Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off

Learn about Arizona history, while enjoying period food

Published in SanTan Sun News Nov. 1, 2014 issue

More than 8,000 people are expected to celebrate Arizona’s history with demonstrations, activities and, most importantly, authentic period food.

The fifth annual Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off is set for Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9, at Tumbleweed Ranch at Tumbleweed Park, 2250 E. McQueen, Chandler.

Chuck Wagon4

Photograph provided to the SanTa Sun News

The cook-off was inspired by cook Dave McDowell’s passion for outdoor food creations, says Jean Reynolds, public history coordinator for the Chandler Museum.

“He also wanted to come up with an event that would make a little bit of money to go back to the museum to help with education,” Reynolds says.

The event supports the educational development of Tumbleweed Ranch.

“We do the event to preserve our western history and Arizona history that goes back to the late 19th century with the whole idea of cowboys, ranching and cooking on the trail.”

Since 2000, McDowell has competed in chuck wagon cook-offs in Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming.

“We have about seven to 10 wagons here in the state that are always looking for an event to compete in,” McDowell says. ”There was a big gap in the fall schedule. We thought the Tumbleweed Ranch would be a great place to do it.”

He was the driving force in bringing the annual Chuck Wagon Cook Off to the Chandler area. The first year, it attracted four wagons. But, he adds, “we have made some great progress.”

On Friday, the activities will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The morning will focus on tours with school groups and senior citizens.

Later that morning, cooks will demonstrate different ways to cook turkeys outdoors.

“It’s a unique way to do a Thanksgiving dinner,” she says. Friday evening a campfire glow will be held at 6 p.m. with Arizona troubadour Wally Bornmann, a cowboy singer and storyteller, around the fire with s’mores.

The event on Saturday runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The main Saturday attraction features 12 chuck wagons competing for awards based on appearance, taste and texture of period food. The teams will cook and prepare their own unique meal, which includes meat, bread, potatoes, beans and a dessert. Reynolds says each chuck wagon makes about 50 meals.

Chuck Wagon2“We provide them with the main ingredients,” Reynolds says. “They have their own spices.”

Tickets, which are $12 for the meal, go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and typically sell out within the hour.

On Sunday, many of the same activities and demonstrations as the previous days will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, a 10 a.m. breakfast will consist of a three-course meal of potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

In the afternoon, 18 kids will participate in a junior cook-off, during which they work with wagon teams to create a peach cobbler with a Dutch oven.

Television personality and Times Media Group food columnist Jan D’Atri will provide a cooking demonstration in the afternoon.

For more information, visit www. chandleraz.gov/chuckwagon.