From the category archives:

Personalities

For a broader menu, Robert Wall cooks in stacked Dutch ovens.

By Kristin Deason

Robert Wall, cast iron king

Robert Wall is so passionate about Dutch ovens and cast iron that he named his pots and pans.

The biggest Dutch oven – 16 inches – is named Buela. The 12-incher is Daisy, the 14-inch cast iron pot is Clara. “I have so many I needed to name them,” said Wall, who lives in Manhattan. The names came from his father’s family.

The love affair with cast iron cookery started when Wall and his wife, Marqueleta, went to a family reunion in Oklahoma and continued when their son Travis was in Boy Scouts.

Cast iron has been in the U.S.A. since the colonies when the heavy unbreakable cookware traveled aboard ship with the Europeans.  George Washington’s mother bequeathed her cast iron skillet in her will to make sure it ended up in another set of loving hands. Lewis and Clark used a Dutch oven as they explored the Louisiana Territory.

About 200 attended the family reunion on a ranch. There Wall watched ranch hands prepare meals in Dutch ovens the same way cooks on the cattle drives did in the 19th century.

When Travis joined the Boy Scouts, Wall became an assistant Scout master. Honing his skills, he helped the boys earn cooking badges. Once the boys learned, they cooked all their meals on their own when they were on camping trips.

Wall stated that, “sometimes the Scout masters would have competitions.  One campout we could only use Bisquick as the main ingredient and another campout we were only allowed three ingredients.”

As his knowledge grew, so did his collection of cast iron cookware. Today he devotes an entire room to about 50 cast iron products.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to cast iron is to season them, he said.  Swirl a thin coat of cooking oil around inside the Dutch oven while it is still warm. “A good way to season cast iron is make French fries,” he said.

The cast iron will develop a film inside preventing rust.  To wash, he suggests boiling water in the pot or skillet. Don’t use soap. Wipe clean immediately.

Almost anything can be cooked in a Dutch oven and it can be cooked either indoors or outdoors, but Wall prefers outdoors over an open fire.  When cooking outdoors the Dutch ovens can be stacked on top of each other.  Coal has to be placed both on the top and the bottom of the Dutch oven to cook the food evenly.

He has cooked breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts in his Dutch ovens.  “I don’t use recipes, I just use what is available,” he said.

Some of the dishes he has cooked are a cornbread casserole, hamburger casserole, mountain man breakfast, and any kind of cobbler a person can think of.

Wall still cooks for the Kansas Sea Base and Boy Scouts. But since his son is now 24, he does not camp regularly but assists on special occasions.  He teaches people how to cook with cast iron when asked and teaches a class in a workshop on open fire and Dutch oven cooking for Becoming an Outdoors Woman Weekend, sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

“I would like to start catering with a chuck wagon,” Wall said.

Mountain Man Breakfast
From Robert Wall

2 pounds country sausage
6 potatoes, peeled and diced (or shredded)
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cups shredded cheese
12 eggs, beaten
¼ cup water or milk

Brown sausage in Dutch oven and remove the sausage when done.

Spread potatoes in bottom of skillet then layer sausage, onions, green peppers, and cheese on top.

In separate dish, add water or milk to eggs and beat thoroughly. Pour eggs over mixture evenly and season to taste.

Cover and cook over medium heat until eggs are set, about 25 minutes

Makes 4 to 6 servings

For information on Outdoor Woman Weekend, see http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/news/KDWP-Info/News/Weekly-News/1-20-11/KDWP-OFFERING-SPRING-OUTDOORS-WOMAN-WORKSHOP

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By Kristen Harvey

One of Raichlen's 28 books, The Barbecue Bible was published in 1998.

With 28 books printed in 15 different languages, one might expect the author of the Barbeque Bible to speak of, well, barbeque. However, Steven Raichlen is no ordinary author. In fact, he never intended to be an author at all.

Raichlen studied French literature at Reed College and had originally intended to become a college professor. After college, he received a fellowship that sent him to Europe to study medieval cooking. Raichlen would then go on to combine his passion for food with the history he studied.

Since then, he has built up of barbeque empire. What started with one book has now turned into several best-selling cookbooks, a line of cooking utensils, a French-Canadian TV show, and endless possibilities in the future nice touch.

To hear the story of how all this, his life’s work, transpired, it sounds a lot more like a business lecture you could sit in on at a local university. Raichlen gave a list of six pieces of advice for entering the business world.

No. 1: It’s all about content and having something to say; “Take an approach that you and you alone can take,” he said.

No 2: Be willing to work really hard. “Being proactive” is one of the most important things that Raichlen attributes to success.

No. 3: Under promise and over deliver; always exceed people’s expectations. Raichlen said keep tenses the same, “Try to give readers the best value you can.” One of the ways he has accomplished this is by selling his books for extremely low prices. He thinks that, in the long run, it’s a much better strategy.

No 4: Be willing to work for free. Raichlen’s attitude is that you should “love what you’re doing so much you lose all sense of time,” whether you come away with a paycheck or not. He also adds that an unpaid internship can yield a lot of good experience and connections in the future.

No. 5: Ask questions. Personal and professional success is all about the “power of imagination, persistence, and hardwork,” he said.

No. 6: Lifelong learning is a good thing. Raichlen believes that it is important to “always have new experiences.” “Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can,” he added.

After his defeat of Iron Chef Roksbura Michiba, Raichlen became a grilling guru. After all his other successes, it’s clear that he has earned the title of life guru as well.

(Editor’s note: Steven Raichlen spoke to the Food Writing class via Skype from his home in Miami, Fla., during class on March 10. His topic was “How to write a cookbook,” but he addressed a variety of subjects as he answered the students’ questions.)

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By Kelley Nelson

Steven Raichlen should be a household, or at least a patio, name. He is, after all, the world’s go-to griller.  He has published 28 books in 12 languages portraying barbeque bliss; and as the host of multiple television shows—BBQ U and Primal Grill in the United States—he seems to have a lot to say about smoking meat.

But what about his smokin’ success?  It seems automatic for the five-time James Beard Award winner; however, Raichlen followed a recipe to reach his goals.  Here, he shares how to get red hot.

1) “Own your ideas.”

According to his blog, Raichlen graduated with a degree in French literature. The leap from Victor Hugo to Foreman happened as Raichlen was studying medieval cooking. He realized sticking meat over a flame is the “oldest, most universal cooking method.” He was hooked.

More specifically, Raichlen knew he “could bring a historical—not culinary—background to barbeque.” He chose a niche and made it his own: “If nothing else, have original ideas. No machine can take that away from you.”

2) “Have something relevant to say”

Every time Raichlen barbequed in public, people gathered around his grill and praised his meats, but Raichlen noticed men would wait until the crowd thinned before slyly asking his advice on various grilling woes.

“I then realized America needed barbeque techniques on everything from supplies to sauces.” So it was on park pavements surrounded in charcoal smoke that Barbeque Bible and BBQ U were conceived.

3) “Do what you love so much you lose all sense of time.”

When Raichlen was in Asia researching for one of his books, he set out to explore a small village around 11 a.m. During his trek, he stumbled upon a marketplace.  Learning the local cooking customs, tasting the “succulent fish wrapped in banana leaves,” and talking to the residents enthralled him so much that he didn’t make it back to his room until 2 a.m.

It’s that kind of passion that shows through in Raichlen’s work. He accredits his success to his desire for the subjects he pursues.

4) “Don’t be afraid to pound the pavement.”

Raichlen hasn’t always known barbeque was his calling but he never stopped working hard.

He got his foot in food writing as a restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. There, he published as many pieces as possible. Next, he took his book ideas to New York City. He knocked on the doors of 10 publishers before finding one that ultimately printed his Barbeque Bible.

“You have to be in it for the long run,” he advises. “Be patient.”

As it turns out, Raichlen can dish up more than a great brisket; he also willingly shares his wealth of shrewd advice. His quick wit and astute business sense prove he’s as every bit as bright as the flames he cooks on.

(Editor’s note: Steven Raichlen spoke to the Food Writing class via Skype from his home in Miami, Fla., during class on March 10. His topic was “How to write a cookbook,” but he addressed a variety of subjects as he answered the students’ questions.)

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By Melissa Short

Steven Raichlen has a knack for finding a need and filling it. When he saw that there were no books on the market about barbecue from a global perspective, he wrote one. When men began pulling him aside to ask him questions about grilling techniques, he wrote How to Grill, published in 2001. He created a line of grilling tools and spices inspired by his experiences around the world and will soon release a second. When it comes to grilling, Raichlen is at the top of the food chain.

Raichlen did not set out to be “the barbecue guy.” He has a degree in French literature and also studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. “I have always been interested in the interface between food, cooking, and culture.” said Raichlen. This interest led him around the world to learn about the world’s oldest form of cooking.

“I use barbecue to look into human culture and the human soul. Grilling is the oldest and most universal form of cooking around the world but it is also the most different from country to country,” said Raichlen. He visited sixty countries for his most recent book, Planet Barbecue!, just one of the twenty-five Raichlen has written. From Australian Lamb on a Shovel to Greek marinated octopus, it seems Raichlen will grill just about anything with two sides.

“I’m the type of person who is always looking for new experiences. I never want to do the same thing twice,” Raichlen said.

This mantra is what has made him the most famous man in grilling. “It’s about leveraging ideas. Start with a simple idea and think ‘What else can I do with this?’ Take an approach no one else can,” Raichlen added.

He shares his take on barbecue around the country in his annual Barbecue University cooking workshops. Grillers of all skill levels are welcome to the three day event to learn new techniques and recipes and to meet fellow grill enthusiasts. Raichlen also hosts two cooking shows, one on PBS and one that airs in France. Raichlen adds, “I finally get to put that French literature degree to use.” He writes a blog on his website, Barbecuebible.com, full of recipes and pictures from his international grilling expeditions.

With each new book Raichlen takes careful steps to make sure every recipe lives up to the expectations of his loyal fans. He rents a house and turns it into a private test kitchen, making and re-making each recipe until it meets his approval.  Raichlen said that when he tries a new dish, whether in Texas or Thailand, he remembers the way it tastes, feels, and looks so that he can recreate it back home and share it in his writing.

Raichlen emphasized two things that are important when traveling to sixty different countries for business­­­–pack light and always remember where you came from.

(Editor’s note: Steven Raichlen spoke to the Food Writing class via Skype from his home in Miami, Fla., during class on March 10. His topic was “How to write a cookbook,” but he addressed a variety of subjects as he answered the students’ questions.)

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