Monday, June 20, 2005

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 5

Here are some tips that you can use to make life more manageable in the kitchen kitchen.

As chef, I have several groups of constituents to keep happy. In addition to the campers (the "kids" I keep referring to), the directors, counselors, department managers (Bible, sports, crafts, night entertainment, nurse and snack shack) all--at times--demand my attention.

And I shouldn't forget the cooks, dining room host and dishwashers. These are the folks that I'm closest to throughout the day, and they're my responsibility.

I'm continually searching for ways to balance the needs of the campers--most important group in my book--with those of camp leadership. As a camp chef, you're half diplomat, half wonder worker.

Plan An Easy-To-Cook Dinner On Off-Site Picnic Days

Everyone, including the cooks, were exhausted after an all-day picnic and train excursion on Independence Day 2002. We planned an All American menu with grilled cheeseburgers and hot dogs, baked beans and Dutch oven apple pie, all cooked and served at the Roaring Camp Railroad.

We originally planned to serve grilled cheese sandwiches with packaged potato chips and chocolate chip cookies that were baked ahead. In the end we served leftover lasagna and garlic bread. This gave the cooks a break and allowed us to prepare dinner for a banquet for high school aged campers that was previously scheduled for the evening.

Self-Serve As Much Food As Possible

Campers assigned to K.P. served the entree, starch and vegetable from the steamline. All other menu items, including the salad bar, dessert, beverages and leftovers, were served from long tables in the dining room. This allowed the campers to take as much as they wanted. Many campers took less than a typical serving, which saved on food cost.

Serve Peanut Butter and Jelly At All Meals

Remember President Lincoln's wisdom (paraphrased here):

You can please some of the campers all the time, some of the campers some of the time, but you can't please all of the campers all of the time.
For all others, there's PB&J.

Find One or Two Signature Items and Put All of Your Effort Into Them

For us it was scratch-made pizza for the first dinner and chef's choice cookies each lunch. (I've since moved the pizza meal to Monday dinner.) All entrees were scratch-made except for the chicken tenders. I also threw in a few surprises like homemade cinnamon rolls and apple cobbler made from puff pastry sheets.

Be creative. Campers won't notice every detail. But they'll certainly appreciate your overall effort. Again, don't loose sight of my first lesson.

Index of lessons from a weeklong children's Bible camp

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