Getting outside can be a refreshing sensory experience. You feel the wind and the warmth of the sun on your face, breathe in the fresh air and feel connected to the world. And the desire to spend time outside has skyrocketed amid the pandemic’s necessary social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
As spring arrives for Spartans, one alumnus is on a mission to help people not only get outside but have a tasty experience and eat well along the way.
“While I’ve gone on trips and explored different places, I noticed the food options were lacking, mostly involving dry or salty packaged meals or a lot of bars and jerky,” Steve Corson (B.A. Hospitality Business ’04) said. “So, I started to think creatively to see if there’s a way we can eat better outdoors.”
Corson, who goes by Chef Corso, founded MONTyBOCA in 2019 to elevate outdoor meals, centered on using fresh, healthy ingredients, approachability and, of course, great taste.
“All our recipes are 10 ingredients or less, ready in 30 minutes or less and are mindful of weight, volume, packaging, perishability and dietary restrictions,” he said. “I want people to be able to cook amazing meals outside without having to spend a whole day prepping. I focused on making it as easy and approachable as possible.”
The recipes are anything but familiar camping fare like hot dogs and s’mores. Chef Corso’s creations range from Jambalaya to Pad Thai to Trail Tacos and everything in between, with specialties for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, and a host of options for specific diets or limited resources.
MONTyBOCA — which aptly translates from Spanish as “mountain and mouth”— offers a recipe bank with more than 175 trail-tested recipes, along with pocket-sized cookbooks that have made their way into over 17,000 traveling hands so far. Given that a core value of the business is community and sharing the experience, Chef Corso created a recipe testers program that relies on more than 200 people around the world to help him perfect the cuisine.
“I really wanted to share the testing process,” he said. “The testers take a recipe out with them on their trip and make sure it works, note details, take photos, and we upload those to a community recipe bank. It’s a fun way to connect with the outdoor space and it makes me very happy because, in a way, I get to be part of their trip.”
Chef Corso also brings his passion to life through his YouTube channel, where he teaches people how to cook outside while on-site at beautiful locations.
Prior to venturing into entrepreneurship, Chef Corso went to culinary school in California, at the Culinary Institute of America, as well as Northern Italy and gained 20 years of experience in several different roles. He has developed retail food products for a research kitchen, managed and trained staff at restaurants across the country and led international teams to ensure brand quality for Starbucks Reserve. Although his pathway to launching MONTyBOCA was not linear, Chef Corso says every experience prepared him to go into business on his own.
“I enjoyed the diversity of business and food knowledge I gained along the way,” he said. “It was really enlightening to understand different pieces of that business puzzle and hospitality puzzle. But I realized I was always working for somebody else, and I wanted to bet on myself a little bit.”
For budding entrepreneurs and Broad Spartans eager to make business happen, Chef Corso says it’s all about giving yourself room to grow.
“Try to have multiple jobs in different areas of the business that you’re in,” he said. “A lot of times, we think of business and growth and being professional as being on one track and going up the rungs. I think that can be helpful, but it’s also important to be open to other experiences that over time set you up for more success and understanding.
“Everyone’s path is different and everyone’s needs are different,” he continued. “Give yourself some freedom and ‘blue sky time’ to be able to think without a whole lot of pressure.”
As for how to get started with eating well outside, Chef Corso urges everyone to take the next little step and have fun with the experience.
“Food is a great way to connect with people; we plan these trips to enjoy our family or friends and the landscape, but the food is often the missing piece of the trifecta. Start slow and find something that sounds interesting and fun and share it,” he said. “The whole thing about cooking and hospitality is sharing that experience.”