Iditarod chef turns down gourmet meal to keep mushing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — When you’re leading the Iditarod but a five-time champion is blowing your neck, you just don’t have time for the finer things in life.

Brent Sass, who is seeking his first title in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race through Alaska, turned down a five-course meal on Friday morning for being the first musher to reach the Yukon River.

He arrived at Ruby’s community checkpoint, where a gourmet spread awaited him. He politely declined delicacies like reindeer and beef tenderloin. Instead, he only stayed at the checkpoint for five minutes and got back on the trail without even grabbing a take-out bag.

“I guess you’ll have to give it to someone else.” I would love to stay longer, but my schedule doesn’t allow it,” Sass told the checkpoint, as quoted by Alaska Public Media.

Sass arrived at Ruby just before 6 a.m. He was followed about three hours later by Dallas Seavey, the defending champion looking for his sixth title.

Seavey also didn’t hang around Ruby long, returning to the track after a seven-minute stint.

Several other mushers followed Seavey into Ruby but seemed to be resting. Sass was later the first to reach the next checkpoint at Galena.

The Iditarod, a nearly thousand-mile (1,609 kilometer) race through wild Alaska, began for 49 mushers on Sunday north of Anchorage. Since then, two mushers have scratched, including the latest, Ryne Olson. She quit the race at the McGrath checkpoint, saying it was in her team’s best interest. Olson had nine dogs in harnesses when she scratched.

The winner is expected to cross the finish line in Nome next week.

If Sass had time to enjoy a sit-down meal, he would have included seared blackened shrimp as an appetizer, reindeer minestrone soup, and iceberg wedge salad with toppings. The entree would have been bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin, seared and served with asparagus, baby carrots, fingerling potatoes and a red wine mushroom sauce.

Dessert would have been a cheesecake bar trio with strawberry sauce.

The so-called after-dinner mint is $3,500 in dollar bills and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. Race officials said in a statement that the award would be presented to Sass later.

The Lakefront Anchorage Hotel flew its chef 300 miles (483 kilometers) from the state’s largest city to prepare the gourmet dinner.

The hotel has been the race’s Anchorage headquarters for three decades, but earlier announced it would drop its affiliation with the Iditarod next year.

Lakefront Anchorage Hotel officials blamed the change on the pandemic’s effect on business, but the move was announced by its owners, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, a day before the race’s biggest critic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, planned to demonstrate outside. the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago.

It was not immediately clear whether the hotel was also removing the gourmet meal and cash prize.

Iditarod officials questioned hotel manager John Bruce, who did not immediately return messages Friday from The Associated Press.