Last summer, Ford brought all their dealers in Canada to a retreat in Utah. For most their of stay, the group stayed in Park City and enjoyed the numerous activities and restaurants there. However, they informed me that the highlight of their trip was the daylong leadership training, filled with various outdoor contests and culminating in a very competitive chili cookoff. Culinary Crafts, of course, was the caterer of choice to organize the cookoff and provide foodservice while they were off premise.
The group of 120 divided into 10 groups of 12 and spent the day at Rendezvous Ranch rotating between 10 different outdoor challenges. The challenges included fly fishing, bull riding, an atv trail course, horseback riding, etc. At each activity the groups would earn points depending on their performance as a team.
After 5 rotations, the group took a lunchtime break and we served up a bbq luncheon featuring buffalo burgers, rattlesnake sausages, and our homemade cookies.
Following lunch, the group returned to their rotations and finished the 5 remaining activities. After each group had completed each activity, they were able to cash in the points they had earned during the day at our 'General Store' for their choice of ingredients to make a pot of chili. Each team was given a 1 knife, 1 cutting board, 1 dutch oven, 1 bag of charcoal briquettes, 1 chimney starter, 1 leather mit, and 1 book of matches.
In addition to exchanging their points for ingredients, teams could also buy 5 minutes of advice from an outdoor cooking expert (yours truly).
During the cookoff, we had an open bar serving up some of our choice Utah microbrews and we passed hors d'oeuvres featuring some of our favorite local products. The mood was quite jovial but nonetheless very competitive.
At the end of the alotted time, we took each team's pot of chili and set up a dinner buffet which included all the chilis that had been prepared along with our specialty dry rubbed and wood fired chicken, house made corn bread and Utah cheddar coleslaw. Then came the judging.
Mary, and two Ford CEO's tasted and judged all 10 chilis by a number of distinct criteria. We tallied the 3 judges scores and gave each team their composite score and annouced the winners.
I must admit, that when we planned this event I was worried that the day would be too long for these guests; that after a day of rigorous outdoor activities, they would not be inclined to cook their own dinner. Yet, when it came time at the end of the day for the chili cookoff, the group jumped right in and you should have heard the cheers (and jeers) as we announced the judges favorite chili. Every guest I spoke to that evening said the day was the best part of their 10 day stay in Utah and that the food we had served and helped them prepare was the best they had tasted anywhere else during their stay.
When the group finally loaded up to head back to Park City at the end of the night, I too, felt like despite the long hours I had put in, it was the funnest event I had worked in a long long time.
If you'd like to see more photos of the Chili Cookoff, just click the Corporate and Conventions tab on our web site, scoll down to Ford of Canada and click on the photo tour.
Speaking of the joy of cooking and the exciting competitive spirit, don't forget to enter Culinary Crafts' recipe contest for a chance to win a free Black Satin Fudge Cake prepared by our veteran pastry chef and shipped straight to your door. Just send your favorite recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments here on our blog.
Culinary Crafts Director of Catering