Darci Lynne Farmer, Ventriloquist

Participants do their planning at the Samson Estates Winery on Van Dyk Road for a first-time show filming there last September. (Courtesy photo)

First teams did their thing back in September, and interest has grown  

WHATCOM — Lydia Blakeway, of Bellingham, used to operate the in-house café at T-Mobile’s 700-person Cordata call center as well as being affiliated with other eateries over her career locally. Her management skills have also been tapped in other industries. She is a woman on the move and was voted Most Athletic in high school in 1978.

In addition to being fit and focused, Blakeway is an overcomer. She had a heart attack at age 31 when her daughter was only six weeks old. Mom had even been weightlifting the night before and had no idea this could happen.

Food skills were encouraged and developed when relatives, owners of the Chuckanut Manor Restaurant, had her work summers there. Growing up in the Snohomish area, her extended family went from relative affluence and ease to much more rustic environs on a farm virtually overnight when their family “fortunes” changed in her teen years during an economic downturn impacting Boeing where her dad worked. Rather than being upset, she — and they — adapted to what they had including a wood stove and well water … which wasn’t reliable.

In fact, one skill she developed was almost by accident: cooking gourmet foods over a campfire out of necessity on one occasion. It turned out they enjoyed doing it and made pretty darn tasty food at the same time.

To segue from the fish in the sea to the fish in the pan — over a campfire with judges, prizes and people watching on the Cooking Channel.

Blakeway met up with one of the key producers of the popular Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” TV series, four-time Emmy Award winner Doug Stanley,  which is set with primarily hand-held cameras on the commercial fishing vessels in the deadly Alaska Bering Sea waters.

“He took a personal interest in this,” Blakeway said. Stanley, who she met through a mutual friend, listened to her idea, looked over her business plan, and did much of the initial filming.

“‘Let’s make it happen,’ he said,” she said.

Over the past six months, two teams of photographers/videographers have been filming teams Blakeway has assembled for this premise at Everson’s Samson Estates Winery and elsewhere. Blakeway and her daughter Kristen “Kri” Gunderson, 28, are the co-hosts, and owners with friend Alex Massey. Lydia’s husband Craig Blakeway, and her two sons and two stepsons, have also been on board to help as needed — especially in a pinch — with mowing shoulder-high grass, placing cinder blocks, and more, to make it all happen.

During one of the 10 show filmings, in September, the Pink Peppers, a local group of DoTerra essential oil representatives, jumped on board with a team headed by professional chef Kari Fenton and took home the prize. In spite of windy conditions on the fall day, the teams made their open-pit fires in cinder blocks, raced for supplies, and proceeded to whip up breakfast items.

The premise has been tweaked along the way, Blakeway said. While the teams initially requested ingredients to be supplied on event day, now they are allowed to bring their own specialty items and utensils, she said, which will cut down on costs and prevent “snapfus.” The cinder blocks and fire “ingredients” are supplied. Prizes include wine and hotel packages.

Since September, Blakeway said, the project with Samson has built interest. Semiahmoo Resort wants three events in the new year, and also Thousand Trails south of Bellingham and Skagit Valley Gardens want in.  Recently, a “sizzle reel” was finalized. The ownership team will pitch this show to the TV syndicate in New York City in January, leading to eventual decisions about “Campfire Chef.”

“Doug thinks we have a 95 percent chance of being on TV,” Lydia Blakeway said. “There’s not another (reality) TV show with a mother/daughter team.”

“I want to inspire other women,” Blakeway said. In addition to the show, she supports Lydia Place and other local charities.

Note: Producer Doug Stanley of “Deadliest Catch” was seriously injured in an accident on Sept. 9 in Auburn, Washington. A drunk driver hit Stanley and his son on a motorcycle. He is now recovering from a broken pelvis and expects to rejoin team meetings for the possible show.