On January 23rd 2014, I flew into LA International airport wearing a purple sundress and carrying an aqua blue down-filled winter coat. I had spent much of the last days before departing Montana for the Spokane airport, sorting, stacking, packing, un-packing, re-prioritizing and re-packing. Chef coat and pants for the Sinaloa Winter Food Festival workshops, along with Summer cloths for 80 degree days touring Los Mochis, Topolobampo Bay, and El Fuerte. If I put my bulky, yet light-weight winter coat for the 6,000 ft 50 degree temps. at the top of the Cooper Canyon in the large suitcase to be checked, I would be out of space long before I reached the fifty pound weight limit. I decided to leave the 20 degree bone-chilling cold of Spokane wearing the only sundress I was taking along to keep it as wrinkle-free as possible, and carry my down-filled jacket.
On my way to baggage claim in the Los Angeles airport, I called William, the quick-witted free-lance writer for Phil Freedman Outdoors, to let him know I had arrived. “I will be the 6 foot blonde in a purple sundress, carrying a blue coat” I said. “I doubt I will have any problem spotting you in the Los Angeles airport” he replied with a chuckle. From our Facebook chats, I felt we would be fast friends, and it wasn’t long before we were bouncing jokes off of one another. Soon, we met up with Phillip Friedman and his cameraman Bob to drive to San Diego, then across the border to the Tijuana Airport.
While on the plane, I thought back to 2009, walking through the door of a Spokane fly shop, to ask the shop owner about the minimal equipment I would need to get started on my new hobby. During our conversation, I mentioned I had owned a restaurant and catering business. The owner said “Have you ever thought about working as a chef in fly-fishing lodges?” ” No.”, I replied, “I know nothing about fly-fishing lodges.” He went on to tell me about a friend who learned to fly-fish while working as a chef. He became so proficient at fly-fishing that Orvis hired him to travel to fly-fishing lodges to teach workshops. The lodge owners learned that he was a chef, and asked if he would combine cooking workshops with fly-fishing clinics.
As cooking has always been my passion, and I have loved the out of doors and fishing since I was a child, I immediately offered up a silent prayer. “Please God, being a chef in fly-fishing lodges is what I want to do.” I was not aware at the time, the amazing path this simple prayer would take me down. I just thought it a romantic notion. Now, only four short years had passed, and I was on my way, to Los Mochis Sinaloa, the “gateway to the sea of Cortes”, sponsored by the Secretary of Tourism, and Mexico Land Tours, to teach cooking workshops, to culinary students from all over Mexico.
As we dropped down for a landing in Culiacan (the capital city of Sinaloa), as far as my eyes could see in every direction, were variegated green patchwork quilts of crops. Our very personable, tour guide, slash driver, slash translator, was there to pick us up at the airport in a Mercedes van. After a wonderful lunch, we started out on the two and a half hour drive to Los Mochis. We drove along the freeway passing vegetable fields, and fruit orchards, extending to the horizon towards the Sea of Cortes, and to the Sierra Modre mountains off in the distance to the East. This truly was as described, “the bread basket of Northwestern Mexico. One-hundred and fifty miles of nothing but futile farmlands, naturally irrigated by rivers flowing out of the Copper Canyon into the El Fuerte River Valley.