Photo Essay: Chef Survival Challange at Madrona Farm


The 5th annual Chef Survival Challenge, held at Madrona Farm, was furious from the start as competing chefs began the race in old potato sacks hopping towards a mud pit as their first challenge. Chefs also endured getting sprayed with super soakers as they crawled on hands and knees under irrigation piping; zip lining over the farm into the corn field to collect their backpacks full of ingredients; and paddling canoes to Condiment Island (I saw at least one over-turned canoe and few very wet cooks). This year the race was set-up like a rally as chefs were paired with Canadian Olympians spelling off each other through the various tough challenges.


After the race portion of the event was over (Mike Dunlop of Vista 18 won this portion of the event), each team scoured the farm for fresh produce to complete their ingredients list. I saw yellow chard, corn, arugula and much more being hustled back to the cooking stations. Guests pulled up chairs in front of their favourite chef to watch all the cooking action. At precisely 2 pm all the cooking was done and a live auction for the finished dishes was held.


The auction was fast and fun, with bidding wars aplenty. Plates went for a variety of prices–Robin Jackson of Sooke Harbour House’s Albacore tuna dish sold for $135. While the bidding wars unfolded two large pigs (prepared by chef John Brooks) were smoked for everyone to enjoy (hey, not everyone nabbed a chef dinner at the auction). To quench thirsts on this hot and sunny fall day, Caffé Fantastico, Muse Winery and Vancouver Island Brewery were set up to serve drinks as everyone watched the challenges.

Congratulations to Amanda Chesley from Stage Wine Bar for taking 1st place & the Golden Broccoli at the chef’s auction.


left: Bacon from the Whole Beast. Middle: Tuna from Sooke Harbour House. Right: crowds sitting down to watch the cooking action.

Auctioneer Jim Cassels getting the crowd ready while Mike Dunlop of Vista 18 finalizes his dish.


Cosmo Meens from Hot and Cold Cafe dices up some fruit.

Chef Robin Jackson of Sooke Harbour house dresses a dish for an auction winner.

Deciding which part of the farm to go and collect from first.

Sablefish from Relish.

Mike Dunlop gears up for the zip line.

Hunting for their backpacks amongst corn.

One of the Challanges was to zip line over the farm.

Boating to “condiment Island.”

Robin Jackson (Sooke Harbour House) running hard from under the irrigation pipes.

Chefs run over the Mud Bog.

The first Challange: The Potato Sack Race.

Pork Belly from Camilles.

Written By:

Colin is the Assistant Editor at EAT. You can contact him via Colin was born in Nova Scotia and spent his first five years there. His mother and father owned an inn and restaurant and Colin spent his time ...

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