What do you do with a man from a lost period in time and a dying state of mind? Why, celebrate him, of course.
Kent Rollins is not your average guy. A cowboy nearly from birth, he discovered a love of cooking early in his career and worked to feed cowhands and hunters. From there he bought a chuck wagon – yes, an honest-to-goodness chuck wagon – in 1993 and began cooking for ranches. He soon expanded into catering. Because of Kent’s growing popularity and his preservation of a historic way of life, the governor of Oklahoma proclaimed Kent the Official Chuck Wagon of Oklahoma in 1996.
“Kent Rollins,” it has been observed, “is from a lost period in time and a dying state of mind, when life was simple and character was king.”
In addition to slinging hash, Kent discovered he’s equally good at slinging bull, earning him the Best Cowboy Humorist and Storyteller of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. This, coupled with his rollicking YouTube videos concentrating on creating hearty rib-sticking meals, has garnered him hundreds of thousands of devoted followers.
True to his calling, Rollins cooks many of his feasts in cast iron pots over a campfire. The method, once so common among cowboys and pioneers, is now a lost art. This prompts many novice chefs to ask, “Can you really cook in that thing?” To which Rollins replies, “Yes, and you don’t need any modern gadgets to do it.” In fact, the humble cast-iron post encapsulates Rollins’ attitude toward cowboy cookery: how delicious meals can be created under the most unpretentious of circumstances with the most basic of tools and ingredients.
As proof, Rollins relates the most widely requested meal: “Our 14-ounce rib-eye steak cooked over a mesquite fire, our baked beans, and for dessert bread pudding with a whiskey cream sauce.” This single meal demonstrates the wealth of hearty, delectable flavors available from common ingredients.
Rollins attributes much of his accomplishments to his wife, Shannon. “To be married to this woman and still be able to cook on working ranches, just like the old cooks going down the trail in the 1880s – well, that’s my biggest success,” he says.
That said, there are times things can go astray. “We try not to have failures, just solutions and more hard work,” he says. “When you cook in Mother Nature’s kitchen, you don’t just have a plan that goes from A to B to C. We go all the way to Z.”
Rollins’ vivid storytelling of cowboy camps makes the lifestyle come alive for listeners. It’s how both Kent and Shannon can travel the country, feeding hungry folks with both food and stories. But it doesn’t prevent Rollins from continuing the legacy of cooking for cowboys on ranches during spring and fall gatherings – a rare tradition indeed.
Editor’s Note: Lehman’s has hosted Kent Rollins over the years, where he did meet and greets with our customers. For the latest store events and visitors coming to Lehman’s, check out our store events page.