Tag Archives: Mountain Holm Steakhouse

Rudi’s Famous Strudel

In Whistler today you have your pick of restaurants catering to all tastes, including many fine dining options. Unsurprisingly, the options were more limited in 1970 when Rudi and Merrilyn Hofmann’s Mountain Holm Steakhouse opened at Nesters. Later known simply as Rudi’s Steakhouse, it was an instant favourite often requiring reservations weeks in advance.

Rudi had trained as a chef in his home country of Germany and got his start in Whistler in 1969, working as the head chef at the Christiana Inn. In an interview with the Whistler Question, Rudi said, “When I was at the Christiana, I quadrupled the turnover. I was just serving different food than they were used to. In those days the general fare in ski areas was hotdogs, hamburgers, chilli.” At the time the Christiana Inn and L’Après were the main restaurants in Whistler. Seeing that there was a market in Whistler for finer dining, Rudi set out to start his own restaurant. He purchased Tony’s Hamburger Heaven, a late night eatery running out of a former Pacific Great Eastern railway tool shed, and the rest is history.

While it may not look like much from the outside, Rudi’s Steakhouse was the venue of choice for a fancy meal. Whistler Question Collection.

With appetisers including escargot, goose liver pate, prawns and scallops (’Coquilles Saint Jacques a la Parisienne’) all for under $6 a dish, flipping through a menu is likely to make anyone long for restaurant prices from the 1986 as their mouth begins to water (and when Rudi first opened in 1970 the prices were even lower). The main dishes include additional information to help diners choose. The 8 oz. Filet Mignon Par Excellence includes the claim, ‘You can cut it with a fork!’.

Nello and Jenny Busdon pose for promotional photos in Rudi’s Steakhouse with owner and chef Rudi Hofmann. Greg Griffith Collection.

With loyal customers returning again and again, Rudi’s became the venue of choice for wining and dining. Franz Wilhelmsen, President and Founder of Garibaldi Lift Co., could often be spotted in the Steakhouse. He did not hold back his praise for Rudi’s, saying, “I don’t think I ever had better food anywhere in the whole world.” It was a regular venue for events including the weekly Rotary Club meetings and birthdays, and they would hold an annual traditional European Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve, featuring goose, dumplings and homemade Christmas pudding.

The glowing reviews were global. According to the August 1972 issue of Ski Magazine, ‘While Whistler’s nightlife would rate three on a one-to-one hundred scale, its feeding potential would rate about 92. The main reason is the Mountain Holm Steakhouse, known as Rudi’s because of its bearded proprietor, a master chef from Germany. Rustic, warm, personal; magnificent beef for $6.’ To cater to the demand, Rudi’s was renovated in 1974 to expand the lower seating area and increase the kitchen space, yet the 60 seat restaurant still filled up.

Rudi’s Steakhouse closing party in 1986, featuring left to right – Don and Isobel MacLaurin, Rudi Hofmann, Franz and Annette Wilhelmsen. Petersen Collection.

It has been argued that Rudi’s was more about dessert than dinner. Former local Bob Penner said in an oral history interview, “Rudi wasn’t famous for steak, he was famous for strudel. That was his undoing. The strudel came off of Rudi’s strudel press on Thursdays, and anyone who knew anything in the Valley was lining up on Thursdays to buy Rudi’s strudel. Rudi believed to have a good strudel you had to be able to read a newspaper through it and if it had any breaks he went into an absolute tirade.”

Despite the rave reviews, Rudi was unsuccessful selling the restaurant in 1977, and instead leased the building. This led to a rotating door of restaurants in the space – Vallee Blanche, Madame’s, Le Chalet. Eventually Rudi’s opened back up in 1984 to the excitement of Whistler locals, however, the changing times were hard on Rudi’s Steakhouse. The new town centre kept tourists in Whistler Village and increased competition, and the downturn in the economy meant fewer people were eating out. Rudi’s closed for good in 1986 but is still remembered fondly throughout the community.

Rudi’s was burnt for fire practice after closing in 1986. The next year Nesters Market opened on the same site. Whistler Question Collection.

Looking Back at Whistler: 1970

Last week we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Blackcomb Mountain’s official opening in 1980, so this week we thought we’d look further back at a few of the things that were new on Whistler Mountain and the Whistler area in 1970, when the area was constantly growing and changing.

Though they weren’t having to finish new lifts or set up mountain operations from scratch, the summer and fall of 1970 were still a hive of activity on Whistler Mountain, with changes being made to runs, lifts, and facilities for the upcoming season.  Many of the runs had grooming work done such as flattening some steep pitches and clearing trees, stumps, and boulders.  The lengthening of the Green Chair was accompanied by the cutting of a new run and the widening of both Jolly Green Giant and Ego Bowl.

This photo was used as the cover for the Garibaldi’s Whistler News of Winter 1970/71. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

While the Green Chair was extended, the Valley T-bar, described as “the forgotten lift at Whistler,” was being moved up the mountain to run parallel to the Alpine T-bar.  The Alpine T-bar provided access to some of Whistler’s most popular terrain: Harmony Bowl, T-Bar Bowl, and (with a bit of traversing) Whistler Bowl.  It was hoped that the addition of a parallel lift would shorten the lift lines.

Another lift, the Blue Chair, gained a “high-speed” loading ramp and a few new trails, with one being cut from the bottom of Harmony Bowl, another from the base of Blue Chair over to the Green Chair, and Dad’s Run (now Ratfink) cut adjacent to Mum’s Run (now Marmot).

Roger McCarthy gets into some deep snow on the side of Dad’s Run.  Whistler Question Collection.

Indoors, the Roundhouse received some substantial upgrades, most notably electricity.  Propane heaters were replaced by diesel-powered electric heaters.  A “new modern electric food preparation” area was installed alongside increased seating capacity, which opened up new hot food options at the top of the mountain that winter, such as French fries, chili, stews, soups, hot dogs, and even “shake and bake” chicken.  For the first time, the Roundhouse offered breakfast as well, from a continental breakfast to cold cereal to hot porridge.  While it may not have been considered gourmet cuisine, these new offerings greatly increased the on-mountain dining options.

Rudi Hoffmann prepares the steak at a Rotary luncheon.  Whistler Question Collection.

Down in the valley, a new dining option opened up that, though now closed, is still talked about in Whistler today: Rudi and Merrilyn Hoffmann’s Mountain Holm Steakhouse.  Rudi Hoffmann, who had completed his three year apprenticeship in Germany, had worked as the head chef at the Christiana Inn on Alta Lake during the 1969/70 season before opening his own restaurant at Nesters late in 1970.  The Mountain Holm Steakhouse invited guests to “relax in an European atmosphere with good food at moderate prices” and, by the holiday season, were busy enough that reservations were recommended.  They even offered a traditional European Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, featuring goose, dumplings, and a homemade Christmas pudding.

All these changes would have made the 1970 season rather different from winters that came before.  While each season may not bring new runs or changed lifts, the Whistler valley and the mountains continue to change fifty years later.