The Main Event- 2 Days, and Counting

By Keith Fisher

Today, in our series, we're talking to Terry Lewis. Along with his daughter, Tori, he won first place in the cook off last year. Because they won last year, they have the opportunity to come back and defend their title, but Terry has the distinction of winning the cook off before.

Thank you for being here, Terry. I know you must be busy with work and last minute preparations. Lets get right into our interview. What year was that, when you won the first time? Tell us about that day.

The first time I won was in 1996, and I cooked with Tori's mom. It was the last year that the Festival of the American West was held on USU campus.

I’d undergone back surgery 2 weeks before, and was recovering at the time. I don't remember a lot except everyone was so nice to me, they wouldn't let me lift anything heavier than a Dutch oven lid.

Well, then, it’s good you came back last year, because now you have a clear memory. :) With the exception of a few, most of the previous winners of the cook off have pretty much retired from competition, and you did too, for a while. Other than needing a clear memory, what made you decide to shoot for the title again?

I did miss the thrill of competing, and the many good people I met in the Dutch oven world. But, it was Tori who brought me back. She pestered me for about a year to do some cook offs with her.

The experience has been amazing, and it has been something constructive we have done together.

That’s great, to have something you can do with her. I’m looking forward to when my daughter wants to try the cook offs. She has her own Dutch ovens but she hasn’t decided to compete yet. Is Tori excited for this year? What are her duties in your partnership?

Tori is very excited to be at worlds again. She is a sweet spitfire. Her duties at a cook off are to keep the area clean and organized, which she does very well. She helps me with the recipes and timing. She interacts with spectators and has become quite a good little cook. Tori, also, has a calming influence for me, relieving stress and keeping me focused. Her famous quote, “Just shut up, breath, and get to work.”

You two work well together. I know that helps a lot. I’ve seen teams that got in each other’s way and things just didn’t go well. As I remember it, you qualified for the 2010 championship by winning at the Klondike Cook off last year, with your brother as your partner. At worlds you cooked with Tori after qualifying in 2008. Since you've been invited back with Tori, Will Stuart compete against you at worlds this year?

Yes my brother Stu, and I, won and qualified for the 2010 worlds before the 2009 worlds. I had planned even then, to cook with Tori. If I replaced her she would murder me. Stu had planned on cooking with his son this year, but work schedules made it impossible for him.

That’s too bad. The grudge match scenario would have been exciting. It would be even more exciting if you guys fought over which family recipe you took to worlds. What did you cook last year? Will your menu be better this year? Tell us about what you're cooking this year.

Last year we made crown roast of pork with wild rice stuffing and a cranberry glaze, apple pear pie, and Tori's favorite rolls. I have always been the one to decide on what we cooked, so this year I had Tori make part of the decision. Plus my good friend Damon Faust challenged me to do a stuffed bread.

This year we are cooking BBQ baby back ribs with buttered almond rice, caramel pumpkin cheesecake, and chicken stuffed tarragon rolls. I’ve gained 10 pounds while practicing these recipes.

Having Judged at Worlds last year, I got to taste your recipes and they were delicious. Also I think you made the ribs at Klondike. Makes my mouth water just thinking about them.
For my readers who don’t know, Damon Faust, a great man and a Dutch oven cook, passed away last year. He will be missed in Dutch oven circles.

So, Terry, you promised to try stuffed bread. I've noticed a tendency toward stuffed bread dishes in the competitions, along with gourmet quality menus. It seems to be a departure from the traditional Dutch oven fare. How do you feel about the trend?

I don't really like the idea of stuffed breads, I think that you can't really judge the quality of breads when they have all those goodies inside.

As far as gourmet foods, I like it, because it shows how truly versatile the Dutch oven is. You can cook anything in the black pot.

Yeah, they are versatile, and I suppose it was inevitable to graduate to gourmet, It separates the competition, but I’ve seen a lot of basic recipes win. I saw your dishes from last year and they were pretty straightforward. Do you think the average camp cook will have trouble making some of the recipes from competitions these days?

If a person has any experience with the Dutch oven, I believe they can have success with the recipes.

Just read them over to see if you have any questions, then ask the cooks. Most all Dutch oven cooks are willing to share their insights. I get asked all the time if I share my “Secrets”—I have nothing to hide!

I do think you have to find your skill level and start with recipes there, and then challenge yourself by trying new things.

It’s true. Most Dutch oven cooks feel flattered when someone has a good experience with their recipe. I once heard from a cook in Northern California. They tried my recipe and loved it. They sent pictures and everything. The funny thing is, it was adapted from something I saw on television.

So, Terry, Now that you're getting ready to come back and defend your title, do you feel like you're in the gun-sights of all the competitors?

Its funny how Dutch oven competitors are, we enter the cook off with the intention to beat everyone. We also do, or share, anything to help those we are cooking against. I expect it to be the same this year.

Yes, having the title puts us in the "sights", but I kind of like it.

Yep I know how you feel. In another interview, I mentioned that Wendy and I were the first team to be able to come back the next year and defend the title. It felt good to have my peers think of me as someone to beat.

I think there are about 20 teams who plan to win this year. If you win, yours, will be the first team to win two in a row. Are you ready for the notoriety?

I have actually had a bit of a hard time with that one. I feel like I reached my goal and feel selfish wanting more. Our goal this year is to have fun, meet some new friends, and do our best!

For me meeting new people, seeing old friends, and spending time with Tori is a WIN already.

That’s the secret isn’t it? You are a great camp cook, and I know my readers want to be like you. When did you start cooking in Dutch Ovens and what made you want to compete in the first place?

Dutch ovens have been in my family for generations. We came from frontiersmen & women, and cattle & sheep-men. We’ve always had Dutch oven food at family reunions and ward parties. I loved it. I love to eat, so I had to learn.

Tori's mom and I took a class from the Kohler brothers and their families up Logan canyon in the early 90's, I was hooked on it ever since. I watched the Worlds cook off from afar and decided to join in. We took 3rd in worlds that first year, and that was our 3rd cook off ever.

A Dutch oven tradition to be proud of. For those who don’t know, Mike and Wally Kohler, with their families, Were some of the original members of International Dutch Oven Society. They were some of the first competitors, and taught many people about the art of Dutch oven Cooking. Thank you for talking with us, Terry. Good luck this year, and remember, don’t stress. You’re just cooking dinner.

Come back tomorrow for more about Dutch oven cooking and the Cook off. We are counting down the days until the MAIN EVENT.

1 comment:

Ranes said...

I liked Terry's interview better than mine. =0) Terry is such an amazing person. I feel better just being around him. Damon was the same way.