Let it be known that I am not a camper. So, what could possibly possess me – a unabashed city girl – to pack up my car and drive five hours south to camp out in a field filled with ticks, spiders and sheep poo (oh my!) in the middle of rural Virginia?
The answer is LAMBSTOCK, a four-day food-and-drink festival at Border Springs Farm in Patrick Springs, Virginia that has a reputation as being a kind of Woodstock for chefs… if you’re in-the-know enough to have heard of it.
Border Springs is known for having some of the best-tasting lamb in the U.S., and shepherd Craig Rogers has been hosting this event for 5 years as a way to connect chefs to his pasture-raised product. In its early years, Lambstock started small—word is that the first one began when Frederick, Maryland chef Bryan Voltaggio asked if he could bring some of his chefs down to visit the farm… and camp in the pasture for the night. Other chefs heard and converged on the farm, and thus Lambstock was born.
Last weekend’s event drew about 150 chefs, mixologists, distillers, brewers, industry professionals and, yes, bloggers from New York down to Alabama and as far west as Kentucky. There is no structure to the event, no demonstrations, no planned meals or organized talks… People arrive continually throughout the weekend, bringing with them huge coolers filled with fresh produce and proteins. The days are filled with cooking, eating, drinking, conversing, relaxing. It’s just pure, unadulterated, foodie heaven with the best food you can imagine coming out constantly from dawn through the wee hours of the night.
I attended the event as a volunteer, invited by my twitter friend and Lambstock volunteer coordinator, John Park. As a volunteer, my job was to help wherever was needed, and throughout the weekend my tasks ranged from chopping up veggies, setting up for and cleaning up after meals, helping check in new arrivals and—my favorite— assisting with the morning bloody mary service.
Even as a volunteer, I had plenty of downtime, which I enjoyed to the fullest. What I loved most about Lambstock is that it draws some of the region’s best chefs but they leave egos at the door. As one very nice D.C. chef told me, “As a chef, I have to be an asshole 6 days out of the week. But here, I’m on vacation.” And, that’s just it. Lambstock isn’t chefs being chefs and running the show—it’s about chefs doing what they love together when they’re just hanging out. It was so fun getting to watch as they shared ideas and ingredients; bones left over from one chef become used in the gravy of another’s dish. It was like a jam session of chefs.
I left the weekend exhausted, dirty, full and smelling like a campfire. And I loved it. Lambstock 2014: SUCCESS!
Here are some of my favorite moments from the weekend…