POWERS LAKE, N.D. – Bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers. Cajun pastalaya. Mom’s banana pudding.
While the goal of the fifth-annual Bakken Rocks CookFest is to give back to the communities where the oil companies operate, it also has become a serious culinary competition.
The winner doesn’t get more than a plaque and bragging rights, but it gives oilfield workers the chance to show off secret recipes and grilling skills.
“Food is definitely a big part of the culture out here,” said Tessa Sandstrom, who coordinates the event for the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “They take it pretty seriously.”
Lee Addicott, field manager for MBI Energy Services, will help prepare 2,000 bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers this week. But the company’s secret weapon for the contest was deep-fried Oreos.
Nabors Drilling teamed up with Go-Motel, which has lodges in the Bakken, to prepare Louisiana favorites including Cajun pastalaya – like jambalaya but with noodles.
“We like to bring our culture up here,” said Dex Comardelle, one of the owners of Go-Motel from Houma, La.
Tom Osborne, district manager for Wyoming Casing Service, said the company regularly cooks for customers, but they put in extra effort for the contest. Workers spent two days preparing turkey breasts and smoked them for more than five hours Tuesday in Powers Lake, northwest of Stanley.
“Everybody is here bringing their A game,” Osborne said. “The competition is fierce.”
Enbridge Pipelines prepared 800 turkey legs with welder Shane Cardinal’s secret seasoning. The company also made dessert dirt cups to remind people to call 811 before they dig, featuring a pirouette cookie that looked like a pipeline in the bottom.
“We got really creative with it this year,” said Katie Haarsager, community relations adviser.
Oil service company Weatherford will feed 5,000 to 6,000 people this week at two CookFest events plus a golf tournament. The company also brought food to nine drilling rigs Monday and will cook for field offices Friday. Weatherford brought in nine sales representatives from Denver to help with the food.
Statoil offices turn into a kitchen for about four days leading up to the CookFest, said Kelly Rankin, communications and facility coordinator. People have come to expect banana pudding, which is Rankin’s mother-in-law’s recipe.
If reading this is making you hungry, the companies will host a second event Thursday in Parshall, with educational presentations at 2:30 p.m. and food served at 5 p.m.
Statoil and Phillips and Jordan won judges’ choice and the team of Petro-Hunt, Purity Oilfield Services and Wyoming Casing won people’s choice.
But overall, the oil companies use the event as an opportunity to meet community members and answer questions.
“Certainly we enjoy the food competition, but the more important part is spending face time with the communities,” said Mark Metz, a senior landman with Oasis Petroleum.