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Summer Camp For Food-Loving Adults: Chef Camp

Book a north-woods excursion that challenges your culinary creativity among fellow foodies and big-time local chefs


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Courtesy of Chef Camp

The more I talk with Minnesota chefs, the more I find common ground in a love for the outdoors. These men and women hike, they fish, they camp, they farm, they love the outdoors. Often there's a disconnect between that outdoor life and the urban nature of most diners. But there's a fascination, right? Chef Camp is tapping into that by creating a chance for people to go to the north woods, learn from big-time chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas, as well as do incredible outdoor activities such as archery, canoeing, and foraging. It's like summer camp for grown-ups.

"Chef Camp came from camping trips my friend and I would take to the Boundary Waters," Dave Friedman, the Chef Camp founder, tells me. "We would have these great meals in the woods. An ingredient like Spanish chorizo would last for days," he says. So he started talking to chefs about what they do in the woods and how they can cook more creatively in the constraints of the wild. 


Courtesy of Chef Camp

"If we brought four or five chefs into the wilderness, what kind of creativity would that spark in them? What could they do with the constraints?" he wonders. So, they did the first Chef Camp last year, and they're doing it twice this year. It's at the YMCA Camp Miller in Sturgeon Lake. "As soon as we saw it, we fell in love with it," he says of the site. They actually have a farm there, where they grow produce for the kids of the Brainerd YMCA. And this year, he's doing a project with the Northern Clay Center in July to build an outdoor pizza oven for the camp, Friedman says. They'll use it for Chef Camp, and they'll leave it for the kids.


Courtesy of Chef Camp

The chefs taking part are big time: the first session is Friday, September 1–Sunday, September 3, with Vincent Francoual (Cooper, the Local, and the Liffey); Erik Sather (Lowry Hill Meats); Jason Engelhart (Meritage); Yia Vang (Union Kitchen); and Kathy Yerich (forager). Session two is the following week (September 8–10), featuring J.D. Fratzke (Bar Brigade & Saint Dinette); Nettie Colon (Red Hen Gastrolab); Brian Merkel (Tullibee's butcher); Brad Leone (Bon Appétit Magazine); and forager Lukas Leaf.


Courtesy of Chef Camp

"For them to be out of their kitchen, it's a vacation for them, but it's also really special," he says. All your lodging, food, beer, cocktails, events—everything is included for $650. You can tent camp or sleep in a shared bunkhouse for that cost. If you want a romantic getaway for $1,500, you can get a private room for two. If you bring a group of six, you can share a cabin, and it works out to about $540 a person. "It's a great guys weekend, girls weekend, teambuilding getaway," Friedman says.

To book Chef Camp, click here.

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Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

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