Marfa is a 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 courtesy of Texas chef-restaurateur Lou Lambert. His Big City Camp Cooking weekends, held on the grounds of funky El Cosmico — part trailer park, part tepee camping — in Marfa, offer a casual, immersive experience for foodies.
The weekends begin with a welcome reception on Friday night, followed by intensive cooking workshops on Saturday and a cookout dinner at the Bunkhouse Ranch. Sundays end with a camp breakfast.
“I think of cowboy cooking as the simple, straightforward foods and outdoor cooking techniques used to feed the cowboys of the American West,” Lambert says.
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 see how Marfa's landscape and culture influence its culinary heritage, elevating cowboy cooking to haute cuisine.
Participants learn about outdoor cooking two ways. First, there's a crash course in backyard grilling and smoking. 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.”
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 take place May 16-18 and August 8-10. Registration is $350 per person. Accommodations are not included.