Felicity Long
Felicity Long

InsightWhere do chefs go on vacation?

It turns out that some chefs like to get out of the kitchen – way out – and into the great outdoors for adventure pursuits such as fly-fishing, horseback riding and hiking.

One place they like to do it is the Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre, luxury ranch resort in Montana that not only claims vacationing chefs among its frequent guests, but also lures foodies with an annual, all-inclusive Montana Master Chefs (MMC) weekend.

The event has been so popular that this year the guest chefs are celebrity alums of the Top Chef TV show, who will mingle with hotel visitors both at the dining table and in the surrounding mountains.

In addition to competitive cook offs, guests and chefs can fish together, forage for fresh produce at local farms and markets, hobnob at the outdoor spa and, of course, and break bread in a variety of scenic settings.FelicityLong

“The positioning of the brand - a ranch and a resort - dictates that we deliver equally on adventure and cuisine,” said Larry Lipson, owner of Paws Up. “It’s our mission to be equally well known for both, and we have made them both cornerstones of the brand.”

The MMC is one of eight annual culinary events Paws Up puts on every year, including Montana Master Grillers and Upper Crust, a camp featuring pie chef Kate McDermott.

The first MMC was in 2006, created to showcase the resort’s culinary offerings and to attract couples, honeymooners, girlfriend getaways and small groups to the resort off-season in September.

While the visiting chefs at those early events were well-known, Lipson said, “we discovered that Bravo Top Chefs have the ideal chemistry for the event… because they welcome a challenge and they enjoy mixing it up with guests."

All chefs and winemakers are required to host at least one wilderness activity during the weekend, and they tap a number of guests to be sous chefs during the cook-off on the last night.

“An additional evolution of culinary events at Paws Up is the integration of national entertainment,” Lipson said. “American Idol [contestant] Crystal Bowersox played Montana Master Grillers last Memorial Day weekend, and The Voice finalist, Seth Bradley, will be playing two shows during the upcoming Montana Master Chefs in the fall.”

During MMC, the days’ events are topped off with five-course dinners for guests, prepared by the Top Chefs and paired with wines from local wineries. As always, the resort also offers some 50 outdoor activities, from go-kart racing to cattle drives, rappelling, ATV touring and archery.

This year the weekend is scheduled for Sept. 25 to 28 and features an all-women team of host chefs: Brooke Williamson from Playa del Rey, Calif.; Elizabeth Binder, of Napa, Calif.; Ariane Durate, from Montclair, NJ, and Kelly Liken of Vail, Colo.

The three-night weekend is priced from $926 per person per night, double, and includes airport transfers from Missoula Airport, accommodations and all of the dining, wine and activities. 

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