Plenty of cooking show hosts talk about their mothers, but Ron Locke does so with a preacher's conviction, earnestly evoking her presence in his journey to the kitchen (and YouTube) almost constantly as he cooks. Known to his YouTube fans as The Chuckwagon Cowboy, Locke hails from rootin', tootin' Racine, Wisconsin, a little-known capitol of cowboy country. In his first official episode, sporting a knock-off Stetson, he hypes his forthcoming cookbook Cooking With Momma and shares one of momma's classic recipes: No-Peek Chicken, a gooey, beige casserole of breasts bolstered with three kinds of packaged soup -- cream of mushroom, cream of celery, and powdered onion.
As far as hosts go, Locke is unpolished, a little goofier than even the average YouTube wannabe. "This is one of my K.I.S.S. recipes. Keeping it short and simple," he says, grinning. He swirls the creamy soups together in a baking dish and reminisces about cooking his first meal at age 14 for his parents' 26th wedding anniversary. "Don't these look good?" he asks excitedly, lowering the large, pink, extremely raw breasts into their lumpy bath. No, not even in a episode of Deep Space Nine.
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Still, there's something winning and deeply sweet about his intent and tone, despite the way those piercing eyes bear down as if from across a dim bar. "I like to add the extra oniony parts on top of the chicken breasts," he volunteers, sprinkling away. "That's like the dessert of the chicken breast." It sure is, Ron. And how much do you want to bet that this humble casserole -- the sort of artless, retro concoction self-styled foodies sneer at -- probably tastes better than half the entrees in town?