Demonstrations give taste of Dutch oven cooking

Joe Harris serves a sample breakfast for the audience at the Dutch oven cooking demonstration Friday at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days.

Joe Harris serves a sample breakfast for the audience at the Dutch oven cooking demonstration Friday at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days. Photo by Alfred Diaz.

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WALLA WALLA — Probably the biggest name in the Pacific Northwest for Dutch oven cooking is making a repeat performance at this year’s Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days.

This time, however, Cee Dub’s dishes will be complimented with a good old-fashioned cooking contest.

“It is kind of fun to bring something back that is from the past,” Fair Manager Cory Hewitt said.

At one time, on-site cooking contests were common at the fair, especially when the 4-H ran a youth cooking contest, Hewitt said.

Over the years, the steam ran out on live-cooking events until this weekend when fair organizers decided to add a Dutch oven cooking contest to the Cee Dub show.

“It is something different. And our goal is to bring education to the fair. It is agriculture and it is educational. And that is what fairs are all about,” Hewitt said, noting that was the reason the guru of cooking with cast iron and coals was invited to perform for the first time last year.

A native of Southern Idaho, C.W. “Butch” Welch has spent decades working at various camps as a state conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

That is where Welch said he gained much of his Dutch oven cooking experiences and stories to regale his audience.

It wasn’t until 1998 that Welch became a household name for local public television viewers when he began hosting Dutch Oven & Camp Cooking.

Produced out of KWSU in Pullman, 39 episodes of his show were shot, and a cast iron star was born.

“I was watching him on TV and then I thought I was going to try it out on the back porch,” Joe Harris of Touchet said, recalling what inspired him to learn to cook with a pot that usually weighs more than 20 pounds and is heated with either coal or briquettes.

Eventually Harris met Cee Dub at a outdoor show in Pasco, and the two became good friends.

Then last year, Harris asked if fair officials would consider having Cee Dub put on a live cooking demonstrations.

That first run of cooking demonstrations turned out to be a satisfying repast for fairgoers, so much that Cee Dub was brought back for seconds this year.

“I am here to teach you how to bake bread in a Dutch oven, not make it,” Welch said to his audience on the first of two Friday cooking demonstrations.

Then he went on to explain to his audience that they shouldn’t try to make what they wouldn’t attempt in a conventional oven.

“If you’ve never made biscuits from scratch then use the box stuff,” he said.

But Welch made his from scratch. About 40 minutes later they were light and golden-brown morsels that were served under a dollop of sausage gravy, which was also made from scratch. And so was his oatmeal cookie creation.

Probably the best part of the Cee Dub cooking show is that the audience got to taste his creations when he was done.

“This is why we came today,” Heidi Hoffer of College Place said. “This is awesome that they brought him back here because we used to have to go to the TRAC (in Pasco) to see him.”

Fairgoers will get a chance to see Cee Dub today when he holds three Dutch oven cooking demonstrations at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Cee Dub will cook a peach cobbler, Walla Walla Sweet French Onion soup, fruit dump cake, grilled onions with sausage and even a pecan pie among other items.

The shows are free but samples are limited depending on the size of the audience.

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