Edible Bozeman

Along the Banks of the Yellowstone

Above: Chloe Misseldine, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, dances in “Flames of Paris” during last year’s Yellowstone International Arts Festival. Photo by Nicholas MacKay. Below: Eduardo Garcia, professional chef and co-founder of Montana Mex, prepares seasonally inspired dishes to accompany the performance. Eduardo is well known for his casual and curious approach to cooking. Photos by Lindsey Mulcare.

Where Cuisine is Art

Set against the backdrop of the sun setting over the Yellowstone River, complete with deer and elk mingling along the river’s shores, Stars on the Yellowstone is a melding of art, food, and Montana hospitality.

Returning this summer on Aug. 2 at the Yellowstone Hot Springs Resort near Gardiner, the performance is a part of the fifth annual Yellowstone International Arts Festival and will bring together world-class ballet dancers for a unique performance near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Two of the creatives behind the event, Maria Sascha Khan and Eduardo Garcia, are internationally renowned artists in their respective fields of classical dance and cuisine. And, a particularly savory morsel, they were both raised in Montana’s Paradise Valley. They grew up together, their mothers being friends, and both children were instilled with a passion for curiosity, discovery, and the arts. With this common heritage, the duo is well positioned to create an extraordinary experience this summer.

“Both food and art fall susceptible to being lost in the melee of everyday life,” says Eduardo, CEO of the spice and condiment company Montana Mex. (Read more about Eduardo and his company in the Fall 2022 feature story “Ingredients for Living Your Passion” at ediblebozeman.com.) “When both food and art can gain a foothold of invested interest in a person’s life, the baseline for the relationship has a higher potential to blossom into artistry in action.” As it were, a deeply authentic experience of food and the arts might lead to more than just appreciation—it could be life changing. Fruits of Labor

As a child, Maria Sascha would dress up to perform plays with her siblings. As Eduardo describes it, smiling in reminiscence, “When my mom wanted us to experience Broadway, she’d send us down the road to Maria Sascha’s house to enjoy their whole family perform in these wonderful outfits.”

Even at an early age, Maria Sascha realized that she needed to leave Paradise Valley to truly explore her passion for dance. Her career as a professional classical ballet dancer started very early in life and took her from Pray, Montana, to Germany, Russia, London, Oman, Malaysia, Indonesia, South America, and China. The travel and experiences of meeting new people in new places fueled her deepening passion for the arts. Moreover, it fueled her desire to share the arts with others.

Eduardo also was off at an early age. It was as a chef at Chico Hot Springs where he discovered some of the less obvious pleasures of food: He could share the fruits of his labor—even something as simple as burgers—with friends and strangers alike and bring smiles to their faces. This realization had a profound effect on him. He became passionate about food and that passion, in turn, brought him the discipline and structure needed to cook professionally. Eduardo went on to culinary arts training at The Art Institute of Seattle. After completing the program, youthful curiosity’s strange and persistent itch brought him to an exciting life of cooking as a private chef aboard yachts at ports-of-call all over the world. He, too, felt the passion of communicating with others through his vehicle of choice: nature’s nourishment.

At one of those ports along the Mediterranean of the Cote d’Azur in southern France, Eduardo heard through family that his childhood friend Maria Sascha would be passing through the area on her way to ballet training in nearby Monaco. Would he be available to help her move into her new apartment? As Maria Sascha tells the story, she remembers disembarking from the train and spotting a man on a skateboard. “Is that Eduardo?” she had asked herself. Indeed, it was.

It’s these wonderfully concentric stories of wanderlust, travel, seeing the world, and engaging with new peoples and cultures—tempered with a love for home and community— that keep Maria Sascha and Eduardo bumping into each other in the most unassuming of places. And now they’re back in Montana, collaborating to bring the arts home to the peaceful and majestic place they cherish so much.

“For Eduardo and me, art is not separate from the food or the nature in which we present it.” —Maria Sascha Khan

“Food, like a dance, is a choreographed story and expression between the artist, the locale, and the viewer or guest.” —Eduardo Garcia

Eduardo’s menu lineup for the 2022 festival dinner included Wickens Ranch Pastrami braised beef short ribs over a potato cauliflower mash, sautéed Montana Roots pea shoots and Montana-grown garlic; roasted delicata squash, crushed pistachio, Amaltheia Dairy whipped chevre, and a drizzle of Montana Mex pecan salsa macha; and, as the sweet finish, pavlova with crushed raspberries, vanilla bean chantilly cream, and a dusting of local bee pollen and edible flower petals. Photo by Lindsey Mulcare.

Sustenance for the Soul

Teresa Khan MacKay, executive director of the Yellowstone International Arts Festival, started the event with her late husband, Gregory MacKay, and four children, international ballet stars Maria Sascha, Nadia Khan, Julian MacKay, and Nicholas MacKay. The family seeks to bring the world of the arts to Paradise Valley beneath Montana’s Big Sky. The festival is organized by the nonprofit organization Youth Arts in Action, which Teresa founded 18 years ago, and typically features classical and Indigenous dance, song, music, and more, all performed by artists local and global. As the festival’s artistic director, Maria Sascha has transformed the play costumes, dances, and performances of her childhood into unrivaled entertainment.

This year’s festival comprises three events: Fairy Tea for the Arts: Treasures of Life, a ballet performance, is slated for June 11 from 2–4 p.m. at the Sage Lodge in Paradise Valley. Stars on the Yellowstone will return on Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. at the Yellowstone Hot Springs Resort near Gardiner. Following the performance, Eduardo will prepare dinner as a separate event with a menu that is dictated by Mother Nature herself.

Stars on the Yellowstone will once again bring Maria Sascha and Eduardo together to celebrate their shared philosophy around art. And a big part of that philosophy is food. For Maria Sascha and Eduardo, food is a passion, a culture of its own, best shared at a table that is of and for the community.

Top left: Festival artistic director Maria Sascha Khan performs “Dying Swan” during the 2022 event. Photo by Nicholas MacKay. Bottom left: Eduardo, who has been cooking professionally for 26 years, remains passionately invested in his profession. Photo by Lindsey Mulcare. From top right: Maria Sascha Khan, principal guest artist, dances “Soul of the Yellowstone” with Jesse Eagle Speaker of the Blackfeet Tribe. Nadia Khan, soloist with Teatro dell‘Opera di Roma, and Jinhao Zhang of Bayerisches Staatsballett perform “Le Corsaire.” International opera tenor Joshua Stewart sings near the banks of the Yellowstone River. Photos by Nicholas MacKay.

“Food, like a dance, is a choreographed story and expression between the artist, the locale, and the viewer or guest,” Eduardo says, adding that during last year’s dinner, it seemed fitting to sprinkle edible wild flowers and bee pollen on the dessert “as an ode to the finale of a dance when typically flowers would be thrown on stage.”

This summer, once again, Eduardo will prepare a meal in recognition of the evening’s artists, who won’t eat for many hours before and during the performance. When the physical and emotional stress of the performance comes to a close, the performers will be famished. And they’ll break bread with attendees. In feeding the troops one and all, Eduardo becomes a very active participant in the event, giving him the unique opportunity to share his passion for local foods, set against the clear, fresh Montana outdoors while dining under the stars.

“The addition of creative and locally sourced world-class food was a natural progression for the festival,” Maria Sascha says. “Just as the artists’ and attendees’ hearts and souls are fed and uplifted by the performance, we all need to be nourished by the community and sharing food together. Art is healing. For Eduardo and me, art is not separate from the food or the nature in which we present it. Just as you would prepare for a performance with great attention to detail—the lights, costumes choreography—it is the same with the food.”

Visit yellowstoneinternationalartsfestival.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

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