By Carol Cowan
Cooking over a campfire is a lost art, but it isn’t rocket science – at least according to Johnny Nix, who’s drawn hundreds to his fireside with this signature invitation: “Y’all eat yet?”
The folksy Alabama native shares his knowledge of cooking the cowboy way on his newly launched TV show, Cookin’ Outdoors With Johnny Nix, which airs on the Blue Highways cable network four times each week.
Johnny is already known to people all over the country as the host of Campfire Café, a one-of-a-kind cooking show that aired on the RFD network between 2001 and 2006. Avid riders and campers, Nix and his wife, Wanda, had been perfecting their open-fire cooking skills for some 25 years. Their move into television came about when they met the producer of a show at a trail ride in Missouri.
“She [the producer] parked us up with some people she thought we’d become friends with at the ride,” Nix recalls. “So we got to cooking and having everybody over to eat supper with us. One night we cooked for over 200 people. Everybody loved it. Finally we just ran out of food and had to shut the kitchen down about midnight.”
The encounter led to a pilot episode, and Campfire Café was born. From scenic locations such as Whippoorwill Lake and Sam A. Baker State Park in Missouri to a backyard series filmed at the producer’s home, Nix guided viewers through the process of cooking everything from beans and biscuits to peach cobbler – all over an open fire.
He even did a series featuring country music stars, among them Mark Chesnutt, Aaron Tippin, The Kentucky HeadHunters, Joe Diffie and Ray Price.
“We had a blast with all the country music artists,” Nix says. “To think the legendary Ray Price came on my show and cooked with me – it was a blast.”
Campfire Café was the No. 1 show on RFD during its run. And although it went off the air in 2006, Nix still gets recognized wherever he goes.
A Passion for Cowboy Cooking
Fans are delighted that Cookin’ Outdoors With Johnny Nix is finally on the air.
Meanwhile, Nix has never stopped sharing his passion for cowboy cooking, and he remains busy conducting demonstrations across the country. “I’ve had the privilege around the campfire to cook with some great chefs. In Colorado, I cooked with the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. We did a family reunion down in Florida for Mr. Art Smith, who was Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef. He had chefs from Chicago, New York and other places come in; everybody had their own specialty foods that they were cooking. He had linen and china and crystal delivered down there in a cow pasture, and we cooked over a fire for these people.”
“One of the big events we do every year is the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. That’s where the Lodge factory is,” Nix continues, referring to the Lodge Manufacturing Co., whose cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets figure prominently in Johnny’s demonstrations and TV shows. In fact, the Lodge skillet and camp Dutch oven top his list of essential equipment for open-fire cooking, and you can find everything you need at his online store.
Because there are no temperature control knobs on a fire, beginners are easily intimidated, Nix notes. But his cooking setups allow people to use different length hooks to set their dishes over the fire at varying temperatures.
“I make all the cook sets by hand myself,” he says. “The hooks are different lengths, for the different temperatures, and I make the pit itself. We make the swing grills, the warming trays and all that. I want people to have a good experience when they’re cooking – ’cause cookin’s fun.”
How to Contact Johnny Nix