In the Chef’s Corner: Elk River Inn and Restaurant
May 8, 2012|
The Elk River Inn and Restaurant, located in the town of Slatyfork near Snowshoe Mountain Resort, had a simple start with owner Gil Willis offering rooms for skiers in 1980. Gil had moved to his family-owned farm from the Washington, D.C. area two years earlier, caught the skiing bug and never looked back. His future wife, Mary, was also a skier and had visited the area before they were married in 1984.
The couple offered breakfast to guests first, later adding weekend dining. It was a natural progression for them to build a five-room inn and 50-seat restaurant in 1988. Mary, a primarily self-taught chef who came from a large family that always loved to sample her cooking, tries to combine her passions of traveling and cooking by participating in cooking classes in as many places around the world as she can. Mary uses what she learns while creating delicious breakfast dishes for the guests at the inn.
As the Elk River Inn grew, the time came for the owners to hire a full-time chef. Gil and Mary were blessed to find Chef David Carte, a native West Virginian who was raised near the New River and spent many of his childhood summers along the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County. Carte’s first job at age 15 was in his family’s restaurant, The Burger Carte, in Smithers. After working two seasons at the Red Fox Restaurant at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, he decided to enroll in culinary school and completed his studies in culinary arts and nutrition at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. After working in top restaurants in Charlotte, NC, for several years, Carte returned to the mountains of his beloved home state to share his talent and enthusiasm for great food with visitors and fellow Mountaineers. Carte describes the menu he has created at Elk River as “new American cuisine meets Appalachia.” His classic training serves as a base for using the local ingredients he loves to work with, such as the West Virginia rainbow trout, and blending traditional recipes with 21st century trends and techniques.
Joining Carte and Gil and Mary’s sons, Thurston and Gus, at the inn and restaurant are past and present Elk River staff that have played an integral part in helping Gil and Mary create a unique destination for outdoor lovers on a 150-acre former mountain homestead that is located on the headwaters of the Elk River.