An Epic Battle…

Last weekend, 70 guests converged in the Lewis & Clark Reception Barn’s auditorium for the 5th annual Montana Master Chefs Top Chef Cook-Off.

This year’s contestants:

Chef Dale Levitski: Sprout Restaurant in Chicago.  Third-place finish on season three of Bravo’s Top Chef.

Chef Lee Anne Wong: New York City.  Contestant on season one of Top Chef, producer of seasons 2-6 of Top Chef, and currently featured on Unique Eats airing on The Cooking Channel.

The chefs had 45 minutes to prepare two courses for the judges: Violet Grgich from Grgich Hills Estates Winery; Ken Leonard, five-time Montana Master Chefs guest; and Michael Mathews, three-time Montana Master Chefs guest.

The secret ingredient the chefs were required to use was grass fed natural beef, lamb and pork from the Blackfoot Valley (best in show animals from the local 4-H).  To determine who started first and had first choice at selecting the best meat, the chefs had to first answer a series of rare trivia questions about food.  Lee Anne won, so she got first choice.  She selected lamb chop.

During the 45 minutes, there were a series of “twists” thrown at the chefs, derived from people from the audience who drew the scenarios from a hat.  The first twist was “add one of the pre-selected secret ingredients – either Coca-Cola®, Pineapple or SPAM®. The chefs chose SPAM®.  Another twist pulled from the hat was “prepare a 3rd course”…this certainly made the chefs panic, but they came through brilliantly.

In the end, the judges raved, and ultimately gave the crown to Lee Anne Wong…by only two points.  We’d like to thank Dale, Lee Anne, the judges, and the guests for making this such an outstanding event.  ‘Til next year.

Drumroll Please….

We’ve finalized our featured chefs, guest chefs, and featured winemakers for Montana Master Chefs 2010.  We’re pleased to announce the following:

Featured Chefs:

Mark Peel: Campanile Restaurant, Los Angeles

Brian Bistrong: Braeburn Restaurant, New York

Wes Coffel: The Resort at Paws Up, Montana

Guest Chefs:

Stephanie Izard: Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” Winner (Season 4)

Dale Levitski: Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” Contestant (Season 3)

Featured Winemakers:

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Merry Edwards Winery

Grgich Hills Estate

Montana Master Chefs 2009

Montana Master Chefs is always a highlight of the year and 2009 was no exception.  This year’s winery lineup was one of the best ever with Frog’s Leap Winery, Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  We enjoyed some of the finest wines from Napa Valley right in the heart of the Blackfoot River Valley.  Our chef line up was equally as impressive with Kent Rathbun, Executive Chef/Proprietor of Abacus and Jasper’s Restaurants in Dallas; the last two seasons Top Chef winners, Stephanie Izard and Hosea Rosenberg; and our very own resort chef, Wes Coffel.   It was a weekend filled with the finest things in life: fine food, great wine, friends, family, fun and all with a sense of adventure.   If you didn’t get a chance to join us this year, go to to see what you missed and mark your calendars for 2010 (September 30-October 3, 2010).

The Starting Lineup….

It is our great pleasure to announce this year’s lineup for Montana Master Chefs 2009 (10/8/09 – 10/10/09).  We have an extremely strong lineup of chefs and winemakers this year and MMC ’09 promises to be the best ever.   Thursday’s Dinner will be prepared by our very own Chef, Wes Coffel and will be paired with the fabulous wines of Frog’s Leap Winery.  We are so excited to have the winners from the past two seasons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Stephanie Izard (Season 4) and this year’s winner, Hosea Rosenberg that we are featuring the two of them as co-chefs for Friday Night’s dinner.    Stephanie and Hosea will work together with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to pair their culinary creations with the famous wines of this Napa Valley institution.  On Saturday night we welcome Chef Kent Rathbun, Executive Chef/Proprietor of Abacus and Jasper Restaurants in Dallas who is pairing his menu with the wines of Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

In my post titled “Proud to Announce”, I talked about Chef Rathbun and Frog’s Leap Winery so I wanted to make sure I gave our latest additions to the lineup equal time.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards has been producing some of Napa Valley’s finest wines for over 30 years.   They have been innovators and pioneers in the industry since the beginning – their 1974 Insignia was the first Bordeaux-style blend produced in California under a proprietary label.  Their Insignia and Backus wines continue to be some of the highest rated, most sought-after and finest wines produced.  I can’t wait to try them this year.

Chef Stephanie Izard, winner of Bravo’s hit show “Top Chef” season 4 and Executive Chef/Proprietor of The Drunken Goat in Chicago will join us again this year.   We really enjoyed Stephanie’s company last year.  For those of you that are fans of Top Chef or saw her in action at last year’s event; you know she is a fierce competitor, a great chef and a genuinely nice person.  Stephanie is the defending champion of our Top Chef Cook-Off Challenge and this year will be challenged by Top Chef Season 5 winner, Chef Hosea Rosenberg.  Hosea is the Executive Chef of Jax Fish House in Boulder and is looking to extend his competition winning streak in 2009. We are looking forward to a great battle between these two winning chefs in Saturday’s Top Chef Cook-Off Challenge as well as seeing them work as a team preparing Friday Night’s dinner.

Pairing with Stephanie and Hosea will be Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.    Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars wines are world-renowned and history making:  On May 24, 1976, a wine tasting took place in Paris that changed the world’s view of California wines forever. The French wines were First and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies. They were matched against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The tasting was blind, with the identities of the wines concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of nine tasters had voted its order of preference.  The unthinkable happened. Warren Winiarski’s 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet was judged the best. The Cabernet had bested four top-ranked Bordeaux, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from California also bested its French counterparts (for those of you keeping score, Jim Barrett from Chateau Montelena joined us for Montana Master Chefs I).   It will be a pleasure to partake in some of these historic wines, whether it is the S.L.V, Fay or Cask 23, I can hardly wait for October.

We have also partnered with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars on a live auction lot for this year’s Auction Napa Valley.  Our lot is titled Big Bottles, Big Sky  – The “Big Bottles, Big Sky” experience begins with a rare vertical of highly collectible CASK 23 Cabernet Sauvignon in bottles of extraordinary size and grandeur along with a five-night Big Sky adventure vacation  with us here at The Resort at Paws Up.  We are thrilled and excited to be a part of this wonderful charity event in the Napa Valley and to be paired with such a magnificent collection of wines from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Hope to see all of you at Montana Master Chefs 2009 as well as Auction Napa Valley 2009.


-Jim Nielsen, General Manager