Jorene King loves to experiment in the kitchen with recipes she’s acquired on her travels around the country. The farm wife, business owner and volunteer offered helpful tips on being economical with food, her busy schedule requiring thriftiness and forethought in the kitchen.
King is the master of her Bondurant kitchen and is well cultured as a cook. Living in California as a young person, she discovered ingredients and cooking philosophies she was unexposed to growing up in Bondurant.
“I went to Chinatown in San Francisco, bought a wok and learned to stir fry using traditional Asian ingredients and spices. Produce out there was vastly different than Iowa,” says King.
When she returned to Bondurant, King brought part of California with her, infusing what she learned into what she already knew about Midwest cooking. Exposure to different ethnic foods drove King’s passion for cooking which extends to this day.
King lives on a farm just east of town. On a sub-zero day, with her husband working outside with cattle, she has a dish in mind. Cooking is no task for her; she often spends all day dreaming up recipes.
“If there’s something I don’t know how to cook, I love experimenting. I didn’t go to culinary school. I learned from my mom, who learned from her mom. That’s the way it used to be,” King says.
Cooking is still a family tradition. King is proud when she says her adult daughter has a freezer in her apartment to store extra food like her mother.
King’s past in the restaurant business taught her to be thrifty with food. She takes the expression “cooking from scratch” to another level. She makes her pasta sauce from the most basic of ingredients, learning to oven roast softened tomatoes and turn them in to tomato sauce.
“You’re literally creating the sauce from scratch using tomatoes some people would throw away,” she says.
As a master of the kitchen, she suggests making food in large quantities and freezing it for future use.
“For busy families, that’s how they should cook. Make three to four nights’ meals ahead of time so you can quickly heat things up,” King says.
When she buys a chicken, there are several meals resulting from the bird, including her famous chicken noodle soup.
“My sister says I make soup like people make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Soup is just easy comfort food that you can make fast. People don’t realize how fast you can make soup,” she says.
King even makes her own chocolate bars, starting from the cocoa bean. Mortar and pestle are involved. She has joined the movement toward organic, non-processed foods. Her homemade chocolate bar recipe uses organic ingredients only, even organic butter, which is hard to find in Iowa.
She’s a busy woman who uses her creative drive in the kitchen to save her family money and keep them healthy. King owns a wine business and volunteers as president of a non-profit group assisting in greyhound adoption.
Dinner at the home of a cooking expert is similar to anyone’s but with a more creative twist. Working late and left with minimal time, King prepares bison meatloaf for her family on Monday evening.
She has a secret for picky eaters like her husband, who doesn’t enjoy vegetables. He’s in on it now, but King would frequently grate zucchini into his favorite Italian dishes without him suspecting a thing.
After graduating high school in Bondurant, King lived in various locations across the country, picking up cooking secrets along the way. She’s not a professional cook, just a master of the kitchen with several dishes entered in cooking competitions this summer.
If you’re hungry to try King’s food recipes, consider judging at the Iowa State Fair.
Randy Meyer owns two smokers: one remains on the deck of his Bondurant home, while the other he tows behind his truck. Meyer is famous for his smokeouts where he prepares ribs and pork shoulder for large groups. His love for cooking extends beyond the backyard kitchen and takes him on the road with the barbeque circuit.
Meyer has lived in Bondurant since 1997 and loves hosting cookouts that draw large numbers. Meyer’s deck is a popular spot for birthdays and graduations when he fires up his large smoker for a cookout.
“The best thing about cooking is family,” Meyer says.
When cooking takes him on the road, Meyer tows a Horizon smoker behind his truck, traveling to competitions he describes as big family gatherings. As a member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, Meyer comes into contact with people who share his passion for smoked meat.
Meyer’s cooking philosophy is simple — cook what you like. You’re most likely to enjoy it that way. His particular secret is using different types of wood, the smoke having definite impact on taste. His recipes experiment with apple, pecan and hickory flavors.
The equipment serves multiple purposes: working as a charcoal grill and convection oven in addition to smoker. Meyer says his grilled pizza is always well received. He’s not shy to brag about his pork shoulder and ribs. Ribs, he says, make dinner hour popular at the Meyer household when his son is home from college.
While offering smoking tips, Meyer indicates lifting the grill lid can have a bigger impact than you’d think.
“If you’re looking, you’re not cooking. Let it cook,” Meyer says.
His smoke-outs can take six to seven hours of preparation, though he does it all in fun. He has served groups numbering from 40 to 100 and once was summoned by the Bondurant Fire Department to smoke a hog for their department cookout.
He learned his craft on the barbecue circuit where competitors celebrate each other and share recipes in search of innovative flavors.
Meyer is envious of those able to cook every weekend. This spring he’ll assist family members at competitions, arriving with smoker on the trailer hitch.
“I know they’re always cooking somewhere,” he says.
Faith Wilson-Kolo is an energetic mother of five with baking skills well known to the Bondurant community. She follows gluten-free recipes in her kitchen and encourages simplicity when baking.
Wilson-Kolo is a reputed baker in Bondurant who schedules kitchen time around the various activities of her children. She specializes in cakes and sugar cookies, anything that makes a celebration tasty. Fourteen years ago, she started baking regularly while home with her kids and has stayed busy in the kitchen ever since.
Her cooking roots date back to growing up on a farm with 10 brothers and sisters. Wilson-Kolo says she and her siblings took to cooking, and she passed the tradition to her own five children.
The baking pro says the secret is not to overlook the basics when making a cake. Greasing the pan is as important as other steps. Paying attention to the timer may sound rudimentary, but is vital to avoid overcooking.
For the health conscience, Wilson-Kolo promotes gluten-free recipes, a diet she follows after discovering her own sensitivity to gluten.
Her talents in the kitchen extend to cake decorating. Years of experience have taught her that the slightest humidity can wreck cake frosting. Even humidity from the dishwasher in a kitchen can melt the best decorating efforts.
Proper refrigeration and cleanliness are key to Wilson-Kolo’s kitchen. She’s even been licensed to introduce her baked goods within the Bondurant school district where her children attend.
Wilson-Kolo took a few years away from baking after losing her first husband. She says she was fortunate enough to remarry someone who urged her back to baking. She’s recently accepted an opportunity to work in the bakery at a new grocery store opening in Bondurant.
Soon residents of the Bondurant community will be able to enjoy Wilson-Kolo’s baking whenever they’d like.