Over the last weekend in July the ‘On The Road’ Discovery 2 and I headed to a most interesting event: The “Muddy Chef Challenge” in very scenic Manchester, Vermont. “Muddy Chef” began in 2008 in nearby Stowe, Vermont. A group of friends had a “crazy” idea that off-roading could be combined with a vehicle-based gourmet cooking challenge.
On Thursday afternoon, after a slight delay to help a stranded customer that was headed in from NC to the event, the Discovery 2 was packed and we were on our way. Apart from events I've organized myself, this was the shortest commute I've had to one, ever. Within an hour and a half after walking out the front door, we were checking in at the registration tent.
Once we picked up our registration pack at the Orvis flagship store, we were off on a light off-road adventure to find the show field. Once the field was found the shock set in. We were camping in a field behind an active Carnival! Rides, shows, and attractions were right on the other side of the plastic fencing. I'm a positive thinker so I figured, “How bad could this really be?” In the end, Vermont has weird laws and so the fair fully shut down at 10 pm.
Friday, we rounded up some friends and headed out to find a fun off road trail. We decided to run one that none of us have been on since 2009, and also wasn't on the event list. It turned into an amazingly hard winch-fest even for our very well-outfitted and capable Rovers. We got tied up on the trail and nearly missed the first cooking event, the “Chopped Challenge” competition on the lawn of Orvis. Think “Iron Chef,” but instead of a kitchen, you are doing it completely out of the back of a Land Rover. It's an amazing event and the teams are VERY competitive. The judges and rules are very strict and the attire at the cocktail party afterward is something to be seen.
Saturday, we decided to run a recommended trail, after our off road struggles Friday, this was the right choice. We wheeled through Emerald Lake State Park and up to an abandoned marble quarry that now gets used as an unofficial swimming hole. It was a great morning and part of the afternoon in the woods. Before we knew it we were back in camp and resting up for the next cooking adventure, the “main event” of Muddy Chef.
The Saturday evening contestants compete to see not only who has the best cooking, but also the best décor. This year’s theme was "African Safari". The camps were amazingly decorated and the food was all out of this world. It is truly amazing seeing the quality of the dishes essentially coming out of the back of a dirty truck and getting cooked right before your eyes. Once the judges finished with each camp, the leftovers were up for grabs. I think everyone there ate amazingly well that night. Full disclosure, I got to be a judge of the dessert portion of the festivities, so I ate a little better than most!
Sunday was the awards ceremony, then we broke camp and headed home. This was a great event for kids and adults, and it has the old-time Rover event feel with a new competitive edge. There were even “Series” Land Rovers out on the trails, right alongside the newest Discovery Sports. That was truly a sight to behold.
I still don’t know if was the food, the location, the free bar in an old 70’s camping trailer, or the looming Ferris wheel from the carnival next door that made this such a fun and unique event. Come next year and decide for yourselves. Registration for 2018 is already open and limited to 150 spots. See you “On the Road!”
PS, Our friends at "Drive The Globe" posted a neat video of the event. Here it is:
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