Fun Times at the 2015 Invasive Species Cook-off

The 2015 Invasive Species Cook-off, IAE’s annual party and fundraiser, was held at the Benton County Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 22nd. The many cooks started preparations started weeks in advance of the event. Hunters and gatherers headed out at dawn and dusk to collect invasive bullfrogs and crayfish, thistles and dandelions, before coming up with amazing culinary concoctions for the cook-off meal and competition.

Check out this story from Oregon Public Broadcasting about the 2015 Invasive Species Cook-off:

Want to help control invasive species? Eat a bullfrog.

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Andy Neill, Ian Silvernail and Matt Bahm carving up the roasted pig

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Local bluegrass band "Cheatgrass"

This year we returned to a more low-key affair, with free/donation entry and a pot-luck meal. Participants enjoyed the camaraderie of friends, listened to music by local bluegrass band Cheatgrass, and sampled libations from Sky High Brewing, Lumos Wine Company, Vivacity Fine Spirits, and Havlin Vineyard. Kids had a great time with games, face painting and piñata smashing!

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Warren Halsey samples Tom Kaye’s Cajun fried bullfrog legs.

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The piñata was a great hit with the kids

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The judging panel at the Invasive Species Cook-off

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Judges sampling and scoring the invasive species dishes.

A highlight of the evening was the Cook-off competition. One of the more inventive dishes was presented by Matt Parvolek, who trapped European starlings to create bacon-wrapped kebabs which he drizzled with a blackberry balsamic reduction. The tasty desserts, of course, relied heavily on the ubiquitous Himalayan blackberry. Volunteer judges tasted and evaluated the various dishes based on their presentation, creativity, taste, and conservation benefit, and the winners of the three categories are listed below.

Cook-off Winners:

Savory Meat

  • 1st place: Cream Cheese Triple Threat (Invasive crayfish garnished with Queen Ann's lace and wild sweet pea) – Ben Axt.
  • 2nd place: Starling Bacon Kebabs with blackberry balsamic reduction – Matt Parvolek.

Savory Vegetarian

  • 1st place: Canada Thistle/Dandelion Quiche – Jenny Cramer.
  • 2nd place: A Few Wild Greens – Rose Marie McGee.


  • 1st place - Blackberry thyme shortbread - Carolyn Menke.
  • 2nd place: Raindancing Glazed Blackberry Cobbler. Laurie and Warren Halsey.

1st Savory Meat - Cream Cheese Triple Threat - Ben Axt PJM

Cream Cheese Triple Threat – Ben Axt’s winning entry in the savory meat category of the Cook-off competition.

2ndSavoryMeat - Starling bacon kebabs - Matt Parvolek

Starling Bacon Kebabs – Matt Parvolek's 2nd place entry in savory meat.

1stSavoryVeg Thistle-Dandelion Quiche - Jen Cramer

Canada Thistle/Dandelion Quiche – Jenny Cramer’s winning entry in the savory vegetarian category.

1stDessert - blackberry shortbread - Carolyn Menke

Blackberry thyme shortbread – Carolyn Menke’s winning entry in the dessert category.

OPB’s Oregon Field Guide covered the event, so stay tuned for a segment on that show later this year.
The evening was a resounding success and a great time was had by all. Many thanks to staff and volunteers who made the event happen, our great supporters (Sky High Brewing, Lumos Wine Company, Havlin Vineyard, Vivacity Fine Sprits and the Oregon Invasive Species Council), and the people who came to enjoy the evening.

If you missed it this year, put it on your calendar for August 27th, 2016 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis, Oregon. See you there!

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Ben Axt being interviewed by OPB's Oregon Field Guide about his invasive crayfish dish.