Running 170 miles across the high desert of Arizona and Utah during the Grand to Grand Ultra is tough. Whilst this is a self-supported race and competitors are responsible for carrying everything they need to survive in the desert for a whole week, including their food, we also want competitors to experience the unique culinary delights of American Southwestern cuisine during their visit. This local food sustains people living in the harsh desert conditions, yet it is incredibly tasty with a wide range of flavors.
Simple yet diverse, American Southwestern cooking is a distinctive fusion of foods that would have been eaten by Native American Indians, with additional contributions from the Aztec and other peoples of Mesoamerica, Spanish colonial settlers, cowboys and Western settlers.
For millennia, Native Americans established the basis for this remarkable cuisine with flavourful dishes gleaned from the desert and mountains. With very little rainfall, the landscape looks harsh and arid, yet it offers a surprisingly abundant variety of vegetation in wild edibles.
The indigenous peoples of the Southwest also cultivated some crops such as corn, beans and squash. Wild game like rabbits, deer, antelope, wild turkey and quail were plentiful and used in many native recipes, and along streams and rivers, fish were also caught.
The Mexican flavors contributing to this regional cooking style come from the legacy of the Aztecs, who were dining on beans, corn, chiles, avocados, onions and chocolate, long before the arrival of Spanish expeditions in the New World. The conquistadors brought their own regional ingredients and methods of cooking: sheep, goats and cattle were introduced to the area, as well as new cooking and preservation techniques such as salting pork, smoke-curing meats and sun-drying strips of jerky, which could be eaten as is or reconstituted by stewing. (Tip – several of our more experienced runners include beef jerky in their rations!)
The gastronomy of the Southwest was further refined by Mexican and Spanish settlers with the addition of flour from ground wheat, a particular variety of melons, bell peppers, summer squashes and zucchini, artichokes and tomatoes, as well as peaches and apricots.
At the pre-race Welcome Dinner, you will be introduced to authentic Navajo food, prepared by Navajo women cooks under the expert guidance of Executive Chef Shon Foster, chef to celebrities and owner of the famous SEGO restaurant in Kanab. Chef Shon will explain the sourcing of fresh local ingredients and the unique style of Navajo preparation. The Navajo Nation has the largest reservation in the United States and is located close to the course of the Grand to Grand Ultra.
A native of Kanab, Utah, Chef Shon takes a thoughtful approach to food, blending contemporary cuisine with local & international traditions. Chef Shon’s career path led him to the role of executive chef at Amangiri, which was named one of “America’s Best Hotels for Foodies” by Travel & Leisure in January 2013. Amangiri is a boutique resort tucked into the canyons of Southern Utah at Canyon Point, near the Arizona border, and a member of Aman Resorts, a collection of luxury resorts around the world. Chef Shon’s next venture led him back home to open Sego Restaurant in Kanab Utah. The result is an evolving menu that showcases his creativity in the kitchen and captures the vibrancy of the local culinary landscape.
As Chef Shon says: "Food should connect us to where we are, and where we have been! When people eat my food I want them to find themselves in that moment, closing their eyes and letting their senses take them back to memories of their life. Then watch as the food elevates them to their new surroundings."
On the evening before the start of the of the race, you will then enjoy the Last Supper, so called because it is the last meal we will prepare for you before you become totally self-supported! The Last Supper is prepared by our Arizona based cowboy outfitter, the Heatons, at the remote rim of the Grand Canyon. The Heatons have been guiding people on horseback to remote parts of the south-west over several generations. And they are famed for their ability to cook scrumptious meals under the stars in the most far removed places. We guarantee this will be your most amazing alfresco dinner experience ever!
After finishing the final stage, you will be treated to a sumptuous feast at our Awards Party prepared by a third chef. This is also alfresco style and held in a beautiful red rock canyon just outside Kanab, in the land owned by Best Friends Animal Society. These will be the calories that you will have been dreaming about on the course with all the beer and wine you might like to drink!