Goin' dutch — Idaho team takes top prize at cook-off

Published: Wednesday, March 19 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Curtis and Gaye Ann Grace's Cattleman's Steak and Shrimp on display for judges.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

SANDY — "Practice makes perfect" seemed to be the theme of the International Dutch Oven Society's World Championship Cook-Off last Saturday at the International Sportsmen's Expo in Sandy.

The champions, Dian Mayfield and Omar Alvarez of Burley, Idaho, have cooked together in various barbecue and chili competitions for the past 10 years and Dutch oven competitions the past three years.

"Last year, we came here as rookies and tried to play with the world-class cooks, and we learned a lot," Mayfield said.

Their expertise paid off this year to the tune of $5,000 for their Flat Iron Steak and Smoky Potato Stars, Raspberry Twist Bread and Tiramisu Cake.

There were 15 teams in this year's finals, coming from as far away as Oklahoma. Each team prepared three dishes: a dessert, a bread and a main dish, all in Dutch ovens using only hot coals for heat.

To win a berth in the finals, each team had to win an IDOS-sanctioned cook-off during the past year and then cook in the semifinals on Thursday and Friday night.

The second- and third-place teams were also veteran cooks. Second place went to brothers Scott Clawson of West Jordan and David Clawson of Saratoga Springs, last year's champions who were invited back to defend their title. They made Jared's Southwest Chipotle BBQ Ribs, Queen Margherita Rolls and Key Lime Meringue Pie.

And it was the third time at the World Championships for Wil and Jen Ward of Tooele, who took third place. They made BBQ Ribs, Meat and Cheese Bread with a Kick, and Mixed Berry Pie.

"From year to year I've learned a ton," said Wil Ward. "Last year we used a product called Ultra-gel as a thickener for the pie filling and we realized it was real temperamental."

In fact, the pie fell apart as they were taking it out of the pot. "This year, it's the same pie, but we went to tapioca as the thickener."

Mayfield and Alvarez said that heat control is the most important thing in Dutch oven cooking.

"You want to try to duplicate your home oven," said Mayfield. "If you get too many coals too far in the middle underneath the pan, it will burn your bread instead of baking it. But if you're sauteing, you want to have a lot of coals on the bottom, because you want high heat."

Bystanders who equate Dutch oven cooking with stew were amazed to see the dishes being turned out in the competition: cheesecakes, pies, beef tenderloin, crown rib roast, salmon filet, and from-scratch breads and rolls. One team made ice cream by putting the Dutch oven in a cooler of ice layered with salt.

"When the cook-off first began many years ago, it was a lot more backyard stuff," co-chairwoman Nancy Rappeleye said. "But as the years have gone on, it's become more gourmet. People have really stepped it up."

The two teams from Newkirk, Okla., made the 19-hour drive to the cook-off together. Curtis and Gaye Ann Grace and Jim and Dawn Mills plan to do some sightseeing in southern Utah's national parks before heading home.

"We've found it's a good way to spend time together as a couple," Gaye Ann Grace said. "When we first started doing it seven years ago, we would argue. Now we have learned how to work together and it's really good."

On Sunday, local chefs competed in a Dutch oven cook-off. Each chef had to prepare a meal based on a mystery ingredient, which turned out to be moose. Chef Todd Leonard of Utah Valley Community College took first place, second place was chef Jason Innes of Nicholas and Company, and third place went to Troy Wilson of Utah Valley Community College.

Dutch ovens weren't the only smoky cooking going on at the Expo. Six barbecue teams took part in the Frostbite Challenge, sponsored by the Utah Barbecue Society. They cooked beef ribs, flat iron steak and Flaming Gorge Burbot, a fish with white, mild flesh.