February 11, 2012, was the coldest day of the New Year; an icy wind blew gusts from the southwest. Chef Todd Christensen of Triple Fork Catering was manning the barbeque grills set up behind the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. His infrared thermometer read -5 degrees and his propane tanks were beginning to freeze. To grill salmon and steaks for one of the museum’s biggest fundraisers, he was cooking outdoors.
Chef Todd related the experience at the museum with a smile. “If we can turn out a fabulous meal under those circumstances, we can do anything. I have two great partners in Triple Fork Catering: Laurie Zabawa who takes care of the dining room details, and on the business side Keshia Kailey who makes things run smoothly for the client.”
After graduating from the Los Angeles Culinary institute, Todd cooked in country clubs around California. His food often reflects his Japanese heritage, but in an American way. For an appetizer, he’ll make a bao, an Asian style steamed bun filled with savory meats. However, his bao may contain a mini bison cheeseburger wrapped in yeast dough and steamed. He likes to baste American cuts of meat with a barbeque sauce flavored with ginger, soy and mirin. “Soy is a great ingredient to use in barbeque; it tenderizes meat and adds flavor but it also helps to keep meats from burning at high temperatures.”
After a season at the Gros Ventre River Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Chef Christensen moved to the Crazy Mountain Ranch north of Livingston. Guests from all over the world expected game and local fish on the menu. Visitors loved his elk chicken-fried-steak with morel gravy. He sought out fresh huckleberries and used them in barbeque sauce as well in traditional desserts. Flathead cherries and sage flavored biscuits topped with smoked pheasant gravy gave a Montana twist to traditional biscuits and gravy. He added, “Smoked trout and walleye can be used to make cakes similar to the traditional crab cake. People who come to Montana have adventuresome palates and like to see local ingredients used to give classical dishes the true flavor of Montana. “
Triple Fork Catering made their debut last summer at the Bite of Bozeman. The trio, with Chef Todd leading the crew from the Hilton Garden Inn, presented what has become one of their signature appetizers, the Mashtini. That is a martini glass filled with fried onion pieces, flavored mashed potatoes with a savory rib topping it all. The Mashtini sold out quickly. Other variations include: potatoes flavored with wasabi and topped with Asian-flavored garlic potatoes with a barbecued rib.