Jena Pike (right) and guest at the first Bourdain Dinner. photo provided
Jena Pike (right) and guest at the first Bourdain Dinner. photo provided
Splitting Aces Livestock hosted an Anthony Bourdain Day Dinner on the Ranch on June 25, serving their own grass-fed livestock and produce from Seed to Table.

In boundless enthusiasm, the evening was reminiscent of an old-fashioned tent revival. This time it was about food. The bustling cooks and servers infected every guest with a passion for local, heathy, and naturally grown food.

The 50 assembled guests were selected by a social media lottery to enjoy this fresh, on-site prepared meal that included the lesson that “food connects.”

The dinner was the idea of Catrina Sneva, a professional event planner, as a way to educate and inform while celebrating the life of the world-traveling chef whose life ended last year. She is the sister of Jenna Pike, who owns Splitting Aces Livestock with her husband, Remington.

“Bourdain taught us about connection and the importance of relationship between our food and the people who provide it to us,” she explained.

“My father said that 10 years ago I couldn’t even cook a hotdog,” Sneva explained. “That’s pretty bad when you grow up in a family catering business. Then, with one great tantrum, my daughter influenced me to learn to cook. She’d learned enough about food to understand we weren’t eating healthy, and that wasn’t acceptable.”

Sneva now cooks as a volunteer in homeless kitchens in New York City nearly every week and loves trying new recipes.

The main course was voluntarily prepared by James Fink, owner and chef at Wild Oregon Foods Restaurant in Bend. Splitting Aces meats were a sprawling feast of skirt and hanger steaks, chicken, brisket, smoked ham, meatballs and even beef tongue, all grilled on-site after earlier preparation.

“All you really need for great meat like this is salt and pepper,” said the chef, whose business was awarded “Rookie Restaurant of the Year” in 2017 and has received a glowing review in the Washington Post and other publications. “You let the food speak for itself.”

For the Pikes, this dinner was an opportunity to share their meats with people who may not have been exposed to grass-fed livestock.

“We have these animals from midwifery to harvest,” Remington explained, “which makes this a slower process of growth to maturity.”

Their livestock are never fed grains nor fattened in feed lots.

From Seed to Table, Audrey Tehan brought sweet, freshly picked colorful vegetables on huge platters. Sweet Japanese salad turnips highlighted a spread of beets, carrots, salad greens, radishes and kale. Fennel bulbs were a hit at the hors d’oeuvre table. Also, from Sara Lawrence’s Rain Shadow Organics, there was tasty wheatberry salad.

“We can have such positive relationships with food,” Tehan said, a message reflected in the kitchen crew for this event, mostly members of the Sneva and Pike families.

Dessert was back-for-seconds mouth-watering carrot cake and brownies baked by Isabel Sneva, Catrina’s daughter, using as many local ingredients as possible.

Jenna and Catrina’s mother, Ronda Sneva, raised her children catering fire camps across the West and in large venues that included college and professional football games and Tucson Rodeo. Sneva glowed with visible pride as her children and grandchildren contributed their energy and skills to this special dinner at the ranch.

“They wouldn’t let me use anything that wasn’t recyclable,” she said, “so I had to cut napkins from old fabric and use paper instead of cloth table coverings for this elegant meal.”

Guests dined, met new people, learned about local food and left sated. The evening was enhanced by an ambiance of visual pleasure from a covered gazebo next to a large pond in Lower Bridge.

Cattle hovered near fences in lush grass pastures surrounding the venue. With every speaker, several of the cows added their own opinions in a Chorus of Moo, which created lots of laughter.

Guest comments ranged from “what a wonderful experience,” “beyond amazing,” and “so interesting,” to satisfaction from what they learned about local food sources and community. They found the dinner enriching in ways that far exceeded a delicious meal.