy 80 percent of my produce from local farms. I use Ballard Farms cheese, Idaho-raised turkeys, buffalo, and trout. We are a premier morel mushroom- and huckleberry-picking area, so those products will almost always be in the kitchen in season.
Your wife Stacey runs Stacey Cakes, a bakery in McCall. Tell us more about the business.
My wife and I opened Stacey Cakes in 2011. I take care of the financial, maintenance, and paperwork end of the business (as well as taste testing, of course), but otherwise, it is all Stacey. There is a reason she graduated top of her class at The Culinary Institute of America. Besides baking sweet and savory pastries, cookies, and specialty cakes, the bakery provides at least one of my desserts for Rupert’s, and for special wine dinners and holiday events.