Master River Chef: Bob Anderson

Meet Bob Anderson, one of the talented chefs behind OARS culinary trips | Photo: James Kaiser

Bringing flambe and ice cream to the great outdoors

Chef Bob Anderson, who trained at the CIA and spent 20+ years at the famed Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, is no stranger to cooking at obscure locations like Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps or Glacier Point in the winter. That’s exactly why he was the perfect person to help OARS bring gourmet grub to the river.

I caught up with Chef Bob to find out how he’s able to pull off restaurant-quality meals on the river with OARS.

How did you get involved with OARS culinary trips?

I was always the guy in Yosemite that did the crazy catering trips. They’d say, “Hey, we think we want to have a dinner for 50 people at 10,000 feet at one of the High Sierra Camps.” And so I would go, “OK. How do we get the food there?” And this is the conversation I had with OARS. So they suggested a couple of events and we did them. Fast forward 7 years, we’ve been doing them that long.

What’s the best part about cooking on the river?

It’s the best kitchen with the best view. It’s a pretty sophisticated set up equipment-wise. From a menu-planning stand point it’s not that hard to execute restaurant quality food.

What would a typical menu look like?

Because there’s a vintner with us, we set up a wine tasting which typically would involve cheeses, nuts, and some kind of high-protein snack. One of the big favorites is a black mission fig that we’ll fill with Point Reyes Blue and then wrap in bacon. I’ve had people tell me that we can just stop right there and they’d be totally fine. As dinner gets started, we’ve had the most unbelievable heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil pesto. For an entrée, a pan-fried filet mignon with a Jack Daniels reduction. A wild mushroom risotto and a fresh vegetable like stringless snap peas. And for dessert, we’ve made ice cream pretty successfully on the river. To tell people you’re making ice cream the second or third night of a 4-day trip, it’s pretty remarkable.

What’s your favorite thing to prepare on the river?

The filet is fun because of the fireball thing. Everyone wants to know how to flambé something and the perfect place to practice is on a sand bar. We did stop a jet boat once because they saw us flambéing.

Meet Bob Anderson, one of the talented chefs behind OARS culinary trips | Photo: James Kaiser

Is there a must-have kitchen gadget/tool you bring?

For me it’s sharp knives and real cutting boards. Nothing earth shattering, but I pack tools that I use so it’s comfortable.

What about for making ice cream?

Ice cream balls. Yeah, those are cool. It’s the same principle as the old style ice cream machine where you crank it, but it’s just in a ball. People will play catch with it. Things disintegrate pretty quickly after everyone’s drinking wine.

Tuolumne or Rogue?

They’re completely different. The Tuolumne is just a crazy, big ride. It’s fast. The Rogue is so much more fun because I’ll end up kayaking most of it.

So it sounds like the Rogue River wins?

The Rogue wins.