Taste of Baker-and beyond!

For about 4 years, my friend Barbara Sidway has been trying to get me to come and participate in the Taste of Baker, and now I know why!

The town closes its main street and lines up 34  food vendors / restaurants, to serve a “one bite” to the patrons who buts tokens for $1.  So the plan was set and I am going to be the guest chef for the Geiser Grand Hotel. I decide to serve Tri Tip with Chimichurri and a Brown Butter Brown Sugar Grilled peach, topped with my “world famous” Huckleberry Peanut Butter BBQ sauce. 

So with my books, hats for sale, and a trusty assistant from the Hotel , Josh, we sell out within the first hour, as the lines were sometimes 25 long waiting to get my bites. Adding to the angst, I had to let the Tri Tip rest for 10 minutes each time.
The people of Baker were very kind having an outsider participate in their flagship community event, really personifying the “main street America” feel the whole town has.

The Geiser Grand Hotel

In the middle of all this, Barbara and her head chef Eric and I decide that we would like to do a Wild Chef inspired dinner at the Hotel. Wild game like Boar and Elk have been chosen ads the main proteins. It will be epic and we are expecting about 250 people. Stay Tuned for the details!
Its nice to be recognized for my Food Network experience, as people were curious and telling me I’m kind of a big deal. But please, I know that, you don’t have to tell me (I’ll tell you)!

Eat Well Outdoors, #saucysteve

Main Street, America!

A few months ago, I spent some time in Baker City to visit my friend Barbara Sidway, who just happens to own and operate The Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City Oregon. Known for its elegance and spiritual shenanigans, she is kind of a big deal. And believe me, I know what a big deal is.

Barbara was one of the founding members of Main Street America. It was great to catch up with her and hear of the improvements planned for the Hotel. The National Main Street Center was established as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980, as a way to address the myriad issues facing older and historic downtowns during that time. Working with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities, Main Street has helped over 2,000 communities across the country bring economic vitality back downtown, while celebrating their historic character.

An exciting new chapter for the organization began on July 1, 2013, when the National Main Street Center launched as an independent subsidiary of the National Trust. This transition enables Main Street to build on its three-decade record of success, with new leadership and new resources that will help communities respond to the evolving needs and opportunities in the commercial district revitalization field.

In 2015, the Center launched a new program brand for the network of Main Street programs—Main Street America™—to reinvigorate our collective look, feel, and strategy to position Main Street as a leader locally, regionally, and nationally.

But I digress…

DownTown…like none other.

Yeah, that’s all very nice sounding stuff, but what did I get into while I was there?

Got to spend some time with her chef, who was wrapping up a buffet Breakfast. I asked to see the biscuits for his biscuits and gravy and what I found was Drop Biscuits, hmmm, I don’t know how I feel about that. I offered to share my “go to” biscuit recipe because this is the kind of place that you want everything to be first class, 5 Star! I need to make a trip and spend some time with him, maybe encourage a “In The wild Chef” inspired Breakfast menu.

Be instantly transformed to another century…

My friend Barbara, who has been trying to convince me to do Taste of Baker, finally gets me to agree. Shop, dine, unwind and taste downtown Baker City Oregon.  Always the Saturday of the first full weekend in October (Friday Saturday Sunday) from 4 till 7 p.m. taste your way through the streets of beautiful historic downtown Baker City sampling the best of Baker City as you go, during the annual Taste of Downtown Baker City.  Track your favorite tastes on your official “tasting spoon” and once you’ve enjoyed one taste from at least six different blocks, enter to win one of several great prizes

That DownTown feel….

Local restaurants and participating businesses offering sample size bites of their tastiest recipes in exchange for “Taste Tokens”.  Taste Tokens are $1 each and will be available at several downtown locations throughout the event Menu items priced depending on individual menu item.   Hosted by Baker City Downtown, the taste of Downtown Baker City is a perfect way to celebrate fall’s arrival and all things culinary.

So stay tuned for an update from Baker City, Oregon, and Taste of Baker!

Eat Well Outdoors, In The Wild Chef- Older, Wilder!

The Great Food Truck Race-Season 10, Episode 6: Shake Down in Fort Lauderdale.

Yes, we were riding high in Tampa, only to be knocked down several notches in Ft Meyers. You’d think there’s enough retirees around here, their collective million years of experience would have rubbed off on us or something. As high as the peaks are, well, as I know, that’s how deep the valley is going to go.

It’s getting harder to find locations and now we find ourselves in the middle of a week which presents more problems. No customers and this is a selling competition. You know the saying, “Mo money, mo problems?” Well, Notorious B.I.G., NO money can mean mo problems too.

Our first challenge is a skewer challenge, and Kyle throws a javelin and hits it first. We wanted “Turf”. I see thyme and some other herbs and garlic, olive oil and think Chimichurri! The perfect complement to Filet Mignon.

Well, momma said there’d be days like these, and we lose the challenge because Tyler doesn’t think that we stayed on “Brand”. Tyler needs to come to the Boise area and see our food scene. We most definitely stayed true to Idaho. And as momma once said, what people think about me is none of my business.

The loss pairs us automatically with Rolling Indulgence, which would have been our first choice anyway. We are both Burger Trucks and wouldn’t have had to re-set anything. Plus we love all of our competitors so it wouldn’t have matters who we go paired with. So joint selling as one team. Rolling’s location was a bust and ours was only slightly better. We have a miserable day selling but really enjoyed Rolling! I also had to make a Vegan Salad and they liked it so much they ordered another one.

Vegan Salad Baby yeah.

We are making great food, Tyler even insisting that are food is prettier and fancier.

“Fancier, and Fancier.”

Its not enough, we can’t overcome the desert challenge that Brunch Babes wins and their choice of taking the flat $200 sends us home. It was a great experience, one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. There was a lot of sacrifice from my loved ones at home, work and my community.

I am grateful that Craig asked along for this journey. I am very lucky to have met and become friends with Kyle as well. Big Thank you to Katie for applying for the show which without that, we wouldn’t be talking about it.

We did good. Honestly, in the beginning we really didn’t think we would make it past week 2. We made it to the final 4 on The Great Food Truck Race Season 10!

I guess that’s what life is all about. Someone’s momma must have said something like that. Going a little farther than you thought that you could go. (And no, I’m not talking about Prom night.) What I’m talking about is doing something you’ve never done before, doing better at it than you thought you would, and having an awesome experience to reflect back on in your old age.

Or something like that. In the meantime, I’m getting back to getting a little wild in the woods.

Steve Weston # saucysteve

In The Wild Chef

Reel Recovery-What’s Reel Recovery?

Sometimes, we can do a bad job advocating. Sometimes it’s easy to advocate for ourselves, and sometimes it’s not, depends on the person. But sometimes the things we keep private, are the things we should be shouting from the rooftops about, so here’s me shouting, and here’s the rooftops.

So what’s Reel Recovery?

“Reel Recovery was founded in 2003, by a group of avid fly-fishers, inspired by their fishing buddy’s ongoing battle with brain cancer. Witnessing first-hand the beneficial impact fly-fishing provided their friend, they created Reel Recovery to provide the same opportunity for other men battling the disease. Combining expert fly-fishing instruction with directed “courageous conversations”, the organization provides men with all forms of cancer a unique opportunity to share their stories, learn a new skill, form lasting friendships and gain renewed hope as they confront the challenges of cancer”.

Being recruited by Travis Swartz,  I was very fortunate to be able to help these folks out at the Mackay Idaho Retreat in July of 2015. I was honored to cook for the fishing buddies, and help out where I could. Having seen my Dad fight (and lose) a long battle with Bladder Cancer for 25 years and losing my Father in law to the deadly disease made me curious as to what they were feeling.

I learned that the most common complaint about friends and loved ones is some of them, and in some cases all of them, fade away from the person living with cancer. I heard that they felt treated like they had communicable disease. Their friends didn’t understand it or didn’t want to be around it, like it was something that could be “caught”.

At a time when they need their loved ones around them the most, the visits, phone calls, texts, skypes, tweets, DM’s, messages and emails get the most scarce. Listening to these courageous men put a punch to my gut. Is society mostly walking away from it and not giving their support? It breaks your heart. I felt so small, like any of my troubles couldn’t compare to the emotional trauma caused by the abandonment these men are feeling.

Something as simple as being able to be a little uncomfortable could mean the world to someone suffering from cancer, so I challenge all of you (including myself) to send that message, make that call, drop by, whatever you have to do to remind them that they aren’t cancer; they are a person living with cancer. It could make all the difference.

I know, my blog is about camp food, and there was food prepared at this retreat. I didn’t see it coming, I felt good initially about going and helping and came home humbled, saddened by the stories of loneliness and battles lost. Also, there is a ton of positives, the lifelong relationships that you create and the comrade you develop with the entire clan. The day we left for our different places of abode was warm and joyful but also full of tears. I for one plan on not taking for granted that people living with cancer. I am going to be there even if it’s a small amount of my life.

Cancer Sucks!
As I prepare for my 5th retreat, being one of the self-appointed State Coordinators (Chef of the Buddies) I have had much more joy and sadness from those lives that touched me. Some of the participants that I was close to have passed: Dayle Temple and Mark Minor- Be Well, Fish on! Others have lived to fight another day.

The Buddies are selfless professional Fishing guides who lay their life down for 12-15 Participants (Men Living with Cancer) for 3 days. Amazing people for a great cause. The men living with cancer get to forget about the brevity of their disease, and get to enjoy the great outdoors with people that have similar issues and life challenges.

I encourage you to check out their website, and learn more about how this organization supports men living with cancer.


I discovered that while fly-fishing, I was in another place. In this place there was no cancer, no pain and no fear.

-In their words, Reel Recovery

Episode 5; Great Food Truck Race, Season 10-Fort Meyers

That’s right, we made it to the Final 4 on the Great Food Truck Race, season 10. Heading to Fort Lauderdale next, Florida. Party Town, USA. The kind of place that would have made Motley Crue cry “Uncle!” in the ’80’s. But let’s talk about Fort Meyers!

So, first off, you know that geek-skill that everyone has, that they secretly hope someday will come in handy? Like that scene in the Goonies where the girl took piano lessons when she was a child, and consequently can play the right notes on the bone piano and saves the day? Well Kyle has had a secret geek-skill up his t-shirt sleeve this whole time and it was……

Grumpy Gators….

Gator Wrastlin’! Good job Kyle on lightning fast speedy placement of the Gator to give his team a 1 hour advantage. That’s a resume bullet-point for sure, and applicable in so many areas of life (dealing with customers, managers, you name it!) That 1-hour advantage was HUGE for us!

Happy gators, but no happy secret judges. Apparently Nick AKA Joe DiMaggio Jr (Jr )was not impressed with our rendition of a Gator Burger. We took the risk that Tyler told us to, we ground gator in with our ground beef butter, blue cheese and bacon. With gator meat you have to cook it, you can’t serve it rare, so there just wasn’t enough juice to meet Joe’s criteria, but everybody in Fort Myers loved it (they bought hundreds of them,) so we will just call that a difference of opinion (one opinion) and move on.

Who’s eating who?

We did well in Fort Myers, we never stopped selling, we never stopped cooking, even ran out of food with 15 minutes left to go. This competition is really heating up, and there is a lot of talent here. We’re all figuring out how to play the game, as it’s being played.

At the end of the day, we were very sad to see our home slices go (Madea Made). Dray was one of if not the best cook in this competition, and I know we aren’t the only ones who enjoyed having them along for this wild ride. GREAT people, making GREAT food. We miss them!

Madea Made!

Final four baby, yeah! Who’d of thought three Idaho boys would have ever made it this far? Party city, here we come!

Final 4 baby, yeah! Moving on to Ft Lauderdale.

Wild in the 5B; Day-Tripper or Weekend Easy Backpacker

On any given day, spring, summer, winter or fall, there are many things to do in Idaho. And the great thing about our great outdoors, is that the fortune-none can play just as hard as the Fortune 100. The outdoors is almost free, and if you know where to go and what to expect, you can experience everything that Idaho has to offer with your champagne tastes and beer-budget.

One of my favorite things to do in Idaho is to day hike or backpack into the Smoky Mountains near Ketchum, Idaho. Now the Smoky Mountains most are familiar with are filled with banjos and coal dust, but here, they are filled with Subaru’s and Patagonia t-shirts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy everything they have to offer (heck, I made it up there in my trail-modified sedan, i.e., I have hit some rocks and it’s got more ground clearance than it had before.)

Whether it be for a backpacking, fly fishing, or just a day hike, it’s not too far from Boise and offers a lot of amenities along the way. Just approximately a 3 hour drive from the City of Trees, and you can arrive at the trail head at Baker Lake, the Smoky Mountains. It’s even got a bathroom at the base, in case you brought your mother-in-law or a wilderness-shy four year old girl packing a Barbie doll. It’s an easy 2 miles with a 1000′ gain. At the end of the trail you are rewarded with one of the prettiest lakes and peak that serves as a backdrop, which also happens to be the name of the peak, Backdrop Peak.

Glacial-fed water is there to filter with your Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter, or cast your favorite fly to secure your 2 trout daily limit. Also on your way to the trail-head, you run through Ketchum Idaho. It has all the amenities that you need and may have forgotten, or if you just want to feel bougie and buy socks made out of angel’s peach fuzz (organic, of course).

My stop on this day was to get something that was forgotten, that led me to a couple that was looking at freeze dried food, so I suggested Alpine Aire for their meal, and they happily grabbed up the packets that I suggested. Always like to see folks upping their game when they are out on the trail, and seeing their eyes get big when they realize how easy it is to do! The staff at Backwoods Mountain Sports are incredible, you can tell they really know their stuff, and care about the experience you’re going to have when you get out there.

At the end of your venture as you exit the Wood River Valley, you can arrive at the Snow Bunny drive-in in Hailey, Idaho. Next to the airport, you can get back all those calories you lost hiking up to Baker Lake, by indulging in their great burgers, fries and milkshakes.

Another great spot to stop on your way up to Ketchum from Boise, is Picabo Angler, in Picabo, Idaho. If you have time either on your way to this adventure or on your way home and fly fishing is your thing, please stop! (short 10 mile detour) this is one of the greatest fly shops that we have in our great state, and you could spend an hour just looking around.

Great Food Truck Race, Episode 4; Tampa

We won the day, we won Tampa!

Having Craig’s family there picked up his spirits, but also did wonders for Kyle and myself….borrowing some love from it all like you’d borrow a little sugar from your neighbor! We all have a lot of love and support pushing us through every day, and we are grateful for it.

But going from sweet to salty, we should have won the Cuban Challenge. That’s right, I said it. Craig grew up here and mastered the Cuban Slider operation, directing Kyle and myself. He did good. But not everyone needs to agree with us, even though they are wrong. (Folds arms over chest with a grunt.)

But, we did win the Grouper challenge, by dusting the fish with flour and cornmeal instead of frying it on the flattop. Deep frying it to perfection and making a slider out of it was a smooth move, and paring it with an incredible sauce made it bounce even more! We did find the strength to resist calling our fans “groupies” for this challenge, which made us feel pretty proud of ourselves.

First day at Sparkman’s wharf we were limited to just selling the Frankie. So, we made Cuban sliders to make up for it and we rocked it! Day two we were beset by horrible weather, otherwise known as rain if you are afraid of a leaky truck. Kyle landed us at this great place called The Patio Bar. What a cool place, corrugated metal meets Tiki lounge. The people were outstanding, and the ownership put out to call to arms for us. The patrons started to amass, and all of them came to our truck in the pouring down rain, followed by Craig’s family.

Just an amazing experience. I would love to have that bar in my back yard, heck and the people too for that matter. Nothing more charming than a bunch of supportive, hungry day drinkers!

Kyle is rocking the front of the house, bringing in people and orders and Craig and I are killing it in the kitchen. (however, Kyle is our Pico De Galo producer) The team is really starting to fire on all cylinders, and donut ask us about the doughnut challenge, because it’s all been washed away by the rain, and chased away by the grouper!

Our dear friends from Madea Made; Andre, Hope and Faith steal $100 from our till from winning the Cuban challenge, I guess they knew we was the team to beat! We still love them; they are our peeps! Still, has no effect on our winning total, as we win the Grouper Challenge with an extra $400 in our coffers.

Its apparent now that we have what it takes to win this WHOLE thing, $50,000! So we are moving on to Gator country, Fort Meyers with big expectations and feeling very good about ourselves. Let’s just put it this way; if our operation stays as tight as Bon Jovi’s pants in the 1980’s, we’ll win for sure!

Episode 3: The Great Food Truck Race, Daytona Beach

“If ain’t first, you’re last.” -Ricky Bobby, Talladega Nights; The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Well, as we all come to find out, that isn’t necessarily so. As Ricky Bobby’s father Reese puts it so eloquently.

That’s right. There’s wisdom there, and we really learned it this week!

Wow, what an amazing place, full of energy! We were vaulted onto the Daytona Speedway …ON the Racetrack with our Food Trucks! Very cool lifetime experience. You never realize how steep that bank is until you (try) and drive up on it. Food Trucks, unlike stock cars, are NOT built for speed.

We find out that that one of the contestants is going home. Citing emotional strain, and there’s no doubt about it, it’s tough! Being away from your loved ones and your life, sacrifices from all our support network and ourselves, plus the added stress of a competition really burns your wick at both ends! We were sad to see her go.

Sad and of course that leaves Sol Food Collective in a difficult situation, now with two team members. It’s hard enough with just 3! They were sure catching some rough breaks!

Also, at this greeting meeting we are told of our next challenge, Donuts. I’ve made many donuts, specifically a Maple Bacon Bar. I tell my team members, we got this. I know how to do this. We were given an instant mix of sorts with inaccurate directions but in hindsight, I should have been able to figure it out. But I don’t and the donut we put in front of Tyler makes him gag. The oil was not hot enough and the donut dough was like a funnel cake batter! Again, should have added more flour and rolled them out. Word to myself, “Stephen, donut make that mistake again!”

So, what we lost was time. The winners got to open, and the rest of us must play corn-hole against the other 6 trucks, and score 50 points before we can start selling. Because we have Kyle and Craig who are good a corn-hole and my luck beginner points we quickly advance back to our truck in 10 minutes and start selling.

Daytona Beach was very slow in sales, not many on the Beach on the Boardwalk, and not many buying any of our food. Travis with Rolling Indulgence lands a big one with the Arizona Sate Gymnastics team but other than that, nada, zip… very few people. Also a disappointment that it was the MEN’S Arizona State Gymnastic team….but I digress…..

Our saving grace through this, is that we are all in the same boat, er truck.

We have made a connection with our fellow competitors, and are becoming a family. Sol Collective struggled with a team member leaving and Malyessa going to the hospital with a Kidney Stone! We don’t want our friends, (any of them) to get eliminated. Seems odd, it’s a competition but we are bonding as a strange little family. 

We have a legendary goodbye party for our friends, and we take 3RD place. We are starting to maybe figure this stuff out? After all, as our former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “America is all about speed; hot nasty, bad-ass speed.”

On to Tampa Florida, full speed ahead!

Episode 2; Hilton Head Island, SC-Back 9 BBQ

Hilton Head Island South Carolina, beautiful place. One of the Golf Meccas of the US. We find our self on the 18th green at Harbor Town Golf Links and Sea Pines Resort. The first Challenge is to make a 5 ft putt, so that you can pick your side dish; the dish that you will need to go along with your Carolina BBQ. Naturally, it’s me, I am a Golfer (did I mention that before?) So I’m like, “oh I got this, yeah baby…”

But despite my hubris, I leave the 5 ft put 2 feet short, but we still get the side dish that we wanted. We picked Hush-puppies of course! Sorry to all my golf buddies for my leaving it short!

We get settled in for the day of selling with slow prep times, a missed putt and Boiled Peanuts..what the heck are boiled peanuts? We get buried with orders and seems like we are going down in flames! Ugh, we are going to go home with nothing but peanuts to show for our efforts! But that’s enough peanut and putting puns.

We are trying to learn how to run this food truck. Every time Tyler calls or texts it’s an interruption followed by a challenge… ugh. So, week two with no frozen fries and the culprit now comes to our truck and tries to steal our customers. So then begins The great French fry debate.. fresh cut or frozen?

Peoples Fry takes all the frozen fries and then comes to our truck and tries to steal our customer’s, but Kyle shuts him down… he can’t even answer Kyle’ Question, which is better Fresh or Frozen? It’s all fun and we love our competitors but back off our customers with your Frozen French Fries!

So happy that we advanced to Daytona Beach and our fryer works now. We are starting to get some synergy with the team. We are going to DAYTONA!

And the race continues…

Episode 1 The Great Food Truck Race – Myrtle Beach South Carolina

What did I get myself into? I arrive at the hotel, and immediately I have given up control of my life. At least I didn’t have to do it alone, besides my two comrades in pain and suffering on the Frank n Slides team, there are 24 more souls just like myself with that deer in the headlights look. The only thing worse than being confused, is being confused alone.

We are in a Food-Truck-on-TV boot camp with producers, assistants and such barking orders like drill sergeants (OK, that’s a little extreme). They are nice folks, but the first thing I noticed is that Television is NOT efficient, business-wise, at least the making of it. I do see that the results are amazing, but when you are in it you think, what the crap?

 Our first attempt at cooking on the food truck was the Beach Bite challenge; make a dish that represents frolic and fun on the beach. Previously I had borrowed a recipe from Craig called a Egg Roll S’more, and I had made it for trail crew in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho. Craig wants to us to lead with that item, and of course I am ALL IN! I know in my heart we will win this challenge with this dish!

 We are given a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the 10 guest judges. Their reactions confirm my confidence. Seeing some of the other truck’s dishes from a distance, I think there is a lot of talent here. Next to us was a Vegan-themed truck, and they produce a beautiful grilled ear of corn. I thought, well that is very nice, in fact amazing but it doesn’t push the culinary boundaries and its not really a summer Beach bite. I am feeling very confident.

 Well, we along with the other 7 trucks are shocked when we got beat by a @#$%#* ear of corn! An ear of corn, won the Summer Beach Bite challenge. OK, really, what did I get myself into?

 Additionally, we are beset by our truck challenges. Our fryer only worked when it wanted to (kind of like a millennial), and when it rained it also rained through the roof of our Food truck. It feels certainly feels like we are going home.

 So, by now, you know that we made the first cut, on to Hilton Head Island South Carolina! We were just happy to make it here period, and now we are on to the next event!

Stay tuned to see how we did next week, on Season 10 of the Great Food Truck Race.