400 rolls? No problem for Connie’s Cookin’

by Bob Bahr

It’s hard to imagine a Dubois SKB event without Janene Grende. Nonetheless, this year Grende retired from cooking for the Dubois Rendezvous/Workshop.

Luckily, we won’t have to go completely without her—in fact, we’ll have more opportunities than ever to chat with Grende. She’ll be attending the event in September as an artist. So, who’s going to cook for us hungry painters and sculptors?

SKB tapped a Dubois resident with years of experience cooking for crowds: Connie Wood. Wood ran a restaurant called Connie’s Cookin’ in Dubois, located at first where Nostalgia Bistro is now located, then later at a standalone building by the old Dubois public school, next to the jackalope gas station. The lot was purchased and the restaurant torn down, and Wood moved into catering. Now she’ll be serving up food for more than 130 starving artists at the SKB Rendezvous Sept. 16-21.

Connie Wood

Wood is confident about the task. She has catered banquets for more than 250 people in the past, and just last week, she baked 400 rolls to go with a roasted pig for a local event. The affable cook says she has already started to plan the menu and the grocery lists for the SKB workshop. Her ideas sound…delicious. A highlight will be auction night, when the kitchen traditionally pulls out all the stops. Wood plans on serving prime rib, along with options for shrimp, chicken, or a vegetarian entrée.

She evidently has heard about complaints about the food in past years being … too good. She will show no mercy. “I put out a lot of food. Every meal will be a big meal. Breakfast will be breads, fresh fruits, oatmeal, granola, coffee, OJ, tea, and an egg dish and a meat dish. Breakfasts are huge; I put out everything. If you eat bacon and eggs everyday it’s not my fault, because oatmeal will always be available,” Wood says, laughing.

A typical spread for a large group, prepared by Connie Wood

“There’ll be soups and sandwiches for lunch, maybe a taco bar or fried chicken one day,” Wood continues. “It’s home cooking. I bake a lot, and everything is going to be homemade. There will be tons of cookies and lots of other homemade desserts, but there will also be fresh fruit out, so I don’t want to hear about it!” she laughs. “You get to choose.”

Wood is a Dubois local and has been since 1996. She grew up outside of Boston and lived in Maine for 20 years. She wanted to see Yellowstone National Park, and once she did, she never left the greater Yellowstone area. “It’s a great place to raise a child,” Wood comments.

SKBers may have noticed that grocery options in Dubois are somewhat limited. As a connected local, Wood has this all figured out. She’ll get deliveries from Sysco, and pull some items from Dubois Super Foods, Smith in Jackson Hole, and Sam’s Club. She has a network of walk-in freezers she can access all over town. In addition to catering major life events in Dubois, she’s the caterer for the Conservation Camp out in Torrey Canyon. (“It’s a nice commute, going out to the lake.”) A week with SKB will be utterly manageable. “I’ll stockpile the food and get it as needed,” Wood says. “It comes pretty easy after all these years.”

So SKB loses Grende as a cook, but gains an experienced Dubois chef and gets Janene back as a fellow artist. Sounds great. Wood makes one strong pronouncement.

“Nothing is written in stone, but you can count on this: No one will go away hungry. Whenever there aren’t some leftovers, I worry that I didn’t make enough.” Ω