Pathfinder club chefs had the opportunity to flex their culinary muscles at the Top Club Chef activity during the 2019 “Chosen” International Pathfinder Camporee. Three rounds were held each morning, August 14-16, 2019, near Hangar D of the Experimental Aviation Association grounds in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States.
During the daily critique period, tables showcased beautifully plated club cuisine. Chefs were teamed up and awarded both team and personal points.
The individuals who are the primary cook for their clubs were nominated or appointed to represent their conferences in the non-elimination competition. Each chef created three different plant-based dishes based on biblical inspiration. Each day, a special ingredient or theme was required in the dish presented for judging.
The special ingredients/themes were corn, chips, and club theme — what best embodied the spirit of the chef’s own Pathfinder club. The dishes, cooked and prepared at the club camporee kitchens, were peer reviewed based on the following criteria: taste; presentation; creativity; and use of the special item.
Hulando Shaw, the Top Club Chef coordinator, said that what people eat and how it’s prepared goes back to humanity’s beginnings. And Pathfinder clubs need to learn about healthful eating and food preparation. “The Genesis 1 diet gives you all green herbs, not meat,” Shaw said. “When we get to the point in which we can get our young people activated, get our young people interested in cooking, then what will happen is that young people will be learning to ultimately make their own food.”
The chef and owner of Real Veggie Cafe in Island Park, Long Island, New York, Shaw is excited about the future possibilities of this new Pathfinder activity making its debut at the Oshkosh camporee. He’d like to see the competition take hold at Union camporees across the North American Division — and eventually around the church’s world divisions. Once the principles hold, “then we can craft our health message into the cooking competition and teach young people how to cook healthfully. When people actually start cooking their own food, they will start eating much healthier.”
And while there is no honor offered for the Top Club Chef activity, that didn’t stop at least one Pathfinder from participating. Chris Dietel, an 11th-grade student from Rochester, Minnesota, and a Voyager in the Rochester Rangers Pathfinder Club, enjoys cooking — and learning by watching celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. He said his club urged him to register.
“My club likes my cooking, and they said that I should do the Top Club Chef tournament, so I signed up. [The organizers] have to select you to represent your Union. I got chosen.”
Dietel was the youngest chef in the competition; the rest of the participants were adults who cook for their clubs. He said it made the competition harder, but in a good way. “This is going to help my culinary abilities,” said Dietel, who received a silver finish with his group after day one.
The young aspiring chef learned from more seasoned cooks such as Lyn Fuentes from the Winter Park Spanish Club from the Florida Conference. Her signature dish in the final round, “Showing the Pathfinder Spirit,” was a large cake that represented Pathfinders as a whole, along with smaller cakes representing the club members, each of which was filled with various jams (mango, pineapple, berries, concord grape). The final touches included molded white chocolate with edible rice paper.
Susan Maxted, from the College Place Village Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington State, prepared her signature “Gluten steak with a side of wild rice and Walla Walla sweet onion.” Maxted shared that the dish was inspired by a favorite dish that she makes for her children and also their club name, Wailatpu, which means “land of the wild grass.”
Chef Shaw, who serves traditional Caribbean-style vegancuisine at his restaurant, was pleased with the dishes presented. “I’ve been a Pathfinder for pretty much all my life, and this is my second Oshkosh,” he said. “And when the Top Chef information went out, I inquired about it. Based upon my resume, they asked if I would be the coordinator [at the camporee]. I thought about it, I prayed about it, and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
At the end of the competition, the points were tallied, and all participants were awarded first place.