The Wonder Women of Food and Wine Coming This Fall

They say girls are made of sugar and spice and, oh, nevermind. These titans of the kitchen are made of pure steel, and each one of them has used every ingredient imaginable. That’s why we’re SUPER excited about this year’s Montana Master Chefs: The Wonder Women of Food and Wine on September 27-30 2018. It’s the first-ever culinary event at The Resort at Paws Up to feature an all-female lineup.

And what a lineup it is. During this three-day weekend event, guests will get to know five award-winning chefs, three notable vintners, a dynamo distiller and two incredible brewers.

“We always do something to top the previous year,” says Scott Schaefer, special events manager at Paws Up. “In 2016, we featured James Beard All-Stars, then we did Rising All-Stars in 2017. But Wonder Women of Food and Wine is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.”

Schaefer was inspired in large part by another Paws Up tradition: the Cowgirl Spring Roundup. During that event, “I got to observe how empowering it was to have all these women together,” he says. He wanted to replicate that feeling, and with help from Chef Mindy Segal, he’s assembled a crackerjack team of chefs and vintners from across the country, as well as the women behind the first female-owned brewery and distillery in Montana.

Julia Sullivan, chef/owner of Nashville’s Henrietta Red, was drawn to the event because, she says, “I get the chance to cook with some of my idols.” Though her restaurant was named Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit in 2017 and is a contender for the 2018 Best New Restaurant James Beard Award, Sullivan is starstruck by the other participating chefs. She refers to Renee Erickson as “a hero of mine. Renee is the queen of the oyster bar.” Sullivan also cites camaraderie as a reason for her commitment: “You definitely get a different sensibility with a group of female chefs.”

Plus, it’s not just about good food and good fun; it’s about doing good, too. The event culminates in a Master Chef cook-off challenge, complete with mystery ingredients. Once they’ve been vetted by the judges, the plates are then auctioned off to hungry guests, with the proceeds benefitting the Missoula Food Bank. Since 2014, guests and the Paws Up Foundation have donated more than $55,000. Now that sounds like a sweet finish.

There are all kinds of reasons to come to Paws Up for our signature foodie event. But this year, at Montana Master Chefs: The Wonder Women of Food and Wine, you’ll get to find out firsthand how some girls grow up to become as invincible as their dishes are delectable. Look who’s coming below:

Chef Sunny Jin Elevates Montana Cuisine

Chef Sunny Jin is a traveler by nature. He’s a tireless forager, always searching for the next fresh local ingredient. And The Resort at Paws Up is thrilled to have him as our new executive chef.

“For me, happiness and inspiration come from my foraging walks and a dedication to sustainability,” Jin said recently. “Hiking the local area is really the best way to get in tune with the Montana landscape and the endless bounties it provides. It’s such an inspiring place. There’s an endless supply of local and seasonal plants, vegetables, fruit and game. In that regard Montana really can’t be beat.”

Since arriving at Paws Up, Jin has also been taking road trips to visit local purveyors. “I’ve been reaching out to reestablish existing relationships and forge new ones. I’m looking for sustainable excellence in our ingredients,” he said.

All of this translates incredibly well to his new role as culinary leader at Paws Up. Jin’s dedication to excellence and his flexibility and creation of free-flowing menus learned on a global stage, along with his fondness for seafood and wild game, work well in the wilds of Montana. Lest there be any doubt about the current level of culinary excellence at Paws Up, Jin was added to the list of chefs at 2018’s prestigious Pebble Beach Food & Wine, the premier epicurean lifestyle event on the West Coast. Among its former notable chefs: Philippe Legendre, Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller, one of Sunny Jin’s early mentors at the French Laundry. We sat down with Chef Sunny to ask him a few questions:

Is there a particular mindset you bring to your daily menus?

I want to serve something that I would like to eat and at the same time be proud of, and of course our kitchen’s staff and our guests’ opinions matter greatly.

Are there specific things you’ve found inspiring on your foraging walks? What piques your culinary fancy?

Lots of new exciting ideas occur to me every day in Montana. It’s such an inspiring place, with culinary riches like wild huckleberries, cherries, morel mushrooms, sage, Saskatoon berries, spruce tips, purslane. And what we can do with elk, bison, duck and trout.

Is it challenging to cook for our diverse Paws Up audiences, small groups and large?

Forever the optimist, I don’t see challenges but rather pleasant surprises. I enjoy teaching our culinary team at Paws Up, as well as learning from them.

What inspires the culinary staff to achieve greatness varies. It could be a tasting menu for a couple celebrating a special occasion or a group of 50 sampling various dishes at the Equestrian Center.

How does all of this—your rich experiences, the local sourcing—come together on a menu?

Our menus are free-flowing, and we’ve made progress in last few months from changing one thing at a time to changing three or four items while creating menu layers. We offer variety and tailor things to our guests and never sacrifice on quality or our standards. We’ll keep a large focus on cooking with Montana elk and bison and the highest quality beef. We strive to source animals fed and raised in an antibiotic- and growth-hormone-free, responsible way. Some of our recent dishes have included:

Crispy Duck Hash with Mustard Greens

Cedar Plank Salmon on Wilted Kale

Sherry-Braised Beef Short Ribs

Have you had a chance to work with some of the guest chefs at The Resort’s special culinary events?

Yes, I have. WinterFest was great. I love to see how other chefs work and engage with them. Collaboration is everything. Guest chefs help us keep it fresh and keep it engaged.

So, this area really seems to suit your “cook locally, cook sustainably” philosophy?

It does. I personally feel more driven by responsibility and less compelled by style. The reward for me is when I’m able to engage and connect with local farmers and ranchers. Their commitment to their craft and community is where I gain a sense of obligation. That obligation is then the intentional focal point in every meal.

Sounds like you are finding the kinds of local support you had hoped for?

Definitely, with Missoula and our neighboring rural communities, we are good neighbors. They may deliver food for sourcing our dishes, and if someone has a fence down, I’m more than willing to help fix it. Now that’s a culinary philosophy that’s as localized as it gets.

Top 10 Summer Adventures at The Resort at Paws Up

Summer is the chance to go barefoot, enjoy tasty barbecued ribs, ride go-karts, relax around bonfires and catch fireflies. Summer is about slowing down—and speeding up, getting people together and finding your own space and time. If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Paws Up during our high season, you already know about our tried-and-true thrills and pastimes. Below is summer’s new bucket list—our Top 10 Paws Up Adventures for 2018.

1. GO JUMP IN A LAKE.

Be among the very first to enjoy Paws Up Island Lodge at  Salmon Lake. Take a sunset pontoon boat tour, water-ski the day away or just visit for the spectacular view.

2. CAST AWAY THE DAY.

For anyone who loves (or is angling to try) fly-fishing, this part of Montana is heaven on earth, with legendary rivers like the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Clearwater and Missouri right at hand.

3. GO FOR A RUGGED RIDE.

Kick up some dust on an ATV tour and see the ranch’s 37,000 acres from a heart-thumping perspective.

4. TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT.

No birds are harmed, but your heart will swell after taking a turn on our challenging 10-station sporting clays course.

5. FIND YOUR OWN WAY.

Ride when you want, how you want with a private horseback excursion, tailored for riders of all ages and levels.

6. CHANNEL YOUR INNER ANNIE OAKLEY.

Relive the Wild West at our .22 rifle range where guests ages 6 and up take aim at reactive targets.

7. FIGURE OUT WHAT FLOATS YOUR BOAT.

Enjoy a gentle rafting trip or rev things up with Class I and II whitewater rapids. For something truly wild, take a day trip to Alberton Gorge’s Class III rapids, coupled with thrilling cliff jumping.

8. DRIVE AROUND OUR RANCH.

If you want to feel like a real cowboy or cowgirl, head out for a Paws Up cattle drive. You’ll be riding and rounding up Corriente cows like a pro in no time.

9. CLIMB TO NEW HEIGHTS.

Come play in our Sky Line Aerial Adventure Park, with two courses designed to test your will and your skill.

10. GEAR UP FOR A GHOST TOUR.

Wander through the most intact ghost town in Montana, then bike back the 14.5 miles to The Resort (downhill, of course!).