Taking a small plane to a rural Alaska village to cook a gourmet meal on a camp stove before the sun rises might not seem normal to most chefs, but for Roberto (Bobby) Sidro and Andrew Adlesperger, it’s an annual tradition.

The two chefs work for the Lakefront Anchorage hotel, which sponsors the First Musher to the Yukon Award. The recipient can enjoy an extravagant five-course meal, the prize for being the first to reach the Yukon River.

This is Sidro’s sixth year to prepare the feast and Adlesperger’s fourth.

“The cooking thing is not really a big deal to me,” said a confident Sidro. “The flying was.”

He explained he’s nervous in small planes, but after half a decade, he’s getting used to the routine.

“We’ve both grown to enjoy the experience,” said Adlesperger, “but at times we’re wondering, ‘How are we going to get there? How are we going to get back home? […] Is the weather going to be OK?’ And it always seems to work out.”

Over the years, they’ve prepared the big meal in the villages of Ruby, Tanana, Galena and Anvik, depending on the race route.

“We were getting antsy just waiting around so we cooked some dinner for the volunteers,” Adlesperger said. “We just kind of used whatever we were able to find and made a slightly gourmet meal on the fly for about 11 or 12 people.”

Now, they wait for the real performance.

This year, the menu includes bison chili; a beet, caramelized macadamia and goat cheese salad; a jumbo scallop with an Alaska blueberry compote; a seared and flambeed beef tenderloin with whiskey sauce paired with jumbo shrimp with champagne sauce, wild mushroom risotto cake and sautéed broccolini; and a wild berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

It seems like a wonderful dinner, but it might end up being a breakfast occasion. A GPS tracker on Iditarod.com shows a leader could arrive in the early morning hours on Friday.

“We stay up until we can’t stay up anymore and then when somebody crosses the line they wake us up and we get right back to it,” Adlesperger said.

And if the first musher in decides to blaze through Anvik to maintain a lead in the race, the chefs say, they’re cooking anyway.

“We’re cooking for someone,” said Adlesperger. “We brought the stuff and the food is here, we might as well just cook.”

They say the first musher in who wants to sit and eat can enjoy it; but the first musher to reach the checkpoint, whether they stay or continue on toward Nome, will still receive the award.

The recipient of the Lakefront Anchorage’s First Musher to the Yukon Award also receives $3,500 worth of $1 bills — called the "after-dinner mint" — presented in a gold pan.

If Nicolas Petit is in first, it will be his third-straight win of the award. Fellow musher Jeff King dined in celebration 2014–2016.

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