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Hyrum Dam cook-off helps bring community together

September 10th, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

Story and photo by Tavin Stucki

HYRUM — Of all the iron pots and savory aromas in the Dutch Oven Lovin’ Cook-off on Saturday, one huge pot of chili towered above the rest, due mostly to the physical size of the oven and the sheer volume of food inside. Though the recipe didn’t win a top-three award for Best Side Dish, it’s creators Nick and Mandi Crookston said they were just happy to be involved.

Andrea Hayner, customer service supervisor with Camp Chef, said it’s not so much about who wins and loses as it is about having fun and connecting with the community. “That’s the only rule, that you have to cook it here,” she said. “We wanted to keep it really simple, really amateur.”

Local cooks competed in the Dutch Oven Lovin’ Cook-off Saturday at Hyrum State Park. It’s about connecting with community more than who wins, they say. Photo by Tavin Stucki.

The Crookstons cooked their chili from an adapted crock-pot recipe, using home-grown tomatoes, self-bottled beans and home-made salsa.

“I usually cook Dutch oven when we’ll have family get-togethers,” Nick Crookston said. “We go through a lot of food.”

The entire recipe makes about three gallons, which Crookston said usually doesn’t last long at family reunions because he has so many relatives — he has nine siblings and his parents have 22 between them, plus the five children in his own family.

But sponsors said the cook-off was more about helping the community come together, something the Crookstons welcomed since moving to Hyrum in May.

Hyrum State Park manager Chris Haramoto said the cook-off is another attempt at finding the types of things people want to do and showing them that the park has more than just a beach to play on. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do here at the park,” he said. “Plus, everybody loves the food.”

Hayner said the contest is scheduled for the first Saturday after Labor Day each year. With the number of participants having more than doubled to 21 in this, its second year, Hayner hopes the contest will continue to grow.

“We always want to give back to our community,” she said. “It’s kind of like the final bang to summer: You’re at the beach, summer fun, there’s more activities than just for contestants.”

The park staff arranged for contest entrants to enjoy water equipment like canoes and paddle boards on the reservoir while waiting for the food to finish cooking.  “It’s slowly getting bigger as we go,” Haramoto said.

Hayner agreed. “Hopefully there will be many more,” she said. “It’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger.”


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