COOK OF THE WEEK: Self-trained chef enjoys cooking for Scouts at Camp Yocona

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

If you’re a Boy Scout and you earned your Order of the Arrow Award at Camp Yocona during the past 10 years, you’ve probably eaten one of Charles Pride’s steaks.
Pride has been affiliated with Scouting most of his life. He started as a Boy Scout when he was 11 years old and living in New Mexico. When he was a teenager, he came within inches of earning the coveted Eagle Scout award.
“I was one-and-a-half merit badges away from the Eagle when I quit Scouts,” said Pride, 57. “It was the biggest, stupidest mistake I ever made.”
Pride then got involved with Explorers and when he later moved to San Antonio, he assisted the Scouting program on a district and council level.
“We came to Tupelo in 1996 and the day after I moved here, I walked into the Scout office and said, ‘I just left a Cub Scout pack of 160 and I ran the Cub Scout day camps. Where do you want me?’ I filled out transfer papers and I haven’t stopped playing since.”
At one time, Pride was the Scoutmaster of Troop 8 at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo.
But what he really likes to do is cook for the boys.
“I started cooking for the Order of the Arrow in 2001,” Pride said. “I cook the whole weekend for them. After the big ceremony, I fix them a steak with all the trimmings.”
Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s National Honor Society. It recognizes boys who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives, promotes camping and responsible outdoor adventure and helps develop strong leaders.
In fact, Pride has made a career of cooking for others. He has worked at restaurants in Tupelo, Pearl, Jackson, Vicksburg, San Antonio and Las Cruces, N.M.
He currently works part time at Bar-B-Q by Jim. He and his wife, Ginger, have two children and two grandchildren.
“I come from a family of nine boys and one girl, so I started cooking when I was 5,” Pride said. “I helped my mother cook so I didn’t get stuck doing the dishes.”
His first restaurant job was at an A&W Root Beer Stand in Carlsbad, N.M., making 65 cents an hour. When he was a sophomore in high school, he left home and supported himself by working in restaurants.
“I studied under some great chefs and mentors who taught me to cook in the classical way,” he said. “I can even ice-sculpt and have placed in two competitions. I loved studying under great chefs. I went to Florida to go to culinary school, but I didn’t finish. I have the schooling. I do not have the final piece of paper.”
Pride said he can prepare all manner of foods, including French, Italian, British, German, Russian, Mexican and, of course, Southern.
“I would love to learn more of the Oriental-style of cooking,” he said. “I’d like to learn the classical methods for that.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.