The Main Event-5 Days and Counting

By Keith Fisher

Note: The enclosed interview has been slightly edited, any brand names have been noted, but neither, the author, or the interviewer has been compensated for mentioning the names.

We are continuing our, World Championship Dutch Oven Cook Off, series today. Incidentally, that’s WDOCO, or WCCO for all you acronym loving folks, and just plain, Worlds, for those who compete. The world championship has always been a big dance, ever since the concept of Dutch oven competitions came to be. There are other cook offs with bigger prizes, but this cook off is the main event.

Today, we are following a busy man, waiting for a melt down. As the director of the cook off, Ranes Carter is the man of the hour. With so many details to take care of, you can image how busy he is right now, but I tossed a rope on him to ask a few questions.

Ranes, How long have you been involved in Dutch oven cooking? Have you competed?

I consider myself a culinary professional, though a former professional is a better title. I started my culinary career as a dishwasher, then a side cook. I joined the military and was a cook for the General's Mess Hall in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, NC.

I followed my military career by going to Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts where I was valedictorian of my class. I only brag because I wasn't the best student in high school and seemed to really excel in the culinary arts program. My last professional cooking job was as a catering manager for what is now Utah Valley University. It was Utah Valley State College during the time I worked there, 1996 to 1997.

In all those years of cooking, I was aware of cast iron skillets, but had never been introduced to a Dutch oven. Oh, how I wish I would have known about Dutch ovens sooner. I can think of many private parties that would have been so much better with some Dutch oven cooking.

A few years back, the fall of 2005, my family and I started taking Sunday afternoon drives in the mountains. This brought back memories of camping from my younger years and I felt the need to get back out in the outdoors. I started researching camp cooking and came across the hobo stove and a few other homemade items. My buddy and boss asked why I didn't use a Dutch oven.

A week later, I had a boxed set of cast iron from Sam's Club. The set contained a 12-inch flat bottom Dutch oven, a skillet, and a griddle all with bags. There was a hot pad and lid lifter included. All of this was in a wooden crate and only 40 bucks. That Wenzel brand Dutch oven is still my favorite. I now have about 15 Dutch ovens ranging from a 5-inch (candle ovens) to a 16-inch and a few in between.

After getting my Wenzel, I posted a question about Dutch Oven cooking on a local, hobby forums. UTAG to be exact. The response was a link to IDOS. Reading the IDOS forums, I learned of a few local Dutch Oven cook-offs in the summer of 2006. One of those was in Springville, Utah where I got to watch Scott Clawson and his brother David. Little did I know how much this encounter would mean.

That fall, September 2006, I entered my first Dutch Oven cook-off. It was the Weber County cook-off held by Bruce Tracy, the 2004 IDOS WCCO champ. I didn't own a cooking table and only owned a couple of ovens. I make breaded chicken served with multi colored pasta and ratatouille for my main dish. My bread, which I wasn't required to make as a novice, was Rhodes dough rolled in ranch dressing powder. My dessert was a pumpkin cake that was a little more advanced than a dump cake. During the cook-off, I noticed most people served their dishes on an inverted lid. I flipped over my Pumpkin Cake on a lid and found I had pumpkin pudding instead. I pressed the mass into a pie like shape and presented it anyway. I doubt anyone has scored as low as I did, during that cook-off. So much, for me being a professional.

The next weekend, I competed in the Salt Lake County Cook-Off chaired by Lance Kingsford, the 1993 IDOS WCCO champ. I made Chicken Cordon Bleu with a smoked gouda and mushroom duxelle cream sauce. It was out of this world. My bread was Rhodes dough rolled in a chipotle ranch dressing powder. My dessert was an chocolate Amish Friendship bread with sliced bananas and strawberries. I did MUCH better on my second attempt.

I still didn't own a Dutch oven cooking table and ended up borrowing one from Scott Clawson. At the time, Scott was the director of the Storm Mountain Chapter of IDOS. Scott brought up the Storm Mountain chapter and the membership fee for IDOS during the day. I felt some obligation and appreciation for the loan of Scott's cooking table and ended signing up for IDOS that day. I guess I have Scott to blame for everything that has happened since then.

Later that year, I started thinking of holding my own cook-off. Living in Lehi, I knew about the Lehi Rodeo that takes place the last week in June. In January of 2007, I started working on my first cook-off. That June, I chaired the 2007 Lehi Rodeo Round Up Cook-Off. This event was different than many of the other local cook-offs and just might have changed the way many of the local cook-offs are ran today.

In February of 2007, I was elected as the Assistant Director to the Storm Mountain Chapter. I think I sort of took over the Storm Mountain Chapter from there.

That March, I was a cook's assistant for Omar Alvarez and Dian Mayfield at the 2007 IDOS WCCO. Scott Clawson and his brother, David, won the cook-off that year. In April, I had a vendor booth at the Spring Convention selling Volcano Ovens and Blair's brand potato chips.

That fall, I teamed up with Shawn Conlin, son of Ross and Angie Conlin. Ross was the IDOS President from 1994 to 1998. Shawn wanted to go to World's, so we competed almost every weekend for five or six weekends in a row. We finally won the last cook-off of the year.

As a former professional, I knew I would not be allowed to compete at World's. Later that year, I held a "Last Chance" cook-off for the Storm Mountain Chapter. This was a cook-off to qualify a team for the WCCO and a chance for the Storm Mountain Chapter to nominate a team. Ted Cromer came in second place and Shawn asked Ted Cromer to compete with him in 2008. Dian and Omar won the WCCO in 2008.

In that year, I ran the second Lehi Rodeo Cook-Off, which was even better than the 2007 event. That March, I was a cook's assistant for the WCCO and Cast Iron Chef Challenge on Sunday. That April, 2008, I ran the Taste of Dutch for the IDOS Spring Convention. Kent Rappleye was elected President of IDOS that year. A few months later, during the Camp Chef DOG event the first weekend in June, Kent asked if I would be willing to run the 2009 IDOS WCCO.

I was floored and a little shocked. I took a month or so before I finally agreed.
Since then, I’ve become the IDOS cook-off liaison, the IDOS forums moderator, and I am the 2010 IDOS WCCO Chair.

Hard to believe that I had not heard of a Dutch Oven five years ago. In that five years, I have competed in about 7 or 8 cook-offs, held 4 local cook-offs of my own, been a field judge or food judge in many cook-offs, I became the cook-off liaison for IDOS, I became the forums moderator, and I am again the chair for 2010. And, I am working with the Spring Convention Committee for 2010. I have been in communication with Dutch Oven cooks from all over the world. I’ve made friends that might last my lifetime and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I can only hope that I’ve been a valuable asset to IDOS.

And you have. Wow, that was quite a story. I didn’t know you trained professionally. Looks like you met all the right people, and they helped you along the way. Cooking with Dutch ovens in Camp is a different experience. Thanks for showing my readers how easy it is, to get started.

Well, we’ve run out of time for today. But I’ll be back tomorrow with more of our interview. In the mean time, take your cast iron out of your food storage and start cooking. Then plan on attending the cook off. Ask your questions. The cooks are friendly.

Uh, what’s that, Ranes? Don’t worry I’ll untie you after the interview. Meanwhile I think I’ll make a cobbler. Don’t worry, Ranes, I’ll give you some. :)


Ranes said...

Yeah, I got a little detailed there, didn't I.


L.T. Elliot said...

Wow. I had no idea there was so much to dutch oven cooking! =]