Monday, March 31, 2014

Dutch Oven Cooking Training at your local REI Store

REI - Boca Park Store   Las Vegas, Nevada  (Click Image for their website)

Being a member of a local group that Dutch Oven cooks, we were recently invited to do a presentation for one of our local REI Stores in Las Vegas, Nevada.  When I put out some feelers for material I was pleasantly surprised to find out a similar project was about to happen at one of the REI's in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

While our group, "Las Vegas Dutch Oven Enthusiasts" have been cooking for many years, we rarely get asked to formerly teach.  We have done it from time to time in our natural element, the outdoors.  We had a loose idea of what we might do.  Our thought was to set up and "live" cook, while doing a "show and tell" at the same time.  Hot food samples to follow.

Our thoughts continued along this route up until the day of.   In hindsight it was our fault for not having an on site meet-up in advance.  We had locked in a date and time, but had not finalized any details.  While at a group cooking event a few weeks prior we even loosely walked through what we would need to bring to REI.  Our coordinator works a regular full time job so a face to face with REI had never taken place. 

I took it upon myself to be at REI the morning of, to meet with the manager and firm up our cooking location.  Things like water, power, tables, etc.  You might imagine my surprise when the manager led me to their large inside muli-purpose room.  They were expecting us to provide a classroom style presentation.  But they were also providing napkins, sample cups and what-not for sampling Dutch Oven food.  We wouldn't be cooking on site at all.  The little voice that was talking to me a few days prior should have been heeded.  I was wondering how we would be able to cook on site, knowing the location.  The logistics of the location weren't adding up to me and I should have investigated sooner.

Luckily I had created a short video on Dutch Oven cooking for another purpose.  REI did supply a Flat screen on a dolly.  I had a laptop and the required HDMI cable so at least we had that.  I parted company and let REI know we would return that evening to do our thing.

I immediately got on the phone to ring up our other members planning on being there....first to warn them of the change in plans.  Secondly, to start cooking!  Our Dutch Oven food needed to be ready to transport to the site.  We had about 8 hours until our presentation.  One member was going to copy off another video from a Dutch Oven Cooking friend that lives in California.

We all converged a couple hours ahead of the planned time.  We set up a mock cooking site in the classroom complete with a cook table, a couple Dutch Ovens, a skillet, charcoal Chimney, and a trivet.  No live fire.  But we felt it was a very good representation of the basics.  We laid out copies of a couple simple recipes, and a couple methods of estimating heat, including a heat/coal chart.

We had 40+ eager people staring us down as we started the presentation.  We kept it very informal, and as informative as we could make it.  We ran through the basics, the two videos, and served up some warm Crescent Chicken Cheese Rolls, along with some Monkey Bread.  All food done earlier, and kept warm in a steamer try.  Though we felt the presentation went well and the food tasted good, it just is not the same as being outside, getting some smoke in your eyes, as well as those great smells in your nose to tell you the food is ready to eat.

We are sure to be better prepared for the next classroom style training session.  We were surprised by the amount of interest shown.  REI's seats were all reserved, with a waiting list.  We all feel Cast Iron Cooking is making a huge come back.  If you have a local REI Store in your area, see if they are offering a class?  Ask them to sponsor one if not.  We are hoping we are invited back,  or even receive offers to teach at other venues.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  I know 3 pots of food disappeared fast!  We picked up some pointers for ourselves and hoped we passed on many more to the group?  Talking with people after the presentation, it appears we lost one person during our explanation of heat rings. and rules for figuring out temperatures, during the section of cooking with Charcoal and Temperature control.  She admitted to being a very visual learner and suggested we should have had some charcoal (un-lit of course).  She needed to see that set up.  We purposely did not bring those inside due to the mess they can make :-(  But we all did put our heads together later to hatch the idea of making some fake briquettes for the next time!  

No one that attended had a clue we walked into that room so ill prepared, and unrehearsed.  Yet observers told us it flowed out very smooth and organized.   We attribute that to the fact we have just been doing it for years, and as with things like that, it must have just come naturally.   We felt like we were out of our element.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Dean (Frogcrawler) & Joanie Hubbard for the use of their video in which they baked up a batch of  Chili Relleno Casserole.   This was one of the videos used in our presentation.  The following links will provide you with a wealth of Dutch Oven information and contacts that cook.  Dutch Oven in this context is commonly referred to as a DO.  A gathering of DO cookers is known as a DOG.  (Dutch Oven Gathering)

DO Baking Chili Relleno Casserole   youtube video produced by Dean & Joanie.  Please note their video's have had over a million views.

Also visit and join Dean & Joanie on their Facebook group Outdoor Cast Iron Cooking

The second video covered some general DO info as well as baking a Crescent Chicken Cheese Roll

We also run a Dutch Oven Facebook group with currently over 8000 likes called Dutch Oven Cooking

We also have a group of friends and fellow DO cooks based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This group is an open and active group of cooks and campers in the Las Vegas Nevada area, as well as members from southern Utah, California, and Arizona.  Virtual members as well as those that show up to cook are always welcome.  This group is the Las Vegas Dutch Oven Enthusiasts



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