Competition heats up during Cast Iron Chef cookoff

Cast Iron Chef

Base Camp Baker photo

The Cast Iron Chef cook-off will include an overall winner, second place winners in every category and a People’s Choice award.


BAKER CITY — Local chefs will once again whip up their most delectable Dutch oven dishes this Saturday during the annual Cast Iron Chef cookoff, which starts at 9 a.m. at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

This event is hosted by the Trail Tenders, the nonprofit organization that support the Interpretive Center.

Six teams are signed up to compete this year. Ken Bain, the reigning champion from 2015 and 2016, returns again — and this time he’ll be competing against his family members.

“It’s a family affair now — they’re all determined to beat him,” said Rachael Nickens, park ranger at the center.

She said there is room for two more teams. To sign up, call 541-523-1852.

Participants will set up at the center’s wagon encampment at their assigned cooking spaces. Although the dish will consist of locally harvested ingredients, the specific items will not be revealed to teams until right before cooking time begins. (Much of the food items are heritage varieties grown in the center’s plot at the community garden.)

The contestants have all morning to complete their dish, which will then be plated and presented to a panel of judges. Samples will also be available for the audience to taste and vote on People’s Choice.

Following the taste test, judges will name one team the Cast Iron Chef Champion of 2017. Prizes will be awarded to the overall winner, and also to second place in each category.

Saturday is a free admission day at the center. In addition to the cook-off, visitors can try their skills at the Buffalo Chip toss or make homemade ice cream. Inside the center, the “Finding Fremont” exhibit continues in the Flagstaff Gallery. Also, a living history performance of “An Evening Chat” is scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Center is located five miles east of Baker City on Highway 86. Take Exit 302 from I-84. The Center is currently open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $8 adults, $4.50 seniors and free for children age 15 and younger. Federal passes are also accepted. 

For more information about the center visit

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