Chefs take to the wilds in foodie survival test


What: Island Chefs' Survival event

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Where: Madrona Farm, 4317 Blenkinsop Rd.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $75 at the farm (open Wed. to Sat. 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.), at Hemp and Co., Capital Iron or with PayPal at

People addicted to Survivor on television won't have to turn on their sets this weekend to watch grown men battling it out in a remote, exotic location.

This city will have its own brand of reality entertainment at Madrona Farm, where a dozen chefs will fight for gastronomic supremacy.

No tribes here, it's every man for himself as they scramble over an obstacle course, paddle to an island to collect condiments and sharp knives, then slog through muddy fields to gather raw materials for winning dishes.

"It's a culinary arts performance festival to protect local farmland," explained Nathalie Chambers, who runs the organic farm with her husband David. For the past year they have sought donations and held benefits to raise funds so the farm can be purchased by the Land Conservancy and protected for future generations. The Chambers plan to lease the land and continue operating it.

The property is valued at $2.5 million and TLC's fee is $250,000. The deal is contingent on Madrona meeting fundraising targets set by TLC and it has five months to raise the final $915,000.

Chambers hopes the Chef's Survival Challenge, from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Blenkinsop farm, will raise $50,000 and become an annual event even after the money is raised. This year she has included music with performers such as Mae Moore, Lester Quitzau, Aidan Thorne and the Turnpike Bandits. The $75 tickets include food, tea, coffee, entertainment and a $50 tax receipt. (Alcohol is available but extra.)

The biggest amusement will likely be chefs, in combat or survival gear, scrambling over the obstacle course or tearing around the site, chopping or digging up fresh veggies that include turnips, Asian braising greens, kale, arugula, apples, baby leeks, cilantro, patty pan squash, Yukon gold potatoes, snap peas, free range eggs, cabbage, cauliflower and more.

Each chef is allowed one bag of utensils, condiments and meat of some kind.

"They are also allowed an assistant, and since some of the chefs are just a little overweight, they have chosen wranglers who are very speedy and light sous chefs," said Chambers, who added they don't know where the produce is, but they will get maps and have to hunt for buried treasure.

The dirty dozen will be allowed a quick cleanup before starting to create culinary masterpieces for auction.

There will be tents, heaters and extraordinary food, but gung-ho gumbooters are also invited to follow along on the course. No women were up for the challenge this year, but the guy chefs include Cory Pelan, owner of La Piola; Chris Hammer of Royal Colwood Golf Course; Alberto Pozzolo of the Italian Bakery; Patrick Miller of Camille's; Stephan Drolet of Pacific Prime Restaurant; Mike Dunlop of Vista 18; Michael Weaver of Lure; Ken Nakano of the Fairmont Empress; Jonathan Pulker of Pizzeria Prima Strada; Michael DeGrazia of Solomon's; and Peter Zambri of Zambri's.

Parking is in a field next door and there is a shuttle bus to the tents.

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