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Most Amazing Outdoor Experiences To Give Yourself, Your Family, Or Someone You Love

Most Amazing Outdoor Experiences To Give Yourself, Your Family, Or Someone You Love

Not all gifts are created equal, and some of the most memorable and life altering gifts are not contained within the confines of a neatly wrapped box. As we find ourselves searching for ways to connect with ourselves, our family and friends, and to the world around us, it makes sense that we turn to idea of giving experiences, rather than objects, as perfect gifts for any occasion.

Gifts of experiences are completely customizable, can fit any budget, and provide highly personalized activities that can be singular or group oriented. Whether you choose to give a hobby related excursion or provide a new adventure altogether, you can rest assured that your gift will be one of a kind.

Wine & Food Tasting

No matter where you live in the country, there is food to be explored in your area. In Seattle, its a Pike Place Market food tour, in Baltimore is a food and wine pairing by a local chef, in a coastal southern town it may be tasting fresh catches from the sea dockside. Wherever you, or your loved one lives, there is undoubtedly a food exploration excursion to be enjoyed. This type of gift creates a deeper appreciation of the local area, and can inspire future outing ideas for everyone involved.

Fun In Learning

Oftentimes people have interests that they would love to become involved in but fail to follow through with the steps necessary in order to do so. Providing the course, or a class, or participation in an educational experience can open many new doors and fulfil lifelong dream. A class in flyfishing, cooking, sailing, music, and any hobby you can think of can be turned into a thoughtful gift that can even be shared with others in a group event.

A Special Touch

Upgrade your family or friend’s weekend getaway by elevating your outdoor experience. While glamping and guided tours have become increasingly popular ways of hitting the trails, many times you are spending your time with others who have also booked the trip. For a truly personal and inspiring adventure, consider taking a tour of the beautiful Grand Canyon with Canyons And Chefs for an experience of our beautiful country like no other. These guided tours culminate with professional chef prepared meals, meaning all that you and your guests have to do is take it all in and enjoy. This type of experience is perfect for girls trips, family vacations, or couples romantic excursions.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Creating memorable, one of a kind moments for ourselves and the ones we love provides us with more opportunities to strengthen bonds and develop lifelong memories. Almost any experience can be turned into a gift for anyone and for any occasion, it is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.

How to Make Your Glamping Experience Amazing

How to Make Your Glamping Experience Amazing

Glamping is a popular buzzword in the outdoor realm, and for good reason. It’s the hottest new trend in getting out and enjoying nature.  For decades proceeding, camping had a rather vast spectrum that ranged from minimalists who slept on the ground in remote areas to RVers who took advantage of the many RV parks available. Glamping is now pushing the envelope when it comes to a posh experience and luxurious camping accommodations.  Now, you and a group of your best friends, lovers, or revelers can access the remote, spectacular areas while still enjoying some of the creature comforts you can find at home, or even upscale hotels and resorts.

Follow along as we delve into the wondrous world of luxury, style, and comfort, all in the wondrous world that is our natural backyard!

Glamping Defined

The word itself really isn’t surprising. It is a mash-up of the words “glamour” and “camping.” Just like traditional camping, glamping has a spectrum. On one end, you have elevated campsites that feel more like home than a tent, and on the other, you have uber-luxe settings that are actually more like five-star hotel suites found in the great outdoors.

Much like regular camping, glamping is essentially what you make it.  For some, glamping may be as simple as bringing along a subwoofer for your Ipod, while for others glamping may be essentially an actual five-star resort adjacent to a wooded area, with perhaps a fire.  However, true glamping is simply an ultra-elevated outdoor experience.


Glamping vs. Camping

One of the biggest differentiators in these two experiences is your overall comfort level. With glamping, you are semi-roughing it. With that being understood, there are no hard-and-fast rules. If you decide to book a glamping getaway, the provider you go through may provide you with a campsite and offer you various luxuries, such as a private shower, closet to hang your clothing, and even a private chef for amazing meals.

However, if you take the DIY approach to glamping, it may just mean a larger tent, more luxurious mattress, or even using gourmet cookware. More decorative campsite touches are also a part of the fun of glamping. You can think of it as decorating buy using an outdoorsmen’s sensibility. If a string of LED flamingo lights, an elegant camp chair, an artsy rug, or even a French coffee press is what speaks to you, then it is a definite candidate for your glamping experience.

A First-Timer’s Guide to Glamping

If glamping is something you want to try, there are several options to consider. For example, you can choose an all-inclusive glamping getaway. If you go the all-inclusive route, you may find it’s expensive; however, having a professional plan all the details of the trip reduces the stress on you.

Another option is to book a glamping rental. You can think of this as a rental service for yurts, but you can find other options, too, such as tiny houses, trailers, and tents. Chances are there are more glamping options in your area than you realize.

You can also become a DIY glamper. This means that you take the entire experience into your own hands and take steps to elevate and glam-up your camping excursion. This may take some careful planning, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Are You Ready to Go Glamping?

As you can see, there’s a lot of appeal to glamping. If you want to make the most of your adventure, be sure to keep the tips and information here in mind. It will pay off and ensure that you and your entire family have a great experience, regardless of where you go or what you do.

Guided Glamping Excursions

Hiking and exploring our National Parks or any beautiful landscape is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guiding outfitter is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Canyons and Chefs provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with professional chefs and expert geologist/guides.  Our meals use fresh ingredients and are inspired by local farms, culture, and cuisine.  We utilize a mobile professional kitchen as a backbone for cooking over the fire.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  Summed up, you can explore these wild places, but going with Canyons and Chefs can create an even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure Chef-Driven Outdoor Experiences, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

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The Fireside Chef’s 5 Most-Loved Campfire Recipes

The Fireside Chef’s 5 Most-Loved Campfire Recipes

Canyons and Chefs Most-Loved Backcountry Recipes

camping cooking dutch oven recipes

A word from the Fireside Chef

In my years of travel and travail through mountains, deserts,Michelin- starred restaurants, backyard barbecues, culinary schools, canyons, parks, summits, and walk-in refrigerators, I have learned one thing:  Cooking matters.  This is an overarching idea that covers many different philosophical subsets:  good food matters, good company matters, happiness matters, smell matters, taste matters, sight matters, texture matters, memories matter.  All of this coalesces into why food is so important in our lives.  It is not simply a vehicle for sustenance.  The renewed farm-to-table food movement of the past decade has proven that human nature rises above TV dinners and microwaved hot dogs.  Internally, we are all chefs, and we all crave to cook and eat food that is fresh and has some measure of humanity within it.  Being phased out are the days of the industrialized food conglomerate of processed “cheese” and mystery meat patties, and back are the days of fresh produce, locally sourced meats, artisan breads and cheeses, and the rekindling of the Farmer’s Market.

Nowhere can this movement be found more evident than when one cooks in the outdoors.  Gone are the days of beanie-weenies and food-on-a-stick, and in is the day of the Fireside Chef: a person who cares about the food they are serving, a person who has a deep connection with their surroundings, a profound respect for nature, and an understanding of how the stars have aligned so that we may be here to create and enjoy gorgeous and delicious food.  If you can, take some time to ponder the profundity of geologic time and the steps that were necessary throughout the course of history to put this power into your hands.  Cook on my friends:  May your coals be hot, your drinks be cold, your company welcome, and your experienceunforgettable.

dutch oven camping recipes

Enjoy our 5 most-loved campfire/dutch oven recipes!

*House Seasoning = 1 part Kosher Salt, ¼ part coarse-ground black pepper, Dash of mesquite

>Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Caramelized Apples, Bacon, and Sage


Short ribs are the second pair of ribs on a cow that lie justbeneath the main pair.  They have a rich flavor and tender nature, with an extravagant amount of meat for such a small bone.

1 lb. bacon, chopped

3 lbs. (12) short ribs, trimmed

½ cup bourbon

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

4 cups beef stock

1 cup apple juice

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 12 oz. can lager-style beer

10 leaves fresh sage, chopped


Crisp the bacon in a dutch oven until golden brown.  Remove from the pot, and reserve ½ of the fat in the pot, discarding the rest (it’s great to save for later).  Season the short ribs with house seasoning, and add to the pot, searing until browned on all sides.  Remove ribs from pan, and deglaze with bourbon, reducing by ½ .  Add more fat, and add onion, carrots, garlic, and apples.  Saute slowly until golden brown, add back bacon, and cover with beef stock, apple juice, and vinegar.  Add chopped sage leaves, cover the dutch oven, and place in the simmer pit for 4-5 hours.  Remove from the pit and take out the ribs.  With a slotted spoon, fish out apples, carrots, onions, garlic, and sage and spoon over ribs.  Pour a small amount of braising liquid over the ribs and serve.


>Sonoran BBQ and Pepper Bacon Burger

This one could really be called the Sonoran Smokehouse, as it is truly our high desert version of a burger that can be found on burger joint menus.  Smoky, delicious, just what you need.


For the Burger:

1 lb. 80/20 Ground Beef

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard


For the BBQ Sauce:

1  c. Good-Quality Ketchup

½  c. Apple Cider Vinegar

⅔ c  Light Brown Sugar, tightly packed

¼ c worcestershire sauce

¼ whole-grain mustard

2 Chipotle Peppers in adobo, finely minced

1 c. beef stock

House Seasoning, to taste


Combine all ingredients, whisking together.  Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low heat heat until it reaches a thickened, saucy consistency.  Cool.



2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Burger Rolls

8 slices pepper bacon

2 Poblano peppers, roasted, skinned, and seeded

4 slices smoked gouda

2 leaves Romaine lettuce

4 slices Roma tomatoes

6 pickle chips


Fry the bacon until golden brown and crispy.  Liberally season the patties with house seasoning and place on a hot, oiled grill directly over the coals.  Rotate for grill marks, and flip when edges are crispy and browned.  Place peppers, then bacon on patties, and top with smoked cheddar cheese.  While cheese is melting, toast buns until crispy, then remove from the grill and slather with sauce.  When cheese is melted, place the patties on the bottom bun, and garnish the top bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles.  


>Grill-Blackened Halibut with Roasted Garlic and Chile Salsa

Blacking spice is typically used when searing fish or meat with oil.  Halibut is a flaky whitefish that stands up well to the bold flavors in the blacking spice and salsa.  The salsa for this recipe takes some time, so it is wise to plan ahead.


For the Blacking Spice:

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. House seasoning

1 tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. Mexican oregano


For the Fish:


4 6oz. Alaskan Cod fillets, skinned, scaled, and pinboned

Blacking Spice


Apply desired amount of spice to cover the entire fillet.  Add to hot, very well-oiled grill (cod may stick if grill is not properly heated and seasoned) over the coals, turning to obtain deep grill marks until the blacking spice is black.  Transfer to indirect heat side, and cook through.


For the Salsa:

1 whole head of garlic, cut off bottom so that cloves are exposed

1 tsp olive oil

2 poblano chilies, roasted, seeded, and chopped

2 tomatoes, halved, grilled, and chopped

1 small red onion, halved, grilled, and chopped

2 limes for juicing

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

House seasoning to taste


Enclose garlic with oil in aluminum foil, place on the grill over low heat for 45mins-1hr.  

While garlic is roasting, roast chilies according to procedure, and grill onions and tomatoes until blistered with grill marks on all sides.  Remove everything from the grill, and let cool slightly.  Remove garlic from foil, and squeeze cloves out of skins onto a cutting board and chop roughly.  Chop your remaining vegetables, and place in mixing bowl.  Finish with lime juice and chopped cilantro, and season to taste with house seasoning.  The salsa should be chunky.  Spoon over cooked fish.


>Spicy Pistachio-Rubbed Elk Tenderloin with Savory Cactus-Blueberry Compote

This is a dish we sold quite a bit of at an acclaimed restaurant in Vail, CO during ski season.  The tart spicy-sweetness of the compote cuts nicely with nutty, spicy pistachio rub, and the unctuous, earthy flavor of elk.


4 8oz Elk Tenderloin Steaks


Pistachio Rub:


1 C. Pistachios, shelled and ground into a semi-fine powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp chipotle powder

1 tsp ancho powder

½ tsp mesquite powder

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground black pepper


For the Compote:

12 oz. organic blueberries

3 fresh nopal cactus paddles, spines removed (have the butcher do this), chop to size of berries

1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced

2 tbsp sugar

1  c. beef stock

1 tbsp lime juice


Begin the compote first.  it will take at least one hour.  Roll the blueberries in the sugar and set aside.  Place your small dutch oven over the fire and heat until a drop of oil produces smoke. Add the cactus and peppers, season and saute until beginning to brown.  Add sugared blueberries, reduce heat (move away from coals/flames), and saute until blueberries begin to break down and turn slightly syrupy.  Add in beef stock and simmer until mixture becomes slightly thick, coating the back of a spoon.  Add lime juice, and season to taste.  Set aside, but keep warm.


Rub the elk steaks liberally with the pistachio spice.  Be sure your grill is hot, and your coals are gleaming.  Oil the grill, and place steaks directly over the coals flat-side (butchered-side) down.  Rotate 45 degrees to obtain grill marks, then flip, obtaining grill marks on the other side.  Cook to desired temperature (120 is rare, 160 is well done).  Dress with compote.


>Desert Canyon S’mores

Whoever conceived of this toasted mallow and chocolate sandwich should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Spoiler alert, it was me!  This recipe makes it true canyon country-style with a sweet and spicy prickly pear sauce, which is slow-simmered and used to dress the chocolate-marshmallowy goodness.  


Stash of Graham Crackers

Stash of Chocolate Bars

Stash of Marshmallows


Prickly Pear Sauce


1/2 c. Prickly Pear Syrup (Cheri’s Desert Harvest is our go-to)

2 mangoes, peeled, cored, and rough chopped

1 c. pomegranate juice

1 tsp dark brown sugar

1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, finely minced

House seasoning to taste


Over low heat add mangoes to dutch oven or small saucepan with a small amount of oil.  Add sugar and stir until begging to brown.  Add pepper and continue to saute until brown and caramelized.  Cover with pomegranate juice and simmer until reduced by ½.  Add prickly pear syrup, season to taste.  Enjoy! 


Bonus Side Dishes


>Dutch Oven Cauliflower au Gratin

This is an incredibly flavorful, comforting and easy dish; especially under the stars, by the fire with a glass of wine or snifter of fine scotch.  Be careful of heat control, you do not want to burn the bottom.


2 heads fresh cauliflower, broken into reasonably-sized pieces

2 cup heavy cream

2 cups good-quality cheese (none of that yellow stuff; I like a blend of smoked gruyere and parmigiano-reggiano)

House Seasoning, to taste

Good quality hot sauce to taste (Arizona Gunslinger is quite tasty)

Oil for cooking


Place dutch oven over the fire and heat.  Toss cauliflower in oil, and season with house seasoning.  Place in the duthc oven and cook slowly, until caulilfower florets have begun to take on a deep brown (this will take 30-45 mins).  Pour cream over the cauli, and the cheese, and cover with top.  Put on a relatively cool part of the grill, so as not to burn.  Check and stir, if necessary.  The gratin is done when all the cheese is melted and has thickened the cream, perhaps 30-40 minutes depending on the grill temperature.  Season to taste and serve.  


Marinated and Grilled Asparagus

Simple, easy, and delicious.  Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and grilling it gives a wonderful, smoky flavor that pairs well with almost anything. 


3 Bunches Asparagus (good, fat ones), trimmed

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 “inch” of ginger, grated (this should equal 1 tbsp)


Combine all ingredients and let stand for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 4 hours.  On a good, hot grill, lay down the marinated stalks, do not allow them to overlap.  Grill for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness.  The stalk should be tender, still snap when bent.

What is it like to be a Chef?

What is it like to be a Chef?

A Day in the Life of Chef

People ask me from time to time, what’s it like to be a chef?  That’s a complicated and deep answer, worthy of more than just the stock “it’s cool” answer.  You work long, odd, hours, oftentimes for underwhelming pay and an overwhelming work load.  Your environment is hot and filled with dangerous hazards such as razor-sharp knives, searing hot oil, and unpredictable personalities.  The stress level during a busy service in an acclaimed restaurant can be off-the-charts, complete with angry cooks, frustrated servers, and a monstrously hectic environment.  Being a real chef is very little like it appears on the Food Network, and even less than it looks like in a culinary school brochure.

Being a chef, a real actual chef, is not for the faint of heart.  It is for those with thick skin, laser-like focus, an unwavering work ethic, and a serious mind.  It is often far less like being a rock star, and far more like being a factory worker.  But if you ask most of us, we wouldn’t trade it for anything else.  It’s in our blood, it consumes us, and putting out that next stunning plate is what drives us.  The line is our operating room, our court room, the knife our scalpel, the plate our artist’s palette, the presentation our architects blueprint, the foundation of flavor our all-consuming master work.

Is Being a Chef a Good Career?

Sure!  If you love food, have a passion for art, creativity, and enjoy the rush of adrenaline produced from a 300-cover Friday Night in a professional kitchen, then this is the career for you.  It can be a highly rewarding career; making people happy with your art is a feeling like no other.  There are also many career avenues that can be taken as a chef.  The most obvious, of course, is to work in restaurants with the eventual goal of owning your own place.   This is the goal and aspiration for many young chefs, but it is far from the only path.  For example, the path that I’ve taken is quite unique.  I’ve created a company that brings together my two worlds; fine food and outdoor adventure.  Of course, it took me many years to get here, but this is no different than most chefs who want to get ANYWHERE.

There are myriad avenues available to you.  You can become a food writer, for instance.  This is becoming a far more competitive field with the advent of the food blogger, but it is a tremendous avenue, nonetheless.  In fact, you can do nearly anything you want as a chef.  You are, after all, a provider of food and good times.  This can be a widely-needed skill set.  Cooking is a skill set that will never go out of style, will never be passe, and will always be needed.  Being able to conceptualize and execute a delicious meal is something that will be with you everywhere you go, and will always be in demand.  As a chef, do not confine yourself simply to the idea of working in a restaurant.  Create your own identity, whatever you do.

So, are you going to answer the question?

The answer is yes, being a chef can be a great career.  However, don’t be fooled by hype.  It is just like any other career; fraught with pitfalls and pratfalls, filled with horrible and demanding bosses, monotony, fear, deep anxiety, and whatever else you can think of.  In fact, many chefs suffer from mental health and addiction issues, the pay for the first several years of your career is likely to be minimum wage, and you are expendable at a moment’s notice (no matter what you think of yourself).  Not feeling well?  Tough, go to work.  Broke up with your girlfriend?  Tough, go to work.  Chef’s screaming at you?  Tough, take it or be fired.  Want that vacation?  Ha, good luck!

Beware that the chefs you see on TV are but one-in-a-million.  For every Gordon Ramsey or Woflgang Puck there are 10,000 Bill Woodses.  Who’s that, you ask?  Nobody, just me.  Somebody who “made it”, but is still essentially anonymous.  For every Bill Woods, there’s another 10,000 nobodies who may never make more than minimum wage, toiling in failing restaurants before they quit and find another line of work (that was also me (sort of), why else do you think I own this weird hybrid company?)

Being a chef requires a level of seriousness that many folks do not possess as young people.  They see superstar chefs on TV and in the media, and think, “hey that seems like a pretty good gig!”.  What those shows tell you little of is how they got there.  Thomas Keller, a personal mentor of mine and perhaps the best chef in the world, worked over 20 years in a self-styled apprenticeship, often working for free.  He shared stories with us about having things thrown at him, having his very manhood challenged by small, angry French chefs, and otherwise being mistreated almost daily.

Should I go to Culinary School?

Personally, I do not think culinary school is necessary, or even wise.  Many schools can cost students upwards of $100,000 to go get a minimum wage job.  The first time I made slightly more than minimum wage, I had been in the industry for nearly 4 years.  I literally could have been better compensated, with better benefits, retirements, and health care working as a garbage man or janitor.  Consider this before going to culinary school.

It’s not only the money, it’s also the experience.  I can’t tell you how many kids straight out of Johnson and Wales or Culinary Institute of America that I worked with over the years.  By and large they were arrogant, woefully inexperienced in a restaurant, and in some cases totally incompetent.  You are better off just working in restaurants and learning the craft.

What I would recommend is a paid apprenticeship program, or a self-styled apprenticeship of sorts.  Point is, work in real, functioning professional kitchens.  Sponge it up, and don’t waste your money and time with some culinary school that makes unrealistic promises.

Is Being a Chef a Stressful Job?

Short story…yep.  There are numerous responsibilities that have nothing to do with cooking.  There are budgets, costs, staff, and that’s not even to mention service.  Managing stress is a major part of the job, and the unfortunate side of the industry is that there is lots of addiction and mental health issues.  Be aware.

Do Chefs Make Good Money?

Ultimately you can make very good money as a chef.  However, the chances of becoming a Food Network celebrity are extremely low, and it takes years of toil making minimum wage (or even less in some cases).  If you own a successful restaurant, your earnings can be significant.  In the private game, earnings can be very high, as well.  However, entrepreneurial pursuits are far from guaranteed.  If you choose to work your way up the ladder, there are executive chef jobs that offer six-figure salaries, just don’t expect to get there one year out of school.


10 Reasons Being a Chef is Harder than it Looks

1.  So you want to have a relationship?

So much of your time is occupied by your career.  It is also stressful, and often requires odd hours, working on weekends, holidays, and nights.  Therefore, relationships can be difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities to interact physically with the opposite sex, just know that it can be a challenge to nurture a meaningful relationship with someone outside the industry

2. You can forget about holidays

See above.  Want to party on New Year’s Eve?  Forget that.  Want to spend some time kicking it on Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc.?  Sure, whatever.  Think you want to take out that special someone for Valentine’s Day?  Uh-huh.  You’ll be working.

3.  Taking a sick day?

Chefs/cooks are not really allowed the conventional “sick days”.  It seems counterintuitive that people who are handling food would be encouraged (see demanded) to work while ill, but it happens all the time.  The reason is that each position in the kitchen is of utmost importance.  It’s not like an office where work can be pushed back a day or two, or shared.  I

If one person doesn’t show, that could be disastrous for the kitchen.  Therefore, everyone is expected to work their schedule, regardless of their physical or mental health.  To be honest, calling in sick may get you fired, especially in serious restaurants with loads of applications.  I’ll put it this way:  I once had a my sous chef at a great restaurant blithely tell me “line cooks are a dime a dozen”.  I found that pretty insulting and did not want to hear it.  However, it was very, very true.  If I didn’t want to show up, there would be some warm body who would, and they may even do it for less money.

4.  Stay on your feet!

The majority (see all) of a chef’s day is spent on their feet.  You may get to sit down for small periods, but by and large you will be on your feet and moving constantly for 8+ hours.

5.  The ways of the Kitchen

Kitchens, and restaurants overall, can contain lots of volatile personalities and flying hazards (food, oil, even knives).  I’ve seen chefs pick up and throw food.  I’ve cut myself, many times.  I’ve seen a cook put an oyster knife through his thumb.  I’ve watched people slip and fall.  I’ve seen boiling water get dumped on feet.  I’ve witnessed the drama of people who were fucking, then break up and ruin the whole damn restaurant.

I’ve witnessed rampant drug use and binge drinking, sometimes on the job.  Restaurants can be wild places.  I’ve witnessed yelling matches between massive egos.  Just about whatever crazy shit you can imagine happens in restaurants.  It’s wild.  That’s part of the allure, especially for young people, just be aware that things will get crazy.

6.  Restaurant Customers are a fun bunch

We love the people who patronize our restaurant.  Of course we do.  However, we also hate them.  They want special orders. They want vegan-this and gluten-free that.  They want something that’s not on the menu.  They want well done filet mignon.  They put ketchup on a Kobe Ribeye (Donald Trump is a famously grotesque ruiner of fine food and meat, especially).  They demand all sorts of things, then stiff the server.  They will leave bad reviews out of spite.

Restaurant patrons can be a fickle bunch.  By and large they are wonderful, loyal, and your best marketing tools.  However, there are some who are simply unbearably stupid, selfish, and ass-hattish.  You’ve been warned.

7.  Whatever can go wrong, almost certainly will

Being a chef is essentially being able to manage chaos.  Putting out fires, both literal and metaphorical, is a massive part of the job.  Dishwasher doesn’t show?  That’s your problem.  Line cook overcooks a nice piece of fish, that’s on you.  Food costs come in too high?  That’s your problem.  Everything in the kitchen, and oftentimes the entire restaurant, falls on Chef’s shoulders.  You will carry a heavy burden.

8.  Our friends at the health department

It’s 7pm, Friday night, and you’re doing 200 covers on a multi-course tasting menu.  Guess who shows up?  Your friendly neighborhood health inspector!  Get ready to put on those gloves, temp everything, wipe everything down, and basically have your whole routine get completely fucked for an hour or two while they browse around looking for something that’s slightly amiss.  Don’t get me wrong, some inspectors are really great, and the scenario I described is a bit exaggerated (typically they won’t show up during service), but once again, everything falls to Chef.

9.  Fame?  That’s funny!

You have about the same chance to become a celebrity chef as you do to become any other kind of celebrity.  In fact, there are brilliant chefs that are otherwise very successful, that are not famous.  If you are getting into this career because you want to be famous, make different life choices right now.

10.  People are always looking for something free

This kind of harkens back to the commentary on restaurant patrons, but it also needs a separate section.  There will constantly be people wanting you to do appearances, donate food or time, or other “causes”.  That’s not even to mention the patrons who will make a complaint simply to try to get a free meal.  These are minor annoyances, generally, but still garbage that you have to deal with.


Having worked in some of the finest kitchens in the country and with some of the finest chefs perhaps in the world, I can plainly tell you that being a chef is a truly unique experience.  It is both maddening and intoxicating, both frustrating and soothing, both predictable and enigmatic, both hobby and career, both passion and pain, both love and hate, both rich and poor, both, both , both.  That, ladies and gentleman, is the true answer of what it’s like to be a chef.  It’s cool.

Billy Woods is an acclaimed Private Chef in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring The Wave, or any of our public lands, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guiding outfitter is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Canyons and Chefs provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with professional chefs and expert geologist/guides.  Our meals use fresh ingredients and are inspired by local farms, culture, and cuisine. We utilize a mobile professional kitchen as a backbone for cooking over the fire.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can explore these wild places, but going with an outfitter can create an even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure Chef-Driven Outdoor Experiences, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

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Hiking Red Mountain near Flagstaff, Arizona

Hiking Red Mountain near Flagstaff, Arizona

Red Mountain —

Exposed Interior of a Volcano

hiking red mountain volcano near flagstaff, az


Welcome to Flagstaff, the land of towing pines, golden-leafed aspens, and ancient volcanoes.  Today you will have the pleasure of visiting Red Mountain, one fo the most scenic and interesting hikes in the area, and a treasure trove of geology, history, and scenery.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to give Canyons and Chefs a shout on a Google review.

How do I get there?

Getting here is quite simple, scenic, and about a 25-minute drive from downtown Flagstaff.  You will travel through large stands of old-growth ponderosa forest and the towering mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field.  These mountains dominate the skyline of Flagstaff, and are well-known as the tallest mountains in Arizona.

After you pass Snowbowl Road and break through the trees, be sure to look out your window to catch a glimpse of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s loftiest peak at 12,635 feet.  Humphrey’s summit is quite inauspicious, as it is just the simple crested hump on the most-northern side of the peak complex.  Continue on your journey.

From downtown, head north to HWY 180 (Fort Valley Rd).  Continue on HWY 180, then turn left at at mile marker 247 and forest road 9023V the signed junction for Red Mountain.  You will can see Red Mountain looming over the landscape from the road.  Take the easy dirt road for about 0.25 mile before parking in the designated lot.  Enjoy!

What should I bring?

For all hikes in Flagstaff, it is wise to be prepared for the weather to change, sometimes very quickly.  Locals say “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”.  There is often wind, especially in the spring, and rain/snowstorms can occur at any time, sometimes without much warning.  Wear sturdy shoes (no open toes, sandals, or flip-flops), and as always avoid cotton or denim.

For this hike I also strongly advise bringing a camera (phone is fine) and geologist’s hand lens.  You may purchase one here, or they can be found at most jewelry stores (they are also known as jewelers loupes), hardware stores (HomCo in Flagstaff) is great place, or online.

For a full checklist of what to bring on any hike, check out The Goat’s Day Hiking Essentials.

hiking red mountain volcano near flagstaff, az

The History of the Landscape

Red Mountain is what is known as a “cinder cone”, which is essentially a dwarf volcano.  These features, which dot the landscape of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, typically lie along fault lines, or fractures in the crust.  Magma pushes through the crustal weakness creating a bulge in the landscape, and extrudes onto the surface as basaltic lava.  The lava bubbles and flows over the landscape in pulses, building up one pulse after another to form a dome, or  cinder cone.

Beginning about 4 million years ago, widespread volcanic activity started in earnest in this region that is now known as the southern portion of the Colorado Plateau.  The landscape is dotted with thousands of features born from magma, lava, and the ever-churning molten interior of the Earth.  Among these are the aforementioned San Francisco Peaks that graced your window view on the way here, lava tubes and caves, and of course cinder cones.

The Mountains Rise….

The San Francisco Volcanic Field rose as part of the massive tectonic forces that are responsible for the Colorado Plateau and its neighboring geologic province known as the Basin and Range.  The Plateau hosts features such as deep canyons and intricate erosional features, while the Basin and Range is punctuated by isolated mountain ranges spaced by isolated basins.

The large, saucer-shaped uplift that is the Colorado Plateau is a relatively stable tectonic area, while the Basin and Range is the product of extension, or tectonic movement that results in “stretching”.  The Basin and Range is pulling away from the Colorado Plateau like Silly Putty, and that is the action responsible for the San Francisco Volcanic Field.  As the crust stretches, magma from the subsurface is able to penetrate upwards, leaving its signatures behind.

hiking red mountain volcano near flagstaff, az

Volcanoes and Such

The San Francisco Peaks form what once was part of a singular massive volcano standing roughly 16,000 feet tall, the main feature in the area.  The extensional tectonics pulling the Basin and Range resulted in several periods of volcanism of varying intensities at the southern margin of the Plateau, forming the features surrounding you.  On the most intense scales, volcanic activity created the massive mountain that ultimately erupted catastrophically, blowing its top and collapsing in on itself.

On the less intense spectrum, the volcanism created thousands of smaller features; among them are the cinder cones that surround the massive caldera known as the San Francisco Peaks.  Red Mountain is one of these cinder cones.  Roughly 740,000 years ago, myriad pulses of volcanic activity produced basaltic lava that extruded, or flowed, out onto the surface.

These eruptions included several types of pyroclastic (stuff from volcanoes, simply put) ejecta such as cinders, bombs, and ash in addition to the lava.  Layers hardened, only to be covered by subsequent flows and eruptions.  Over and again, the lavas flowed and hardened, building Red Mountain into the classic cinder dome shape.

hiking red mountain volcano near flagstaff, az

Collapse and Dissection

Through the wonderful forces of erosion, the Red Mountain cinder cone has been excavated and exposed.  Faulting along the same lines that created the cinder cone are also responsible for the collapse of the eastern side.  This collapse allowed for rain, snow, frost, and wind to take a scalpel over the several hundred thousand years after.

The amphitheater that has been created provides an inside-out look at this volcanic structure, giving geologists tremendous insight into their formation processes.  Contained within Red Mountain is a fairyland of spires, hoodoos, and cliffs carved out by the forces of water, wind, and time.


Cultural History

Although there is little evidence of prolonged habitation in and around Red Mountain, the greater area was host to generations of Ancestral Puebloan Tribes.  The most prominent tribe in the area are known as the Sinagua People, or “the people without water”.  They are known as such given the dry conditions under which they lived, with few perennial water sources.

These peoples farmed, hunted, and traded in the area beginning around 1500 years ago before moving on around 850 years ago.  The eruption of the Sunset Caldera around 960 years ago is surmised to be the main reason for their disappearance.  The remnants of their once-flourishing society can be observed in Sunset-Wupatki National Monument, where they’ve left large, well-preserved structures on the rolling hillsides, and Walnut Canyon National Monument where structures have been built into the cliffs of the canyon itself.

hiking red mountain volcano near flagstaff, az

Hiking Red Mountain near Flagstaff

The hike here is more of a leisurely, scenic stroll, just one mile to the interior of the amphitheater.  The trail is well-worn and easy to follow.  Begin from the signed trailhead at the edge of the parking lot.

Point of Interest #1

At .75 mile, you will come to a small, dam-looking apparatus.  Stop and look down in the sand.  The unconsolidated material underfoot is known as alluvium, or material deposited by water.  Upon closer inspection, you will see black material that glints in the sun.  Pick it up.  This is the mineral known as hornblende, which is a member of the amphibole family.  Hornblende is an associate mineral of basalt, the type of lava that extruded from this cinder cone.  If you have brought a geologic hand lens, inspect the specimen closely.  Take note of its habit (the character of its form), its cleavage (the way the mineral breaks or fractures), and its hardness (how hard it is; the best way to test this is to scratch it on another rock).

You are now being a geologist!  This is how geologists make determinations about what kind of mineral they are observing out in the field.  Mineralogy is an important tool for any geologist, as it allows us to make inferences about the type of rocks that are present, and most importantly, under what type of conditions they formed.  In this case, we know that the mineral horblende forms in the upper mantle under particular sets of pressure and temperature conditions.  This allows us to delve deeply into the history of this magma, and pinpoint exactly where it came from.  Hooray!

From here, take the small ladder or scramble up the right side of the structure.  Watch your footing, loose cinder can act like ball bearings under your feet!

Point of Interest #2

At 1.0 mile, you have reached the main attraction!  You are now in the amphitheater of the Red Mountain Cinder Cone.  Take stock of what you see.  The landscape reveals a fairyland of carefully-sculpted pinnacles, and forms known as hoodoos.  The sunset red-orange is set brilliantly against the deep green of the surrounding ponderosa pines, adding a wonderful contrast of color to the beautiful scenery.  Examine the hoodoos.  You can tell the difference between a hoodoo and a pinnacle by its formation mechanism.  The hoodoos are protected by a caprock, or harder rock on top of softer rock.

The harder rock protects the soft stuff below it from erosion, over time forming the hoodoo.  Though it is more difficult to see without serious inspection, the pinnacles form along joints, or weaknesses in the rock as a whole.  Mapping joints and fractures can be a very complex task!  Take our your hand lens and inspect a caprock that tops a hoodoo.  You will again see the mineral hornblende, but this time you will also be able to observe the mineral feldspar (the little whitish flecks), the mineral pyroxene (more black, tough to distinguish from hornblende), and olivine (green, a common mineral in basalt).

Point of Interest #3

Explore deeper into the walls of the amphitheater.  Look up.  Observe the bedding features present in the walls.  You will notice the horizontal layers, which are bedding planes, and the tilted nature of the overall bedding.  Go up close to the walls and look closely at the bedding planes.  Contained within these structures is massive amounts of information helpful to a geologist.  Notice the thickness of each layer.

This will tell you the volume of the eruptive pulse.  Observe what is contained within the beds, feel with you hands.  You will observe layers of consolidated rock, the basalt, fine layers of what looks like blonde sand )the ash), and small chunks of basalt mixed with ash; evidence of more violent eruptive pulses.  Sweet!

Point of Interest #4

Continue to observe the nature of the bedding.  You will undoubtedly notice a tilting toward you of the bedding planes.  This is what geologists call dip, or bedding attitude.  The degree of bedding is very helpful in understanding formational processes.

In this case, the bedding dipping toward you is a good clue the the actual center, or caldera, of the volcano is not actually in the amphitheater center, but on the other side of the walls.  The radial nature also gives away another important clue; wind presence and direction during periods of eruption.

Low or no wind presence will allow for a symmetrical structure, while sustained or high winds will result in an asymmetrical formation.  You may notice that the bedding planes seem to “lean” to the north, or to the right of where you stand.  This tells you that the wind was a-blowin’, which gives us ideas about the natural environment at this time in geologic history.

The walls also hold other clues to the formation of this feature.  You may observe holes in the upper reaches.  These are dissolution features, oftentimes remnant of hydrothermal activity (hot water moving through the subsurface).  This activity may have played an important part in the tearing and subsequent erosion of this cinder cone.

Most cones are consolidated, and therefore not observable from the inside.  But the collapse of the side of Red Mountain has provided a spectacular look into its anatomy.  It is highly likely that faulting along the Mesa Butte Fault, whose trace is essentially right under your feet, produced superheated water that dissolved the feature from the inside, leading to its collapse.

Point of Interest #5

Take a moment to quiet your body and mind to revel in the silence, sunlight, and beauty.  Oftentimes the high walls and ledges are great nesting grounds for Peregrine Falcons, Red-Tailed Hawks, and even Bald Eagles.  Watch for them swooping in the mid-day or evenings, and listen for their bird-of-prey screeches, much different from the average songbird!

When you are finished enjoying the natural beauty, scenery, solitude, and quiet, turn and follow the path the way you came.


What’s for Lunch?

Chef’s Selection of Cheeses

Chef’s Selection of Charcuterie

Fresh-Baked Crusty Bread

House-Smoked Atlantic Salmon – Salmon is from Randal’s Fine Meats

Chef’s Fresh-Squeezed Juice of the Moment

Chef’s Selection of Wine from the Cellar

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring The Wave, or any of our public lands, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guiding outfitter is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Canyons and Chefs provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with professional chefs and expert geologist/guides.  Our meals use fresh ingredients and are inspired by local farms, culture, and cuisine. We utilize a mobile professional kitchen as a backbone for cooking over the fire.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can explore these wild places, but going with an outfitter can create an even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure Chef-Driven Outdoor Experiences, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, Eat Like Kings —

Canyons and Chefs