The art of service

There's a new place to get lunch in Whitehorse. It offers upscale grub and service, for just $13.95 plus tax. But you won't find any advertisements about this. For now, Yukon College's Hilltop Bistro is keeping a low profile, as the new restaurant gets up and running...

There’s a new place to get lunch in Whitehorse.

It offers upscale grub and service, for just $13.95 plus tax.

But you won’t find any advertisements about this. For now, Yukon College’s Hilltop Bistro is keeping a low profile, as the new restaurant gets up and running.

It opened this autumn, providing lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays. The swish food is prepared by the college’s culinary arts students.

You start with either broccoli, red pepper and cheddar chowder or spinach and apple salad with crispy almonds.

That’s followed by either a steak sandwich on toasted garlic bread with tomato-black olive relish and skillet fries or farfalle pasta with asiago cheese.


The servers, who are dressed up in white shirts and black vests and slacks, are students, too, enrolled in the college’s first-ever food and beverage operations program, colloquially known as Hospitality 101.

The aim of the eight-month diploma is to produce a cohort of professional food servers – the sort who can effortlessly pop a wine bottle, light a flambe dessert or mix a caesar salad at the table of a fine French restaurant.

Students also learn bartending skills and how to run a big catered event. And, to round out their management expertise, students are taught accounting, communications, marketing, and leadership skills.

When paired with the college’s culinary arts program, graduates ought to possess all the skills needed to run their own restaurant, said Craig Hansen, who teaches the program.

Some may wonder why servers would take a year-long course, when such jobs are often viewed as temporary, rather than careers. “I completely disagree with that,” said Hansen. “And I’m not trying to be snobbish, or anything like that.”

For him, quality food goes hand-in-hand with quality service.

“If I’m going to pay $35 for a steak, I could prepare at home for my friends for substantially less, I’d better get some professional service.”

Hansen trained at a swanky Banff restaurant run by a Swiss chef in the early 1980s. At the time, the restaurant hired all its kitchen staff from Europe.

“Being a server in Europe is considered a lifelong trade. It’s not looked on as it is here, as a job you hold until you find a real career.”

In Banff, Hansen only earned three dollars an hour in wages. But, at his peak, he pulled in $5,000 in tips in one week. His best night, he earned $1,200.

While Whitehorse doesn’t boast any place so extravagant, Hansen expects servers at posher restaurants may net $300 to $400 in tips on busy nights.

But, at the bistro, students don’t pocket their tips. Instead, it’s all pooled in a travel fund. With help from a fundraiser planned for later in the year, it’s hoped the students will go on a “field excursion” to an Outside destination.

“Vegas is at the top of the pile,” said Hansen.

Connor Nugent, 23, has already taken the college’s culinary program. The born-and-raised Whitehorse resident hopes to eventually open his own restaurant, either here, or in Calgary.

“Or else I’ll go work on cruise ships,” he said.

He got his first restaurant job at McDonald’s eight years ago. Nugent currently works at the Westmark Hotel.

Jennifer Joe, 28, has worked in the kitchens of mining camps. She also hopes to open her own restaurant one day – perhaps in her home town of Carmacks. Joe reckons there are enough American RVers crossing through in the summer months to do tidy business.

So far, the course has made Joe interested in the finest points of pairing wine with food – something she hadn’t given much thought to before. “It really blew me away,” she said.

No wine is served on the premises yet. But the bistro is licensed, and by January, students will be able to serve alcohol.

The bistro is a cozy dining room that was once an early childhood classroom. It has yellow-painted walls, big windows, mood lighting and cloth napkins.

The space also doubles as an art gallery. Currently, acrylic landscapes by Jane Isakson are on display.

The bistro is able to hold 40 customers. For now, it typically serves approximately 15 people each day.

It’s recommended that you make a reservation, although they do accept a few walk-in customers. You can do so by emailing

Contact John Thompson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read