Whole Animals and Open Flames: Snapshots from Burning Beast in Arlington, WA

[Photographs: Hilary Dahl]

Sweetly smoking, engulfed in flames, strung up whole or buried underground in a coal-lined pit, an array of animals from elk to sardines greeted the crowds at Smoke Farm this Sunday for Burning Beast, the non-profit event space's annual fundraiser. Fifteen of Seattle's best chefs convened at the Arlington, WA farm this year, thrown into a field with an assigned beast and an open fire—a clear recipe for an event like no other.

Chef Mike Easton of Il Corvo prepares his whole calf for serving.

This year, carnivorous fanatics of the Seattle food scene had just seventeen minutes on a gray May day to buy the hottest July ticket in town. In fact, the event site sold 540 tickets—100 more than originally allotted—before organizer and iconic Seattle chef Tamara Murphy managed to shut it down.

At the end of the night, the giant wooden beast that serves as centerpiece to the festival was burnt to cinders.

But the ticket-buying crowds are almost an afterthought at Burning Beast. In reality, it's a 36-hour party for the chefs and their crews. A chance for them to play with whole animal and open-fire cooking; an opportunity to get out of the kitchens for the night and experiment.

Eaters enjoying the festival with the wooden bunny-beast in the background.

Ever want to know what a chef cooks outside the confines of the stove, when they cook for the sheer thrill of cooking? Flip through the slideshow for a taste »