Chef Corso just wants people to get outdoors and to eat well while being there. As a classically trained chef and an avid day hiker and occasional backpacker, he was tired of dehydrated and freeze dried options for outdoor meals. “I think we can still eat well while outdoors,” the chef--whose real name is Steve Corso--remembers thinking. He recruited some friends for a backpacking trip to the Enchantments Lake area to test his theory, putting together a menu for three days and nights of fresh, easy camp cooking. MONTyBOCA, a recipe-based website and online community, was born in the fall of 2018.
“I realized there was a gap in the market. There are car camping meals, made with cast iron skillets, and there are dry packaged meals, which serve their purpose, but aren’t satisfying,” says Corso. With MONTyBOCA, he’s creating recipes for meals that are easy to prepare and cook in less than 30 minutes over a camp stove, using easily obtainable ingredients (all recipes use 10 ingredients or less) while also satisfying diners from both a flavor and full-belly perspective.
The recipes often use a mix of backpacking food staple ingredients, like powdered eggs or sauces, but include things like fresh lemons, green onions or bok choy. Because they’re meant to be packed in, all recipes also have a weight restriction. They’re not as light to carry as a freeze dried meal, but must weigh under 3.5 pounds (most serve 2-4 people). The recipes are formatted to fit easily on a mobile device or printed for a trail notebook.
The recipes are tested by an online community of volunteer testers and are posted on the MONTyBOCA website.
Corso knows his way around the Pacific Northwest and his way around a recipe. Raised in Port Angeles, he went to culinary school in Napa Valley and Italy, and has worked in the restaurant industry for many years. Most recently, he was the head chef in charge of menu creation for Homegrown, a local sandwich chain focused on using sustainable and organic ingredients.
While Monty Boca was born with hikers in mind, Corso says that many other outdoor enthusiasts have found the site and its recipes, including hunters, birdwatchers, “van life” enthusiasts, and anyone on the go who enjoys real meals outdoors. The blog on the website even highlights one recipe being prepared in New York City’s Central Park. Some recipes recipes don’t even require a stove, and there are also vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options available.
Corso is not trying to eliminate the freeze dried meal options--those may be the best choice for longer backpacking trips; but he wants to offer a fresher option for those who want, and whose overnight (or even a single day) adventure can accommodate, an elevated outdoor dining experience. (Note: You’ll still have to decide how long you’re comfortable with a few unrefrigerated items, such as hard-boiled eggs or shredded cheese). “Maybe you take a nice fresh recipe for [the] first night, invite a few people along and share the load. You take the potatoes, I’ll take the cheese,” says Corso. “In my mind, an extra pound is well worth the extra weight.”