We know that Marfa is a high-desert oasis for the creatively minded. And while the artsy West Texas town serves as inspiration for artists, writers and designers from around the globe, its heritage is steeped in classic Texas cowboy culture — and cuisine. Out in these wide open spaces, you can learn how to cook like a cowboy at culinary weekends hosted by Lou Lambert of Lambert's Downtown Barbecue and Jo's Coffee fame.
Lambert's Big City Camp Cooking weekends — held on the grounds of El Cosmico (part vintage trailer park, part tepee campgrounds) in Marfa — offer a casual, immersive experience for the culinary minded.
"I think of cowboy cooking as the simple, straightforward foods and outdoor cooking techniques used to feed the cowboys of the American West … grits, biscuits, grilled beef steaks, chili, chicken fried steaks, beans and cobblers."
The weekends begin with a welcome reception on Friday night, followed by intensive culinary workshops on Saturday and a cook-out dinner at the Bunkhouse Ranch. Sundays end with a camp breakfast.
Lambert shows guests how to cook on the range with gourmet style, exploring the roots of West Texas flavors. Over the course of the weekend, campers explore how the landscape and culture of Marfa influences its culinary heritage, evolving Texas cuisine from cowboy cooking to haute cuisine.
Participants learn about outdoor cooking through two different focuses. First, there's a crash course in backyard cooking: simple foods for the grill and smoker. Then, Lambert shares his camp cooking skills in the great outdoors.
A native of West Texas, Lambert spent summers on the family cattle ranch where he developed a passion for food while hanging out with the ranch cook. “I think of cowboy cooking as the simple, straightforward foods and outdoor cooking techniques used to feed the cowboys of the American West … grits, biscuits, grilled beef steaks, chili, chicken fried steaks, beans and cobblers,” he says. “Most of the ingredients are pretty basic and regional. The cowboys burned wood down to a hot coal fire and broke out the cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. No fancy French cooking out on the range.”
Because the cooking course is over a couple of days, Lambert enjoys the opportunity to teach not only about food, recipes and technique, but also how to master cooking outdoors. “Guests can roll up their sleeves and bang the pots and pans right beside me; or if they are like my mother, their involvement can be sitting on a stool enjoying a glass of wine waiting for the meal to be served,” he says.
Given the relaxed nature of the weekend, participants also have time to explore Marfa on their own or simply relax in El Cosmico’s hammock grove. “When I think of the great outdoors, Marfa is the first place that comes to mind,” Lambert says. “The big skies and mountains of far West Texas provide the perfect setting to spend the weekend eating some great food over the campfire.”
The next Camp Cooking weekends will take place on May 16-18, 2014 and August 8-10, 2014. Registration is $350 per person, accommodations are not included.