There came a moment when I thought, who am I to judge food
? Then moments later, I paused from moving onto the next entry and exclaimed “I need to cleanse my palate.” Then I quickly followed that with “man, I sound so pretentious.” Apparently I have watched too many cooking competitions on TV.
It’s late morning on Saturday. I am wearing a t-shirt, boyfriend jeans, and flip flops. I’m shivering as the reservoir is a couple hundred feet way and the sun has yet to realize that its job is to provide warmth. Little did I know that in two hours time, I would be sunburned and sweltering. The only thing that met my expectations was how delicious the food was and that I would be beyond stuffed.I had the wonderful opportunity to help judge the 3rd annual Dutch Oven Lovin’ Cook-Off sponsored by Camp Chef, The Herald Journal, and Hyrum State Park. The other judges I had the pleasure of working with were Rob Huddleston, a former Dutch Oven Cook Off winner, multiple times over, and Darla Bentley, a certified culinary travel professional, who just happens to be one of my closest friends. The three of us were charged with the task of rating Presentation/Procedure, Taste, Difficulty on a scale of 1-10, 10 being best.
Before the official judging got under way, we three wandered from booth to booth, meeting the cooks, talking to them about their dishes, their process, and why they were in the competition. It was a lot of fun talking to such a group of diverse people who all approached Dutch oven cooking differently. Having Rob with us was a benefit since he knew the Dutch oven competition world inside and out. He helped guide us on what to look for in the procedure grading. Presentation and taste were easier to judge, it either looked good or it didn’t, and it either tasted good or it didn’t.
Getting the coals ready
The first place dish went to Joe and Andee Parry, a mother and son duo from Mallad, Idaho (although Joe lives in Logan now). They entered the competition with 3 dishes. They took first place with their Ritzy Chicken, a deliciously breaded chicken in a creamy parmesan sauce. They also prepared a blueberry strata and dinner rolls. Both fabulous. The rolls were some of the best I have ever had.Andee has been Dutch oven cooking for years. They own property that they visit every summer, but there is no electricity. Dutch oven cooking is how they cook. Joe learned at a young age how to cook. Joe shared with us that he has tried to lure the women with his cooking skills, but so far has been unsuccessful. So ladies, here’s a man who knows how to prepare award-winning meals the old fashioned way.
Judges’ Choice went to Doug Larson with his chili or chilia. It had a nice blend of sweet and spicy and full of hearty chunks of meat. Dough has been cooking Dutch oven style for so long he thinks he has one of the original outdoor stove set-ups.
For those attending the event, they had to wait many hours before they could sample the food. The food had to be cooked, then judged, awards presentation, and then finally the samples went out, if the cooks felt like sharing (which all of them did.) While the crowd waited, Hyrum Youth Council had a booth set up to sell drinks and snacks. Their proceeds go to help fund various service projects in the the community. Darla and I chatted with these kids and their advisor Elise. What a great group of civic minded young people.
Overall this was such a fun experience. There were moments that were difficult. Seeing a dish that looked absolutely perfect only to find it is undercooked, or under seasoned. But these aren’t professional chefs. These are good folks who love cooking and creating delicious meals for their family in friends in a Dutch oven. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.