It all started with open minds and empty stomachs.
A troop in Illinois, fed up with soggy pancakes for breakfast and boring hot dogs for dinner, launched a cooking competition that has improved the Scouts’ culinary skills and promoted healthier eating on campouts.
They call it the Golden Spoon Award.
Patrols in Troop 237 of Frankfort Square, Ill., part of the BSA’s Rainbow Council, compete for the coveted prize each campout by preparing their most delicious dish.
The competition is so fierce that Scouts have been known to practice their cooking at home so they’re better prepared.
Recipe for success
Scoutmaster Earl Bonovich serves as judge and helped the Troop 237 patrol leaders’ council (PLC) come up with the idea.
“We discussed with the PLC that we wanted to push Dutch oven cooking and get away from the same old, same old on campouts,” Bonovich says.
Rather than telling the Scouts about the merits of Dutch oven cooking, the adults showed them. The adults prepared their own meals in the cast iron cookware, but they intentionally made more than they could eat.
“We cooked extra, on purpose, so that the Scouts could taste some of it — and realize what they could cook,” Bonovich says.
It didn’t take long before the Scouts’ passion for cooking started boiling over. Bonovich and the PLC channeled that energy into a friendly competition.
The Golden Spoon Award
Troop 237 held its first Golden Spoon competition in May 2018. Two patrols entered. One cooked chicken jambalaya with rice; the other prepared Swedish meatballs and pierogies, which are filled dumplings.
“Both dishes were outstanding, and the youth ate like kings,” Bonovich says. “They loved the challenge.”
Bonovich had a tough decision to make. He ultimately crowned the chicken jambalaya, which meant the dish made by a Scout named Ryland Hart came up short.
Ryland was a rising star in the troop’s foray into improved camp cooking. For one of his first dishes, Ryland made tasty tacos from scratch — with no seasoning packet in sight.
But this was a setback, and Bonovich could see the disappointment on Ryland’s face. That night, he got a message from Ryland’s mom on Facebook.
“At first, I thought it was going to be, ‘how could you not give my son the award, etc.,’ but it wasn’t,” Bonovich says. “He was asking permission to up his game for the next campout.”
Ryland wanted to bring food samples to the next troop meeting so his fellow Scouts could try different dishes. Turns out Ryland was more interested in preparing Scout-approved dishes than winning an award.
A new troop position
Seeing Ryland’s passion for cooking gave Bonovich an idea.
At the next troop meeting, Bonovich congratulated the winners of the Golden Spoon Award. Then he asked Ryland to come forward.
Bonovich, with approval from the PLC, wanted to launch a new, unofficial troop position: Troop Chef. This person would teach cooking basics to his fellow Scouts and promote better, healthier camp meals.
“He accepted, and the entire troop welcomed him with a cheering ovation,” Bonovich says. “The smile on his face was priceless.”
Now you’ll find Ryland at every campout wearing his black Troop 237 chef’s hat.
And you’ll find him at every troop meeting listening to menu ideas from his fellow Scouts. One Scout suggested bringing live lobsters on the next campout, but that idea was nixed because of budget.
“I love the ideas they’re coming up with,” Bonovich says. “I’m excited to see what they do.”
What’s cooking in your troop?
Does your troop or crew have any innovative cooking ideas? Share them in the comments section.