Set in the heart of Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital, the Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan is one of the city’s most important historic landmarks and Saskatchewan’s only four diamond hotel.
Located downtown, overlooking Victoria Park, the hotel is known for its elegant accommodations and gracious service. Above all, this beautiful turn-of-the-century treasure offers its Cortlandt Dining Room whose luxurious atmosphere takes one back to 1927 when the hotel was first built.
Amid its deep burgundy surroundings with white accents and rich tapestry, Executive Chef Michael Zech puts to work his fine culinary skills to please customers who seek the best in the dining world.
Born and raised in Regina, Chef Zech graduated from O’Neill High School and then studied for three years at the University of Regina. In 1991, he enrolled at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Saskatoon where he studied Professional Cooking at Kelsey Institute from which he graduated in 1994 with his Red Seal.
Immediately after graduation he began to work at Queensbury Downs, a large convention centre in Regina where he worked for seven years. Later, he worked as Sous Chef at the Cafe Des Lys, the University of Regina, and as Sous Chef at the 4-star Mediterranean Bistro, and for five years as the Chef/Manager of the Meadow Lake Golf Club in the Town of Meadow Lake where he brought fine dining to this small Saskatchewan town. In July 2006, Zech accepted the position of Executive Sous Chef at the Hotel Saskatchewan, and four months later was appointed Executive Chef.
Today, Chef Zech heads two restaurants and two other food outlets at the Hotel Saskatchewan and has 40 staff working under his supervision. Most of his staff have been at the hotel for 10 years or more, but he is always trying to update them with new ideas.
Chef Zech is in his milieu when it comes to hosting large groups and celebrities such as Princess Anne, the Rolling Stones, Snoop Dogg, Carrie Underwood and Cirque de Soliel.
“When we receive an order for a banquet, the day prior to the event I plan with the Sous Chefs the next day’s menu,” he says. “Everything usually comes out fine except at my first corporate reception at the Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan when the piglet and 24 ducks got lost in transit.”
His dishes reflect, in the main, a good cross-section of Saskatchewan specialties such as bison, Lake Diefenbaker trout, and Saskatchewan elk — purchased locally whenever possible and appearing on the menu, depending on the season.
At the annual corporate reception Chef Zech prepares 50 different exotic items for 600 of Regina and the surrounding area’s elite. The menu included: pemmican crusted elk loin, pickerel, lechon (whole roasted pig), chicken lime and lemon grass lollipops.
One of Chef Zech’s specialities occasionally offered is a special six-course tasting menu that includes appetizers and entrées, which can be paired with recommended wines. However, as for his own taste: “I like anything with foie gras, a 10-ounce grilled New York with jumbo shrimp, chipotle and sundried tomato butter, mashed potatoes, and pasta carbonara or puttanesca.”
Chef Zech’s work has won him a series of awards such as Gold medal — Sask Cuisine 1995, Honorable Mention — Sask Cuisine 1997, Robin Hood Baking Award 1994, and 2nd Place — Apprentice of the year — Sask 1994.
“I am in as high a position in this province as I can get. I would have to move out to move up and I have no plans to do that right now. I am satisfied with the prestige of being the Executive Chef at the province’s most prestigious hotel,” he says.
And, no doubt, Saskatchewan is too.