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Pathfinder Cooks Compete in Top Club Chef at the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee

The selected participants create signature dishes during this non-elimination competition at the Adventist Pathfinder camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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“Showing the Pathfinder Spirit” by Lyn Fuentes, Winter Park Spanish Club, Winter Park, Florida, Florida Conference, Southern Union. Photo by Jenean Lendor

Pathfinder Club chefs had the opportunity to flex their culinary muscles at the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee Top Club Chef activity during three rounds held each morning, Aug. 14-16, near Hangar D of the Experimental Aviation Association grounds. During the daily critique period, tables showcased beautifully plated club cuisine. Chefs were teamed up and awarded team and personal points.

Those who are the primary cooks 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 a 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 embodies the spirit of the chef’s 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 it is important for Pathfinder Clubs 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.”

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 that 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 11thgrader from Rochester, Minnesota, and Voyager in the Rochester Rangers Pathfinder Club, enjoys cooking — and learning by watching 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.”

Oshkosh Top Chef Chris

Chris Dietel shows his second day fusion dish of Mexican-style penne mac-and-cheese with homemade cheese sauce, jalapenos, and Dorito crumbles. Photo by Sonja Hults

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 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,” included large cake filled with jams and represented Pathfinders while the smaller cakes represented the club members and were filled with various jams (mango pineapple, berries and concord grapes). The final touches included molded white chocolate with edible rice paper.

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“Volcano Guacamole Chips” is presented by Israel Bustamante and Gemima Cruz, Poughkeepsie Spanish Church, Greater New York Conference, Atlantic Union. Because their club is Mexican, their dish is dedicated to their Pathfinders. Photo by Jenean Lendor

Susan Maxted from the College Place Village Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, 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 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.

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“Gluten Steak with a side of wild rice and Walla Walla Sweet Onion” by Susan Maxted, College Place Village Church, College Place, Washington, Washington Conference, Pacific Union. Photo by Jenean Lendor