Dian Mayfield and Omar Alvarez of Burley, Idaho, have cooked together in competitions for the past 10 years. On Saturday, their expertise paid off to the tune of $5,000 when they won the International Dutch Oven Society World Championship.
"Last year, we came here as rookies and tried to play with the world-class cooks," Mayfield said. "We learned a lot about controlling the heat of the charcoal and about presentation. But the biggest thing we learned is that Dutch-oven people are the best, everywhere you go. They are willing to help each other."
Earlier that day, the duo discovered they had somehow lost two cutting boards, and neighboring teams immediately offered theirs to use.
The championship, held as part of the International Sportsman's Expo at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, attracted 15 teams of Dutch-oven enthusiasts, some from as far away as Oklahoma. Each team prepares three different dishes: a dessert, a bread and a main dish, all in Dutch ovens using only hot coals for heat.
"It reminded me of the days of the great French chef Escoffier, when the apprentices would stoke the fires for the ovens, and the only way they could tell the temperature was to put their arm in for three seconds," said Rico Renzetti, a culinary instructor at Salt Lake Community College who served as one of the judges.
The Mayfield/Alvarez team turned out a flat-iron steak and smoky potato stars, raspberry twist bread, and tiramisu cake. Others did pies, cheesecakes, beef tenderloin, salmon filet and crown rib roasts.
"When the cook-off first began many years ago, it was a lot more backyard stuff," said co-chairwoman Nancy Rappeleye. "But as the years have gone one, it's become more gourmet."
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.
"We've heard all this stuff that the champions don't do very well when they return the next year," Scott Clawson said. "So as long as nothing is ruined or burned, we're OK with that. Besides, my wife has said if I win any more money, I'm not allowed to buy any cooking gear."
Will and Jen Ward of Tooele took third place. This was the third time the two had cooked in the finals, "And we're going to keep coming until we take the grand championship," said Will Ward. "We have just fallen in love with it, because the people you compete with are like extended family."A slide show of the competing teams and their dishes will be posted on desnews.com. Winning recipes will appear in the Wednesday's Food section.