Story by Roger Edison
Kent and Shannon Rollins operate one of the most unique, as well, one of a kind culinary schools in the nation. Each spring and fall, they hold their semi annual Chuck Wagon Cooking School at the Red River Ranch in Byers, Texas. The school teaches students the culinary art of cowboy cooking using cast iron dutch ovens, all in an authentic setting working from a restored 1876 Studebaker wagon. Sourdough biscuits, baking pie crust and brewing up that rich taste of strong cowboy coffee are all part of Kent's school where cooks learn how to cook just as they did for the wranglers who herded cattle along the trail drives over 140 years ago.
Kent's accomplishments for his culinary talent has earned him numerous awards including the uncontested title as the Official Chuck Wagon Cook of Oklahoma, given to him by the Oklahoma state Governor. He also won the Chuck wagon Cook-Off Championship at the National Cowboy Symposium Celebration held in Lubbock, Texas and the Will Rogers Award for Chuck Wagon of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. Featured on QVC, PBS, The Food Network's "Roker on the Road" and "Throw-Down with Bobby Flay." Kent entertains with a passion as both a modern day cowboy, story teller and one of the nations finest cooks.
Recently, the Rollins offered a Contest for a scholarship to attend their cooking school. The rules were simple. Submit a 500 word essay explaining, "Why you want to attend Chuck Wagon Cooking School." Within days of posting the contest, Essay's from contestants flooded the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon mail from across the nation.
Filtering through all the entries, they sorted each into piles. As Kent and Sharron searched for the finalist, it wasn't difficult deciding the winner after reading an entry submitted by Jessica Probert of Vale, Oregon.
“When college age kids reach the last few semesters of their schooling they start hinting to their parents about wanting cars and such as graduation gifts. I asked my parents for a chuck wagon. I attend culinary school in Idaho, but one skill they fail to teach are Dutch oven and cowboy cooking.”
Jessica is a true cowgirl who currently works ranching while attending school where she recently transferred into the Culinary Arts program with College of Western Idaho located in Nampa, ID. She had previously been working towards a major in Early Childhood Development and Education just under three years at the University of Idaho when she realized her love of the western lifestyle and cooking is her dream. Jessica stated, "I decided that I just couldn't be a teacher for the rest of my life and wanted to perform a career I already enjoy doing."
Her parents, Dan and Suzy Probert, own and operate the P-Ranch of Vale, Oregon. Although, Jessica explains not the historic P-Ranch once owned by Peter French listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Dan Probert, originally from Enterprise, Oregon and Suzy is from San Juan Bautista, California where both grew up in a ranch environment. Twelve years ago, the couple move to Vale where today live on their Ranch working out of the office as Country Natural Beef runs the ranch.
"I have a huge passion for horses; it’s been passed down through my family," explains Jessica. Continuing, "My dad taught my brother Russell, who is currently 18 years old and myself, everything we know. I have been involved in rodeo for as long as I can remember and definitely love ranch rodeos. Team branding is my favorite event."
Jessica was also her hometown former Miss Rodeo Queen and has participate in many Rodeo events, entering Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Breakaway Roping, Goat Tying and Team Roping. In High School, Jessica devoted her energy towards Team Roping along with her brother Russel qualifying for the Idaho High School State Finals in the Team Roping event. Both Jessica and her brother Russel are avid ropers and both raise the own Corriente Cattle with Hat Rack Cattle Company.
Humble about her strong equestrian skills, Jessica brags about her brother Russel. "While we also both started out our own colts on the ranch, Russel just moved to California to attend college. He also works starting colts with cutting and reining. As much as it bugs me to admit, he is an amazing horseman who started and trained both my team roping horses. He also trained many of the other horses on my parents ranch. I am very proud of him."
"I have two goals," states Jessica. "First, I want to buy a chuckwagon so I can one day cater during the branding season of the ranch round-up. Brandings are always the best time of the year. For as long as I can remember, my mom has always stayed home making the needed meals during the spring brandings. Last year, we were so busy around the ranch with branding season, the ranch hired a Mexican restaurant to cater for the crew."
"Second, I want to show people outside our circle of ranching, how real “cookies” fed their crews. Attending the chuck wagon school, I hope to gain as much knowledge from Kent while I am in Texas, so I can return with the extra skills and start cooking during the branding. That would help give my mother a break she well deserves," comments Jessica.
Jessica is not only influenced by her mom when it comes to cooking but from one of her most admired cowboys, her grandfather known as Papa Jim. "My grandpa, Papa Jim, was amazing cooking his legendary pit BBQ. That's where you season the meat, then wrap in foil and place inside a wet gunny sack tied up. Then bury it in an underground pit to cook. It is absolutely the best! He taught this skill to my Uncle Jim, my Dad and also to my Aunt Carol who each now master making pit barbecue. Unfortunately, Papa Jim passed away last July. He cooked at the Joseph, Oregon Mule Days for many years and even won a buckle for being such a master pit barbecue chef. Recently, at a cousins wedding, and again at the Mule Days, my Dad, my Aunt, and Uncle cooked Papa Jim's legendary Pit Barbecue keeping his traditions alive."
Asking Jessica what her parents thought about her getting a chuckwagon, she commented, "I think my parents thought I was joking. I think they may be coming around to the fact that I am serious about getting a chuckwagon and a team. When I told them I had won the essay contest and was going to be headed to Texas in March, their reaction and looks were priceless. They both are extremely supportive of everything I decide to pursue in life."
Jessica confesses, she loves the food channel and while her favorite television show is CHOP, she enjoys viewing the many cuisines, ideas and techniques shown on the many shows. Jessica will attend Kent Rollins Chuck Wagon Cooking School at the end of March 2012 just in time to take her new skills home to Oregon in time to treat the cowboys to some wholesome food during this years brandings. For more information about the Chuck Wagon Cooking School, contact Red River Ranch at www.kentrollins.com
|Jessica working Branding Season|
|Jessica Probert Miss Rodeo|