The hypnotic glow of the coals, the smoky aromas, the gratifying sizzle of dinner cooking over an open flame: Barbecue season simply can’t be beat. And in California, “grilling out” isn’t just a perennial pastime—it’s a way of life. That’s why Anya Fernald, CEO and co-founder of Belcampo, a California-based farm and proprietor of high-end butcher shops and restaurants, created Meat Camp.
Founded in 2015, based on Fernald’s desire to “help people discover their inner chef and grill master,” Meat Camp is a three-day, two-night BBQ boot camp at the Belcampo farm near the base of Mount Shasta (about a three-and-a-half-hour drive north from Sacramento). Guests, who vary by session from amateur home chefs (must be at least 18) to pros working in high-profile kitchens, learn basic butchery and knife skills in addition to open-fire grilling. The teachers are Belcampo company chefs, in addition to Fernald. “I want to let people handle enough high-quality product to build their comfort level with cooking and specifically with meat,” says Fernald. “To achieve that, we let people play with meat and with fire—while coaching around the basic skills that allow you to handle pretty much any situation.”
Campers sleep in glamping-style tents (stylishly appointed, yurt-like canvas structures) set up in the farm orchard and enjoy alfresco family-style meals with a lot of fresh veggies and greens, to balance the meat-heavy fare. You can take part in organized activities like Hike & Horseshoes, yoga classes, and wine-tastings—with meat pairings, naturally. Participants also tour Belcampo’s sustainable farm and learn about the company’s strong commitment to conscious, ethical farming practices. (Want to sample some of Belcampo’s ready-made delights? Visit one of their restaurant-shops in Los Angeles or the Bay Area.)
Fernald says the highlight for most Meat Camp guests is the “Chopstravaganza” dinner. “We build big wood fires and hand out piles of awesome steaks and chops,” she explains. “Cowboy steaks, rib eyes, pork porterhouses, lamb chops, the works. Then our campers practice cooking them. It’s really fun.”
Belcampo also hosts a Meat Camp Family Edition, where kids play on the farm, visit the chickens, pigs, and lambs, and watch movies in the barn while Mom and Dad get their grill on.
California’s north-east corner is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with safe-to-explore volcanoes, hushed forests and trout-filled rivers. This is the place for blue-ribbon fishing, houseboats anchored in cool lakes, countless campgrounds and inviting trails for hiking and mountain biking.
"When I first caught sight of it I was weary and 50 miles away and afoot. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” --Author John Muir, upon seeing Mount Shasta in 1874
All this, plus friendly towns like Chico and Chester and inviting rural farms in fertile lands near the Upper Sacramento River. Redding, the region’s largest city, makes a good base, with riverfront trails, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and elegant Sundial Bridge, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.
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