The Madrona Farm Chef Survival Challenge

Scenes from last year's Chef Survival Challenge, images courtesy of Chef Survival

As you walk down the long driveway that leads into Madrona Farm, you can’t help but marvel – “only five minutes ago, I was in the city.” The 27-acre property on Blenkinsop is definitely an urban farm, yet the tranquility and surrounding rural vistas deceive you into thinking you’ve left the city miles behind. There is something magical about it. Equally magical is the story of this farm’s survival. Over two years of constant campaigning and close to 4, 500 individual donors ensured that Madrona Farm would be saved by The Land Conservancy, and remain in agricultural production in perpetuity.


One of the central fundraising efforts in the fight to save Madrona was the Chef Survival Challenge. If you are wondering why this event continues to take place even though the initial objective has already been met, the answer is two-fold. First, inspired by their own success story, Nathalie Chambers (one half of the current farming couple on the property), joined TLC, now heading their Native Pollinator Enhancement Project and continuing to fundraise for their Agriculture Programs. She explains that “TLC’s goals with these programs are to protect farmland for farming, create access for farmers, make farming more viable, and protect the native biodiversity with a respect for the inter-dependent nature of agriculture and the environment.” The Chef Survival Challenge channels 100% of the proceeds from the event directly to farmland conservation, bolstering TLC’s agriculture program.


The second reason is that the Chef Survival Challenge is just a whole lot of fun. What other event allows you to watch the region’s top chefs go head to head in a demanding obstacle course, row furiously out to ‘Condiment Island’ to collect their kit, race around a farm in frantic search of ingredients and then produce a 5-star meal on a camping stove? Chef Sean Brennan of Brasserie L’Ecole is the leader chef for this year’s event, and is looking forward to the day, despite telling me unequivocally how much he dreads the obstacle course! Brennan joined the effort because he feels it is important for chefs to be part of the circle creating awareness. “ A lot of people don’t know that TLC is involved in protecting farmland.” He explains the unique relationship that forms between chefs and their suppliers, and believes that chefs have a role to play in protecting the land that provides them with quality products. So what does he like best about the challenge? “The camaraderie among chefs – you don’t find it like that at any other events.”


The 4th Annual Chef Survival Challenge will take place  at Madrona Farm on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, from noon to 6pm. Tickets are $50 per person/ $100 per family, and are now available at the Madrona Farm Vegetable Stand, 4217 Blenkinsop Road. This family-friendly event will be emceed by David Cubberly  and fully catered by John Brooks of Smoken Bones and John Pulker. The event will include live local music, food demos, a BC craft beer tasting garden and coffee provided by Caffe Fantastico. Cheer on the region’s finest chefs as they compete to find the best ingredients on the farm, then bid on the meals they create. Prizes and gift certificates from participating restaurants will be given away as well! For more information, visit

Written By:

Rebecca Baugniet is a freelance food writer and editor living on Canada’s West Coast with her husband and their four children. The author of three published cookbooks, Rebecca has also written for EAT Magazine and for Montréal ...

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