The Main Event-Two Days Gone

By Keith Fisher

The results for Friday are posted on the IDOS website but the teams who will be competing for the all the marbles on Saturday, are listed below.

Brian and Lisa Blodgett
Kim and Les Ferguson
Dale and Dana Jensen
Pamela Lane and Bev Shepherd
Butch and Diane Mayfield.

Good luck guys.

I’m sitting in the hospitality suite. It’s Saturday morning, and sleepiness gives way to anticipation. Eleven teams are making preparations, curbing their nerves, and renewing acquaintances.

All too well, I remember the feelings. When you dance in the big dance, it’s easy to get caught up in the carnival nature of the event. People stop by your cooking area and ask questions. You worry if your recipe will come out okay, and you wonder if it’s good enough.

All these things are distractions. Dana Jensen, from team 15, told me her distractions made her forget certain ingredients. She had to go back and add the things she left out. The confusion can cause even greater mistakes too. One team, a few years ago, decided they needed just ten more minutes to finish off their bread. At that moment, a film crew came by and interviewed them. The bread was forgotten, it burned on the bottom and they blame the incident for not winning that year.

Some times the anxious nerves can cause you to make really tragic mistakes. Usually, everyone times everything, but the nerves sometimes drive you change the schedule. Such is the case of the cooks who started cooking their stuffed pork chops too soon, forgetting they still had five hours to cook them. The meat was overcooked, and made them regret not keeping to the schedule.

As I inferred, in previous blogs, there are a million stories. Each team has a story that is never told. Many teams have stories they laugh about in the years that follow. I sat around a table yesterday with fellow former champions. We swapped stories and laughed about the tragedies were incurred on the road to championship. It was fun to relive the good times.

I promised to post an interview with a field judge this morning, but I’m going wait on that, and do a collection of thoughts from a variety of judges. Hopefully, I can persuade them to talk to me. Well, it looks like the cooks meeting is about to start. Let’s talk a little about that.

When all the cooks and crew gather, Ranes brings the meeting to order. Today, we talk about the rule that nobody can assist the cooks with suggestions. “I don’t care if you are the greatest expert there is, You cannot teach a better way to flute a mushroom,” Ranes said.

Apparently, there have been problems in the past when somebody made suggestions to one or the other of the teams and the rest of the cooks felt it caused unfair advantage. Also, there were announcements: The IDOS convention scheduled for April 10th, The Camp Chef Dutch oven gathering June 5. The Damon Faust memorial fund.

Eleven helpers who’s charge it is to bring hot water and hot coals for the cooks, stood and were chosen by the teams. Field judges are Brian Terry, and Bruce Tracy, both of them are World champions 1999 and 2004 respectively.

Ranes talks about punctuality. Dishes must be presented on time. If they are presented on time, the teams get 20 points. 0-5 minutes late loses ten points. 10 minutes or later, 0 points. In a cook off with close point spread like this, losing one point could make the difference between first and second place.

We are trying a new thing this year. In the interest of service to the spectators, there will be a Dutch oven cooking class after the dishes are presented. Then after the cook off, the students can get some hands on experience and brush shoulders with the teams and former world champions. Ranes asks for volunteers to help out.

Each competitor gets a logo embossed apron with their name embroidered on them. In the interest in cleanliness, take your apron off before walking to the bathroom.

After a few brief discussions, the meeting ends. Good luck to the cooks. You see, there isn’t a lot of mystery about what happens in the hospitality suite. Well, it’s time to get out and watch the main event. More later.


The Main Event-One Day Gone

By Keith Fisher

After the first day, It appears that I was right. What a horse race it has been. Some of the teams I mentioned didn’t make it through to the finals. Everyone cooked High quality foods. Following, is a list of those who made it through, and will be competing on Saturday.

Wil and Jen Ward
Patti Stinnett and Kathy Nickerson
Steve and Natalie Wilson
Omar Alvarez and Alan Johnson
Rex and Laura McKee

I spent most of the day floating, from team to team. The dishes and techniques were all, top notch. It’s heartbreaking to come back year after year, then have to sit it out. I hope nobody takes it to heart.

A few years back, with the increase in number of cook offs and inflated numbers of competitors, a recipe contest was instilled as the solution. I don’t remember the details, but we didn’t qualify. We felt bitter, but it really hurt, to hear our friends ask why we weren’t competing. “We didn’t qualify,” was all we could say.

We came back the next year, and won the championship.

Yes it is subjective. As I told my good friend last night, Sometimes its not a matter of what you did right, or wrong. Judging is subjective. Every year, cooks put everything into what they make. Sometimes it’s the best they can do. They rip their hearts out, and either someone cooks something that wows the judges, or a judge is overwhelmed and just can’t choose.

It’s next to impossible to predict what judges will like. I’ve seen the very same dishes take last place in a cook off then, take first place in another cook off. It was the same dish, cooked the same way, by the same team, different judges. I’ve also seen field judges stress a rule more sternly than other judges do. Keep in mind, judges do the best they can, and you are not always going to agree with them.

So, why bother, when it’s so subjective? Well, why do figure skaters, skate? Dutch oven cooking competition gets into your blood. The family of friends you develop, the thrill of hitting the mark of perfection, the elation of a real fan base. These are all reasons, but the major reason: It’s fun. In 2005, We were tired of the work of it all. The loading & unloading. Setting up & taking down, subjective judges, and I’d just taken a job that required I work weekends.

We decided to make it fun. For the first time, I went in the hospitality suite. We relaxed. I achieved a goal that day. I’d been trying to perfect a meat recipe, any meat recipe since I started. It turned out perfect, and I was thrilled. Even with the meat, it was a huge shock when we won.

I know I’ve given a lot of personal references, but since I started writing these articles, I’ve been re-living. In today’s line-up, there is another horse race. It’s all leading up to the main event on Saturday. Will my heart take the stress? Hope to see you there. Come and shake my hand.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a little bit of an interview with a field Judge.
I'll have more pictures to show you later. in the meantime, here's some links to others.


What a Day

I know, I've been writing everyday, but I had to leave before the results came in and Ranes hasn't posted them yet. I just got in, so I'm going to write in the morning. I had a great day talking with my old friends, and a lot of great cooking was displayed.

I'll tell you more tomorrow. Good night.


The Main Event-Hey! It Starts Tomorrow

By Keith Fisher

The pots are seasoned, lists are made, and last-minute prep is in order. Our Friend Terry Lewis is cooking with Chef Bryan Woolley today at noon, on KUTV 2 in Salt Lake City. He’ll also be on the morning show, same channel, tomorrow morning.

The cook off holds great promise for many people every year. With each victory and defeat, there are many stories that go untold. I remember one year. We were still cooking in the pavilion, and a Japanese film crew came to town. They were there to film the cook off, and they highlighted a few teams. They went to their homes and filmed their families. They ate with them, and filmed them doing family things.

When the smoke cleared on that Saturday afternoon, the highlighted teams hadn’t won. Such, is the nature of the cook off, you never know who will win. Judging is subjective but it is blind. Every judge tries to make fair and impartial decisions. I’ll talk more about judging later, and perhaps interview one of the judges from this year, but today I want to talk about one of those stories.

In 2008, Omar Alvarez teamed up with Dian Mayfield and became champions. They came back to defend their title, but Terry and Tori Lewis won instead. Sometimes everything comes together and sometimes it doesn’t. We took 11th place in 1999. I’m sure it would’ve been last, but one team didn’t like how the cake was turning out so they started over. They were docked points.

So, fast forward to this year, Omar and Dian are back to retake the title. Omar will be cooking with Alan Johnson and Dian, with her husband, Butch. They go into the semi-finals on different days, but if they make it into the finals, they will be cooking against each other. This year promises to be a real horse race.

If they qualify Omar and Dian will compete against each other, trying to unseat the Lewis’ while some of the perennial competitors could move in like a wild card and take the whole thing. Some of the perennial teams, Like Bill and Toni Thayn, have been coming back every year for a while. They are great competition and good people. Everyone deserves to win.

To quote Ruth Kendrick when she won in 1998, “Sometimes the bear chases you, and sometimes you chase the bear. Today, we chased the bear. Doug Miller, a TV personality, and Dutch oven cook, Smiled and said, “Today you kicked the bear.”

There are many more perennials in the group, Such as Wil & Jen Ward, Michael & Debbie Hair, Brian & Lisa Blodgett, Ted & Connie Cromer, Bev Shepherd & Pamela Lane. I don’t have the space to mention everyone. All of them will be doing their best to collect the prize, and bragging rights. You see the quality of the cooking will be great, everyone deserves to win, and you never know who it will be.

The real point here, in case you missed it, everyone has a story that should be covered by the media. I know some of the teams better than others, but I’ll be rooting for all of them. I want Terry and Tori to win because it will make history. I want Omar and Dian to get into the finals for the same reason. If either of them beat the Lewis’, it will put one of them along side Terry, to have won twice at worlds. At the same time, I want the thayns or the Wards to win because it’s their turn. Everyone has a story and they deserve to shine.

Good luck to all of you, and have fun.

On a personal note:

Remember the cook off I mentioned above, when the Japanese film crew came? That was the year my wife was walking along side a handcart, when it hit a hole. A hot water container slipped and the water scalded her feet. With third degree burns, Wendy could’ve given up and gone home, but she stayed, and prepared her wonderful pie. She did all her duties, and spent a lot of time with a bag of ice. Then there was the time when a table leg folded up, dumping The Hill’s cake on the floor. The leg wasn’t secure and a tragedy occurred. As it turned out, they planned on a multi-layer cake so the presented one less layer.

Although these two stories were worthy of a feature there was no footage taken. I’ve seen many people compete through hardships that most people never knew about. I raise my glass to those who keep trying.

Cooking begins at Noon, Thursday and Friday, and ten a.m. on Saturday. Go and hobnob with the cooks. As Doug Miller use to say, “Each one of these cooks is the best there is.”


The Main Event- 1 Day, and Counting

By Keith Fisher

As you know, we’ve been talking about the upcoming World Championship Dutch Oven Cook Off. I hope you enjoyed our interviews with Ranes and Terry. Remember there are 21 teams. Ten of them will be in the semi-finals on Thursday. Ten others will be in the Friday Semi-finals. Five will emerge from each day, and compete against last year’s champions in the finals on Saturday.

Each cook off runs all day and you can visit the IDOS website for specific details. Also, during the events, there will be demonstrations, and classes, to help you learn more about the art of Dutch oven cooking.

There is another cook off on Sunday for professional chefs. Theirs, is the opportunity to prove their metal. Although, many of them are trained professionals in the culinary arts, cooking in a Dutch oven, over coals, is a different experience.

Today, I wanted to write a little about the history of the cook off, and take us back to the days of the first one. It’s hard to do, however, since the founder lives out of state, and most of the people who were there, aren’t around much anymore. Logistically, it’s just not possible for me to carefully research my subject in the time allotted. Therefore I’ll depend on others to correct my facts as I trudge forward and write my brief history as I understand it.

The Worlds Championship roots grow deep into USU soil. As I understand it, the first cook offs were held on campus. In those days they often dug fire pits into the grass and most of the cooking was done on the ground. The event lasted for more than one day and the cooks were required to make a vegetable dish as well as bread, main, and dessert.

If you compare the old days to now, those cooks truly were authentic to the nineteenth century time period as reflected in the Festival of the American West, which the cook off was part of. Somewhere along the way, charcoal briquettes, and cooking off the ground became standard.

The cook off evolved into a one day, three-pot event, but remained a part of the festival.

Along with the cook off, came the creation of International Dutch Oven Society. Administration and rules were maintained through them. Because of growing interest, IDOS developed the concept of the satellite cook off, and many cook offs sprang up, sending winners of those events to the championships.

The formula was simple. A cook off would be held in conjunction with Founders Day, or other event. Spectators learned a little about cooking outdoors, and then were treated to free samples.

The Festival remained on campus for many years, but the cook off moved in 1997 to Jensen Historic Farms in Wellsville, Utah. We were all in one big tent and the rules stated we do our cooking on some kind of raised table, 18 inches off the ground.

There were other rules that came along and judging techniques changed. As I understood it, one of the reasons for the cook off was to promote Dutch oven cooking and to teach the spectators, so field judges watched for spectator interaction. Through it all, the dishes grew more sophisticated. Gone, were the days of winning with a beef stew.

When I got interested in cook offs, I watched Worlds that first year. I went around to other events and got a feel for how it was done. The Big Dance was held in August and was the culmination of the cook off, season. There were a few events after worlds, but they counted as qualifiers for the next year. “The season” began in May but the first major cook off, of the year, was at Orem Utah.

The last competition held under the tent, was in 1999 when Brian Terry & Kent Mayberry won. The next year was held in the new pavilion located on the grounds of the American West Heritage Center, next to the Jensen Historic Farm. The cook off would never be the same. I missed the tent.

Along with other logistical problems, we had to carry our heavy equipment from the parking lot to the pavilion. Then, they offered handcarts. (Everything had to be authentic, even when protecting the lawn).

in 2001, IDOS, who owned the name of the cook off, and The USU festival committee parted ways, and in 2002, the event was moved to the International Sportsman’s Expo show. The logistics of cooking inside a building, lighting, and getting in and out, replaced the challenges of flies, wind, and weather. Also, because of many reasons, I’m sorry, but they don’t offer samples anymore.

On a personal note: Cooking in that building with the implied lighting and atmosphere seems to hamper many cooks. It’s hard to tell if your bread is really done, and the climatic control messes with cooking times and temperature.

The event changed to March, and the numbers of cook offs increased. As a challenge, with the Greater Wasatch Dutch Oven Society, I introduced a qualifying cook off held outdoors in January. Other events popped up, each one, with a new theme and cook’s challenge. The season now starts in January and ends in December.

There were brief episodes of change, then changing back. They were mostly just qualification issues. For a while it was a recipe contest to determine who would be invited. Now, we’ve gone back to the old way of qualification, but because of numbers, qualification means you are invited to compete in the semi-finals.

It has been a long road with a lot of challenges. Many selfless acts have been performed in behalf of the event. Many long hours were expended. Egos and hurt feelings often got in the way. Exhaustion takes a toll, but there is something that keeps this cook off going. Something drives the competitor to keep trying, year after year. Perhaps it’s to hear your name become synonymous with World Champion . . .

In 2005, My wife and I became the 20th World Champion Team. This year is the silver anniversary. The tradition continues.

Other than good food, and salivating spectators, one thing hasn’t changed. Cooks are still asked to teach the spectators. That effort has launched many enthusiasts on their way to the magic, (Some say madness) of Dutch oven cooking. See you at the Big Dance.

Come back tomorrow for more about the cook off. In the meantime, go to the IDOS website and get your discount coupon.


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.


The Main Event- 3 Days, and Counting

By Keith Fisher

Again we wish to note: The author of this blog has not been compensated for mentioning any products or comercial enterprize.

Three days! Good thing I don’t have to come up with a delectable recipe this year. Today is Sunday. I hope you're planning a backyard party. If not, I hope your itching to get outside and cook something.

Today, we’ll finish our interview with Ranes Carter. As you’ve been reading for the past two days, he is the director of the IDOS World Championship Dutch oven Cook Off. Ranes has been pretty patient with me and he’s anxious to get back to his punch list. After all, if he doesn’t get it done . . . well, we’d better let him get back to it.

Getting right to it and continuing where we left off, I promised we’d talk about what the spectators can expect. So, tell us, Ranes, What can a spectator find at the event? Will non-Dutch oven cooks find information and inspiration? Can they talk to the competitors?

The Dutch Oven cook-off really is a site to see. Watching the cooks prepare those three dishes from scratch, on site, using nothing but charcoal and cast iron in five hours is pretty impressive. That alone is worth the admission fee.

IDOS will have a booth where you can sign up to become a member of IDOS, purchase current and past WCCO recipe books, and purchase other IDOS merchandise. Two of our sponsors, Camp Chef, and Lodge, will have product available for purchase.

The cook-off area is in the Northwest corner of the Sandy, Utah Expo Center. There are bleachers for the audience and spectators to watch all of the action. The cook's are separated from the public by a waist high horizontal bar and fabric screen. This allows the audience a full view of everything the cooks do. Audience interaction is encouraged. Most teams will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

In addition to the teams cooking, Colleen Sloan, a Utah local Dutch oven educator and recipe book author, will be heading up a team of demonstrators. The team, made up of Dutch oven enthusiasts, recipe book authors, and some of our sponsors, will be teaching classes in the back corner of the building. The subjects include product demonstrations, Dutch oven basics, knife sharpening, and other skills. There will be a class every hour, on the hour, during the whole event. There won’t be any demos during the cook off judging period.

An addition this year is an interactive demo that will take place after the final announcements on Saturday night. ISE patrons will be given the opportunity to take quick class with Colleen, then move to the cooking pit for some hands-on experience with some of the teams.

It sounds like there is something for everyone, but what if a person gets tired of cooking demos? Are there other things to do?

This Dutch oven cook-off is held in conjunction the International Sportsman's Expo held at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy Utah. Besides the cook-off, the ISE show has an archery area, a fly fishing area, a fishing 'pond' for kids, a dog jump area, and many other items of interest for the whole family. You should be able to find something to do for many hours. If you need a break, feel free to sit in the bleachers and watch the show.

How much is the cost?

Admission to enter the ISE show is $12.00 per adults. Children 15 years old or younger are free. The cook-off is a part of the ISE show and is included with that admission.

Sounds like a big bang for the buck. Since you are the director of this huge event, I bet you’re anxious. What is it like for you? How long is your punch list?

Anxious is an understatement. This event has literally consumed most every waking moment for me... and more than a few dreams.

I think I started working on the 2010 event a few moments after I made the final announcements for the 2009 event. The day after the 2009 event, I started writing notes on what I could have done different, things I could to do to make the event better, things I wish I wouldn't have done, and so on.

I asked many others to offer their opinions on the event and I compiled all of this information so I wouldn't forget. I was very hard on myself for a few months after last year's event. I have spent the last year going over the details of last year's event and what I am doing for this year in order to make this event bigger and better. I really have put my all into this event.

In addition to being the 2009 and 2010 IDOS WCCO chair, I am also the IDOS cook-off liaison. I think these two roles work nicely together in regards to planning the WCCO. By being the cook-off liaison, I try to stay up to date on any Dutch oven cook-off. Because I kept track, I was able to list all of the IDOS sanctioned cook-offs and the winners of those events on the IDOS forums. That meant I knew exactly who had qualified for the 2010 event shortly after they qualified.

Last fall, I contacted these teams letting them know about the registration process for this year's event and some of the details and expectations for this year's event. This is the first year that teams were able to register for the event online. And, the teams were given the option of paying the $50.00 registration fee using Pay Pal. The online part of it has really helped with communication between IDOS and the teams. I feel it made the registration process much quicker and easier for all.

As I said before, the registration deadline was midnight on 31 December. Many of the teams registered the last week of the year and a few registered hours before the deadline. A couple of teams that really wanted to attend missed the deadline and I had to turn them down.

Registration includes recipe submittal via email. Everyone, except last year's champions, had to submit two sets of recipes: a main, bread, and dessert dish for the semi-finals. Also, a main, bread, and dessert dish, for the finals. Last year's champions will defend their title during the Finals and only had to submit one set of recipes. It totals 135 recipes: 45 mains, 45 breads, and 45 desserts.

During the first couple of weeks of January, my wife and I went through every one of the recipes. I transposed them from the original document and put them online. Some of the recipes had to be rewritten for clarity, and some needed to be deciphered completely. Putting the recipes online facilitated team approval of the edits. I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve had this much communication.

Once my wife and I finished editing, and all the teams approved the changes, the recipes were turned over to Hyrum Rappleye to be formatted for the recipe book. Hyrum proof read every recipe and found a few mistakes that I missed. I contacted the teams about any issues we had and got them corrected.

When Hyrum finished his work, he sent a PDF copy to the IDOS President, Kent Rappleye, for review and approval. Kent spent another couple of weeks going through each recipe with a fine-tooth comb. Kent found errors that Hyrum and I both missed. I think this process took a lot out of all of us.

The next step was to schedule the food judges, and field judges. Cook's Assistants, and many other helpers. For the 2009 and 2010 WCCO cook-off, all dishes are presented at one time. Each team has five hours to prepare and cook a main dish, bread, and dessert. With 10 teams on Thursday and Friday, and 11 teams on Saturday, there will be 30 to 33 dishes all presented at the same time. Much too many for a few judges, so I scheduled three judges per category.

That equals nine judges per day. Nine judges over three days, is 27 judges. It takes a little time and effort to locate and schedule 27 people to judge, but I feel I have a great line up of judges this year.

There are about 150 people involved with this event that I call the "Cast and Crew". This is made up of cooks, cook's assistants, food judges, field judges, charcoal starters, demos and classes, helpers in the Hospitality Suite, helpers in the IDOS booth, audio / video, photographers, and a few others. That's a lot of scheduling and planning. It is amazing how many people are so willing to help in any way they can. IDOS is made up of a bunch of great people!

So, yes, I am anxious for this event. I really do think about it constantly, and have for many months. It has taken over my life in many ways. Honestly, I’ve put so much time and effort into planning the 2010 event that I had most everything planned a week or so ago.

So, for the last few days, I’ve had the feeling I needed to go-go-go, yet pretty much everything is done, everything is planned. Not having anything to do is really adding to the stress. I know that might sound odd to many, but having things so organized weeks before the event is a little scary. And not having a task to occupy my thoughts causes me to continuously think about everything. Yes, anxious is a gross understatement.

Sounds like you’ll need to take a cruise when it’s over. But as Lucile Ball was fond of saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do.” You worked miracles last year, I’m sure this year will be even better. You mentioned your “cast and crew" and how much you learned while you helped out. Can anyone volunteer? I’m sure my readers would like to be a judge.

Absolutely, although, it's a little late for the 2010 event. I’ve had all the positions filled for about a week now.

Of course, most everyone who has tried Dutch oven cooking, knows how great the food is. Once these world-class teams present their dishes you can't help but wonder what it takes to be a Food Judge.

Actually, being a Food Judge is much harder than simply enjoying the food. As an example, I'm not a fan of olives. As a Food Judge, I might be required to eat a dish that contains olives. I need to put aside my opinions of olives and attempt to judge every dish equally and fairly. It really is a very difficult job and takes some skill.

The Judges I have scheduled for the 2010 event are made up of professional chefs, culinary educators, and cookbook authors. Past world champions. There are chefs from local restaurants. Some local media, and a few other Dutch Oven enthusiasts.

Having been on the list of food judges, I can testify it is hard. Plus you need a thick skin against hurt feelings.

Thank You, Ranes. You’ve given my readers a lot to think about. I hope they will take your suggestions and experiences and apply it to their backyard and camp cooking experiences. Don’t be afraid to compete. If you don’t take first place, so what? At least you’ve had fun.

Tomorrow, we’ll interview Terry Lewis, He's a 1996, and 2009 world champion and he's coming back this year to defend his title. This series will lead up to the MAIN EVENT. Plan now to be there for all or any part, of the cook off. I think you’ll enjoy yourself. If you missed the links you can find information at these links.