Fallout 76 is host to tons of wild player-run events, like the wasteland’s first official cooking competition. The Clawed Cooking Challenge is a fun concept that’s equally domestic and post-apocalyptic. Think Iron Chef or Chopped, except in the middle of the episode you have to watch the contestant wrestle a radioactive bear or sneak through a dangerous swamp.
The gameplay of Fallout 76 allows players to either eat pre-made items they scrounge off store shelves, or they can collect recipes and cook their own fare. Some recipes are much rarer, and harder to make than others.
Clawed Cooking Challenge’s organizers, the El Gato Pub, have created a ranking list of each recipe in Fallout 76. At the top are full meals, like a Deathclaw Wellington, with rare ingredients. (Deathclaws are infamously difficult encounters in the Fallout universe, so making a recipe out of its body parts means dodging and weaving its massive claws and gnashing jaws.) A vegetable soup or tasty cake scores fewer points, because usually you don’t have to stab any monsters to make it. Players can see the recipes and their points ranking ahead of time, and plan accordingly.
Then, in an Iron Chef-style twist, competitors are given a secret ingredient, like a big slab of monster meat or a particular kind of fruit. They have to set out into the wasteland, carrying nothing but their weapons and their secret ingredient, to see if they can make an appropriately tasty dish.
A competitor could make a straightforward stew, but its simplicity means it’s a low-tier recipe, so there’s little risk but also a low reward. Or, the chefs could try to delve into the most dangerous dungeons in West Virginia and scrounge up extra spices and side dishes. With some work, the contestants could impress the judges with a Yao Guai bear roast or a succulent smoked Mirelurk fillet. These are the toughest enemies in the game; Yao Guai are fast, and Mirelurks are are giant tanks full of health.
In order to add a little spice to the cooking challenge, the El Gato Pub judges assume a judging style akin to Gordon Ramsay. If a player served up an unappetizing or uninspired dish, they’ll be raked over the coals by the judges.
One round of the Clawed Cooking Challenge involved a secret ingredient called aster, an edible flower. Both players put tons of work into their meals to make something tasty and high-ranking, but one participant put so much work into his meal that he forgot to include aster at all.
The judge lightly roasted the player, saying he could have used aster in the tea instead of carrot, and noted that “excuses are like assholes — everyone’s got one, and they all smell like shit.” The other player, meanwhile, put together a package with not just food, but an extra set of ingredients: a teapot, a crystal liquor decanter, and tea cups. She won extra points for presentation, even though the judges joked that the extra effort made her look a little like an ass-kisser. It was straight out of a Hell’s Kitchen special challenge.
The first challenge finished this weekend, with more to come in the future. El Gato Pub also runs Fight Nights, a talk show, and a host of other themed events and competitions for the public. Fallout 76’s most endearing moments don’t come from its open-world aspects or daily missions, but player-made encounters that are somewhere in between a heated esports match and a relaxing round of Animal Crossing.
While this particular challenge is a little deadlier (and meaner) than most, it’s just one part of the vibrant scene that Fallout 76 role-players have built.