THE CAMP OVEN KING ‘KINGBROWN’ TELLS ALL
When it comes to outdoor cooking, few things capture the essence of adventure quite like camp oven cooking. We recently had the privilege of interviewing The Camp Oven King, to delve into his passion for camp oven cooking and his remarkable journey in the world of outdoor culinary exploration. From humble beginnings to a vast collection of vintage cookware, Ron Wilson’s (also known as Kingbrown) story is one that resonates with the heartwarming traditions of sharing food and stories around a crackling campfire.
What sparked your interest in camp oven cooking?
My love of camp ovens started through necessity 42 years ago at the age of 16 when I was working on a station West of Bourke in outback NSW. I had one camp oven which I used to cook my dinner each night. But then I spent the next 7 years sleeping under the stars in a canvas swag and cooking my meals in a growing collection of camp ovens with a growing number of bushmen to cook for. I grew to love the process of camp oven cooking as it takes time to build a fire and then prepare and cook a meal in a camp oven, and it was a shared experience with everyone in the camp contributing in some way.
So I learnt very early on just how social a camp oven meal is. Whether you are with family and friends or with a crew of workmates, the camp oven brings people together around a fire to share food and stories. I think this sharing of food and stories around a fire is something that is as old as mankind itself and so it has a naturally peaceful and therapeutic effect that is missed in the fast paced life of modern times.
Share the recipe that stands out as your all-time favourite and explain why it holds such significance.
My favourite thing to cook in a camp oven is bread. I love cooking bread because of the challenges involved in the process. There is no room for error when it comes to applying the heat to a camp oven with a loaf of bread in it. No other recipe requires that level of heat control and so to make a loaf of bread is to test one’s expertise at the highest of levels.
Could you tell us the number of camp ovens you have in your personal collection?
I currently have a fairly large collection of vintage cookware including about 70 camp ovens, about a dozen fountains, a dozen cast iron kettles and another dozen boilers some of which are cast iron and some that are enamelled. Included in my collection is a very rare 24 inch camp oven made over 100 years ago that is in mint condition and is still in use, and a 36 inch “patch” camp oven which is the biggest camp oven ever made and only 20 of them were ever made. I also have the largest fountain ever made and in 40 years of collecting I have only ever seen one other like it.
What aspect of attending these events do you enjoy the most?
The thing I like most when I am travelling with the expos is the people I meet. I have learnt that camp oven people are good people. It has been a real pleasure to meet with and share my knowledge and love of the craft of camp oven cooking to so many like minded people.
If you were limited to only one meal for the rest of your life, what would be your top choice?
If I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life it would be an easy choice. I would choose meat. The sound of meat sizzling away in a camp oven and the sight and smells of it when you lift the lid is something that never gets old.
What valuable advice would you offer to anyone embracing the outdoors lifestyle?
My advice to travellers and campers would be to share. When it comes time to prepare the nightly meal, share the various tasks with all present including the kids. A meal that has been prepared together and eaten together is the tastiest of meals.