Sunday, July 31, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Pot Luck Saturday

Camp finished yesterday with a breakfast "pot luck." This isn't your traditional pot luck where the guests share their favorite dish. At our camp kitchen, the pot luck is designed to empty the refrigerator so that we can go home.

You might say that each staff member is the kitchen was given a chance to show off his or her favorite dish from the week. According to my inventory as we emptied the contents of the walk-in onto the center table, we had no less than 17 items to dispose of. I recorded this inventory in my notebook as we emptied the reefer.

The center table about half-way through our unloading operation.

Here's the tally:

  1. A 2-inch full-sized hotel pan of lasagna from Wednesday dinner.
  2. A half-sized hotel pan of Thursday's brown gravy.
  3. Two soup bowls of ground cooked beef.
  4. 39 grilled hamburgers from the All-American BBQ Friday.
  5. 23 grilled hot dogs from the BBQ.
  6. 8 pounds of raw bacon.
  7. 10 pounds of raw sausage links.
  8. 14 baked potatoes.
  9. 15 pounds seasoned cooked diced chicken from quesadillas Friday (I purchased too much pulled chicken meat).
  10. 10 dozen flour tortillas.
  11. 8 dozen eggs.
  12. A full 4-inch full-sized hotel pan of baked beans from the BBQ.
  13. 13 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese.
  14. 1 quart of barbecued pulled chicken from Thursday's lunch.
  15. A small pan of sauteed onions and bell peppers.
  16. A 2-inch full-sized hotel pan of sliced tomatoes from the BBQ.
  17. A 4-inch full-sized hotel pan of braised red cabbage from Thursday's roast pork loin dinner.

I'm sure that your mind said, "Breakfast burritos!" as you browsed the list. We prepared 100 breakfast burritos from scrambled eggs, seasoned diced chicken, torillas and cheese. They've become a Saturday morning tradition at our camp. I would've made salsa from the tomatoes, but I didn't have enough hot peppers.

From left to right: sausage bacon, hot dogs and bacon; lasagna; barbecued chicken; and SOS.

After making the burritos, we heated everything except the red cabbage and placed it on the tables in the dining room. My staff wouldn't let me serve braised red cabbage for breakfast. (Instead, several of us took it home -- I have two tubs in my home freezer!)

Some of the items were well accepted, burritos included. After a 30-minute meal from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., we found that the bacon, sausage and hot dogs were fast sellers. The kids attacked about half of the lasagna, a few hamburgers, some of the SOS (brown gravy and crumbled beef), all of the fried potatoes (remember the baked potatoes?) and about half of the barbecued pulled chicken.

We saved the Cocoa Puffs and Cocoa Krispies for Saturday because they're so popular. One of the drawbacks of buying the Kelloggs and G.M. variety packs is that the campers tend to favor the sweeter breakfast cereals. They shun healthy cereals like Total, which we also saved for Saturday.

The rest of the meal consisted of dry cereal and milk (we had to buy seven gallons Friday night), fresh fruit, orange juice cartons and a coffee cake made from biscuit mix and canned apples.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Improvising Clam chowder

Using up food stocks is one of the drawbacks of running a kitchen for the week only. Sometimes good planning fails. Other times, kitchen staff uses items for something other than its intended use.

Whatever the reason, it's difficult to make quality clam chowder when someone used the half-and-half for French toast (in this case that someone was me) and the fresh potatoes were used up yesterday.

Improvisation makes sense when it means another trip to the local market. Instead of cutting into camp profits (which go to FC students from Northern California in the form of scholarships), it gives you a chance to reduce some of the excess food.


This clam chowder was made using 1 (32-ounce) box of Classic Sysco scalloped potatoes complete with sauce. This product is packaged in a milk carton with dehydrated potato slices andt two packages of sauce mix.

Sweat 4 chopped onions in bacon fat in a 15 to 20 quart stockpot. Meanwhile, crush the contents of a 32-ounce package of scalloped potatoes and add to the stockpot. Pour contents of 2 (46-ounce) cans of clam juice and 3 (51-ounce) cans of minced clams into stock pot. Stir until combined.

Make a slurry from the two packages of scalloped potato sauce mix and add to soup while constantly stirring. Thicken soup with a flour and water paste (about 3 quarts flour to 2 quarts water), storing constantly to avoid lumps. Gently simmer for 45 minutes until thick and creamy.
Just before serving, add 2 quarts milk and bring to serving temperature. Check seasoning. You may not need to add any salt.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Camp -2005 - Catch Up Day and Bread Pudding

Thursday is "catch up day" in the Northern California FC Camp kitchen. It allows the cooks to catch our breath and deplete some of the leftovers from the previous four days.

Leftovers are one of the 10 plagues of a poorly managed camp kitchen. Children's appetites vary from day to day and year to year. What's popular this year will flop next year. All camp kitchens -- including well-managed kitchens -- must plan to deal with leftovers.

To use most leftovers, we often reheat them to 165 degrees and place them directly on the serving line. Monday we served the leftover chicken tenders as an extra. And today, the French fries from Tuesday went on the serving line at lunch.

But some products, like 32 slices of French toast made from thick Texas toast, can't be re-heated. No one wants to eat leftover French toast. Nor will my culinary conscience won't allow it. So, I baked a hotel pan of bread pudding this morning for the lunchtime dessert.

Overheard in the dining room: Two young boys, both about 10 years old, were going down the self service line, when they came to the bread pudding. "What's that?" asked the first boy. "I don't know," said the second boy, "but if Steve made it, it's gotta be good!"
The boys were right. We only had three servings leftover!

Other leftovers used today: 30 barbecued chicken quarters, meat pulled, left from Tuesday's dinner, mixed with 2 gallons barbecue sauce and 4 sliced onions to create BBQ chicken sandwiches; grilled cheese and luncheon meat sandwiches (leftover bologna, salami and ham from Monday's lunch); and 12 pints of strawberries were used for a special dessert for the Cabin 1 girls (presented to them by the senior boys in Cabin 9).

Bread pudding, made from leftover French toast, is ready for the oven. Bake the pudding in a water bath as you'd any custard. Place both pans in the oven, them pour hot water into the larger pan to about one-inch up the side of the bread pudding pan.


This recipe yields one 12- by 20- by 4-inch hotel pan. Serve the bread pudding with a #10 scoop. Serves 75.

3 pounds white bread
12 ounces butter, melted
3 dozen eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 ounces vanilla extract
3-3/4 quarts milk
Cinnamon, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste

Cube bread and place in full-sized hotel pan. Drizzle butter over bread cubes. Mix together eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Add milk and mix to combine.

Pour egg mixture over bread cubes. Let stand, refrigerated, 1 hour or longer, so the bread absorbs the eggs mixture. If necessary, push bread down into pan once or twice after mixture has had time to stand.

Sprinkle top with cinnamon and nutmeg. Set pan in larger pan containing about 1-inch of hot water. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until set.

Serve warm or cold. Garnish with whipped cream, fruit puree or confectioners sugar.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Salsa

Here's a simple salsa that campers love at FC Camp. I prepare one batch on Wednesday and use the salsa for three meals through the second half of the week.


Use a #10 can of diced tomatoes to build this salsa. I found the Montecito brand salsa style dice tomatoes is a good product to use for this salsa. It's available at Smart & Final. You can use fresh tomatoes if desired. This salsa is mild. You can adjust the heat to suit the camper's tastes.

6-3/8 pounds canned diced tomatoes (1 #10 can)
2 cups onion, chopped
5 jalapeno peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
5 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano

Combine canned diced tomatoes or finely chopped fresh tomatoes with onions, peppers, cilantro, lime juice, salt to taste, sugar and seasonnings. Blend well. Cover and refrigerate at 41 degrees F or lower at least 1 hour before serving.

Yield: 3-1/2 quarts.

Camp 2005 -- Sanitizing Solution

I maintain a sanitation station on the drain board to the pot and pan sinks in the kitchen. Two containers -- one with hot soapy water for cleaning and a container of sanitizer solution -- set on the counter throughout the day.

Both solutions are changed three to four times each day as it's solied. A new solution is made until the end of the day. Fresh towels are placed in each solution. The sanitizer solution is made from quaternary ammonia. "Quat" can be purchased at restaurant supply houses in a one-gallon bottle.

To test solution strength (at 200 parts per million), dip the quat test strip into the solution for 10 seconds. Remove the test strip and compare it to that color chart on dispenser. If you measured correctly, the color will match the color for 200 ppm (olive green on my test strips). Add additional quat to the solution if it reads less than 200 ppm.

Most manufactures instruct you to use 1-ounce for 4 gallons water. However, always follow the instructions on the product label. Test solution after mixing and record the strength (in ppm) on the food safety log. Never increase sanitizer concentration levels above manufacturer’s recommendations due to potential safety hazards to employees.

To use the sanitizing solution, ring the towel dry and wipe the solution on all clean food contact surfaces in the kitchen. A food contact surface is any surface the contacts food in the kitchen. It includes work tables, cutting boards, can openers, serving lines, mixer, meat slicer, etc. When possible, run pots, pans, utensils, etc., through the dishmachine to sanitize.

The ladies started marking sanitized surfaces with "S equals sanitized" tags this year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Corn Dogs and Salad Bar Cart

Here are a few additional comments on Tuesday's meals:

Corn dogs and French fries panned and waiting for the meal. I've got to re-think the corn dog meal. It's been on the menu two years now. It's never been well received. This year we panned 288 corn dogs (4 (18-pound) cases from Sysco). The idea was to give each camper two corn dogs. In the end I served about 180. But now I'm faced with about 100 leftover corn dogs. Next year I'll either trim my order considerable or serve something else. Only 30 of the 150 campers took two.

We keep all salad bar items on a cart in the walk-in refrigerator. The cart makes set-up and take-down much easier on our backs and feet. Ground beef for tomorrow's lasagna is thawing on the bottom shelf.

Camp 2005 -- Tuesday's Meals

Here are a few pictures from Tuesday's meals at Northern California FC Camp:

A marinated vegetable salad that we served for lunch today. Today at lunch was the first day that the salad bar filled with salads and condiments. We served the marinated vegetables, sliced cucumber and onions, tuna salad and a tossed green salad.

The vegetable salad included: 1 quart dice tomatoes, 1-pound carrot slivers, 2 green bell peppers, sliced thin, 1-cup chopped parsley, 3 small cans Italian beans, drained and washed. The marinade consisted of 2-1/2 cups of leftover marinade from the tomatoes Sunday evening.

My improvised Dutch oven table. I didn't pack any of my Dutch oven tables this year. To protect the ground and sidewalk, I used the camp's old barbecue pit and a platform for five Dutch ovens. The three regular #14 ovens contain an apple cobbler. I baked scalloped potatoes in the two deep #14 ovens. The deep ovens are the ones with no charcoal on the lid.

We are grilling chicken on the grill. I use a Sysco 9-ounce chicken hindquarter that comes packed 60 to a case. I par-bake the chicken for 45 to 60 minutes in a 325-degree convection oven to save time and heartache over undercooked chicken. I then the grill the hot chicken for about 10 minutes to give it color and apply sauce.

We served tonight's dinner under the trees.

The apple crisp. It takes 1-1/2 (6-1/2-pound) cans of water-packed apples for each #14 Dutch oven. Combine the apples with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, lemon juice and lemon zest. Top with your favorite crisp topping and bake for 45 to 60 minutes in a 350-degree Dutch oven.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Monday's Meals

Here are a few pictures from Monday's meals at Northern California FC Camp:

The recipe for macaroni and cheese. I often use the U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service cards as the basis for my camp recipes.

At lunch, we served tuna salad sandwiches and luncheon meat sandwiches with vegetable soup and macaroni and cheese. I used the basic military recipe today with a good quality pre-shredded cheddar cheese.

Each 4-inch hotel pan holds: 5 pounds macaroni and a scant gallon rich cheese sauce.

We get approximately 7- to 75 servings from a pan with a #10 scoop.

Pizza dough for dinner. For 150 campers, I made 9 sheet pans pizzas. You yield 20 servings per pan when you use the full-sized sheet pan (18 by 26 iches).

In past years, we've baked six or seven pepperoni pizzas. This year we baked a wide variety of pizzas because the local market ran out of pepperoni yesterday.

Here's what we baked tonight:

2 pepperoni pizzas
1 sausage
1 sausage and bacon
1 bacon and black olive
1 chicken pesto (the best in my opinion)
1 cheese
1 vegetarian with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and olives
A 3/4-sheet with cheese and bacon.

We had 20 pieces leftover before calling seconds. This is the most popular meal during the week. And it's one of the few meals where everyone takes the entree.

Tonight's dessert -- strawberry shortcake.

Camp 2005 -- Daily Meeting with the Director

Communication is vital to any venture, including a camp. A schedule change that appears simple to the director can impact the kitchen, especially if it means moving the meal up 10 or 15 minutes. I resolve this problem by talking to the camp co-directors throughout the day. This is fairly easy in my camp since I see both directors at each meal.

Chef Steve on Sunday evening, running on about five hours sleep and 20 cups of coffee!

I am also on the director's calendar for 10 a.m. each morning. We usually meet for two minutes or so we can discuss the day's progress and the impact of the camp schedule on kitchen. The director is always interested in the performance of the K.P. cabins. Other questions that arise include new campers with unique health issues, purchasing trips to Costco or the local market and special events like picture day for campers and staff.

We have fun too! Last year, Tyler, a councelor from the Sacramento area, boldly announced during Fear Factor that he dislikes baked beans. I took care of his mis-guided adversion to Boston's culinary gift to the world by serving him a special bowl of baked beans for breakfast late in the week.

Since one co-director handles logistics at our camp, she's always interested in kitchen budgetary matters and the quantity of food on hand. I’m fortunate in that she doesn't micro-manage. Laura learned four years ago that I'm capable of handling food services for our camp.

I give her periodic updates on the amount of money spent. This is especially important because I need to arrange for reimbursement at the end of camp. The directors do want any end-of-camp budget-busting news.

Tyler's beans wait on top of the serving line each meal.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Camp 2005 -- Opening Night Dinner

We served our first meal tonight at about 6:30 p.m., after the evening worship. I just confirmed with the registrar about 30 minutes ago that we have 98 campers and 42 staff at camp this years, for a total of 150.

Earlier in the week, when I was given a projected camp census of 135, I decided to purchase food for 150 campers and staff. I knew from past experience that we'd have 10 to 15 walk-ins during our afternoon registration.

This year my projection worked to my advantage. I purchased enough food to feed 150 for the next week. This is one of those areas where you'll be the camp's savoir if the numbers fall to your advantage.

However, it can backfire on you. Just remember that there are many factors that drive camp attendance, like the weather, competing activities, family vacations, etc. Over the years, I've developed a sense of projecting food purchases for these type of events. Although I'm never that far off, I still over- and under-project for some items.


The menu for Sunday evening, opening night of camp:

Chicken tenders (2 each, about 3-1/2 ounces)
Barbecue sauce
Oven roasted potato wedges (3 wedges)
Buttered broccoli (1/2 cup)
Tossed green salad with vegetable toppings
Marinated tomatoes with basil
Brownie with vanilla ice cream
Milk, punch and iced tea

Chicken tenders -- We panned four (10-pound) boxes onto nine 18- x 26-inch sheet pans. That's about 45 servings per box.

Barbecue sauce -- we used 1/2-gallon of bottle BBQ sauce tonight.

Oven roasted potato wedges -- We washed and cut 50 pounds of U.S. No. 1 bakers this afternoon. I counted about 54 wedges per sheet pan. The cooks melted butter and pour it over the potatoes. They seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic and paprika and baked them in a 350-degree convention oven for about 30 minutes.

Broccoli -- We steamed 15 pounds of broccoli. Surprisingly, about 50 percent of the kids took my favorite vegetable.

Marinated tomatoes and basil -- We used 15 sliced tomatoes this evening. At the end of the meal I had the salad cooks save the leftover marinade for tomorrow's tomatoes. The marinade keeps growing in flavor as the week progresses.

Tossed green salad -- It took about 6 pounds of salad mix to feed 150 campers and staff. We also used 1-1/2 pounds baby carrots, 1-1/2 peeled and sliced cucumbers, 1 each sliced red and green bell peppers and radishes. It takes about 6 cups of ranch dressing for each meal. Although we place creamy Italian and 1,000 island dressings on the salad bar, very few folks use them.

Brownies with ice cream -- It took 110 brownies and 3 gallons of vanilla ice cream for dessert tonight.

Camp 2005 -- Saturday Prep Day

I arrived at Daybreak Camp yesterday around 1230 p.m. with my family. Since we were the first staff to arrive, it gave us time to eat a picnic lunch and enjoy the near 90 degree temperature (we're just far enough inland from the coast to feel the heat!).

The truck from Sysco Foodservices of San Francisco arrived about an hour later. Driver Mike was cordial and very helpful, especially since the checkbook was still in the South Bay. After completing the unload, he waited.

This year I had three adults and five children help me unload the Sysco truck and put groceries away. I was able to direct traffic instead of humping boxes into the refrigerators. It reminded me of my days as the storeroom supervisor on the USS Stein in the mid-1970s. During underway replenishments, I stood in the passageway between the storeroom and refrigerators and played traffic cop.

As chef it's my job to make sure each box lands in the right location. This saves much grief later. It saves us from frantic searches for missing items. After four years, I've developed a storage system that works very well for this camp.

Camp Kitchen Crew

This year, I'm blessed with 11 staff in the kitchen, including myself. We have four couples plus three individuals. Because some of my volunteer workers come with physical limitations, the 10 will be doing the work of six or seven full-time workers. That's okay. We're here to enjoy camp, not work ourselves to the bone.

I've assigned positions as follows:

Steve -- Chef (4th year)
CD -- 2nd cook (4th year)
WE -- 3rd cook
AK -- Salads and baker
HB -- Salads and baker
DK -- Kitchen helper (4th year)
EM -- Dining room host (4th year)
CS -- Dishwasher and utility (2nd year)
AK -- Dishwasher and utility
PD -- Dishwasher and utility
DB -- Dishwasher and utility

With 10, well be able to take more breaks and relax a little more in between meals. This also give us more opportunity to attend Bible class and to watch some of the camp activities, like Fear Factor tomorrow night.

I conducted food safety training from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Since I'm a certified ServSafe instructor, I use a PowerPoint slide presentation to present the class. I lead with an overview of the menu, work assignments, camp schedule, my work philosophy and documentation for the kitchen.

After an hour-long presentation on food safety (about 50 slides), we take a walk through the kitchen to familiarize everyone with safety features (Ansul system, fire extinguishers and exits), discuss the different work stations, tour the dining room and show them where all the food is stowed. After a quick all-staff meeting at about 6:30 p.m., everyone enjoyed pizza and sodas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 9

This is my last round of lessons from operating a camp kitchen at a week-long children's Bible camp. I'll post relevant information as I come across it.

I'm sure that I can come up with a second camper's dozen with little effort. I could write 13 more lessons on the topic of food safety alone--not necessarily lessons from this year's camp but from three decades in the culinary arts. These lessons are dedicated to those who're going to head up a kitchen at a children's camp.

Don't Forget De-Mobilization

Unless you operate a year-round kitchen, you need to start thinking about home. Emergency responders (police, fire, medical) call this process de-mobilization. Often, thousands of firefighters and support personnel are called to the large wildland fires. As the fire progresses and the firefighters get it contained, the staff works on a plan to make an orderly transition from from full mobilization to de-mobilization.

Cooks at FC Camp clean the Wolf range (foreground) and the convention oven Friday morning last year.

Early in the week, make plans to distribute leftover food and supplies, pack cookware and utensils (remember the two-dozen Dutch ovens that you carried to camp?) and clean and return the kitchen back to the facility manager.

Other questions come to mind:

  • Do you have a plan in place to clean all of the equipment in the kitchen?
  • Are all kitchen employees staying to the end? Or are some staff leaving early?
  • Does staff need reimbursement for food purchases?
  • Do you need to account for lost/broken equipment, utensils or dinnerware?
  • What time does the kitchen need to ready to turn back to facility managers?
  • Do you have equipment to pack and transport home (like, 300 pounds of cast iron)?

I've listed just a few questions here. Sometimes it takes as much effort to go home as initial preparations for camp. Make a list of the tasks that must be accomplished and start making assignments two days before the end of camp.

A perfectly browned roux. I love this cast iron skillet. It's a 20-inch skillet that belongs to Daybreak Camp. I use it all week to brown ground beef, make gravy and saute vegetables.

But don't be alarmed. If you're like me, you'll piece together an extensive list. After all, kitchen work can be complex at time.

Here's a few tasks that must be tackled:

  • Final inventory--the chef must evaluate where to fine tune next year's order
  • Records--don't forget to pack the food production worksheet, food safety longs, etc.
  • Dispose of excess food--donate to a food bank, give it to staff, save for next year if possible
  • Clean all major equipment--refrigerators, range, convection ovens, serving line, dishmachine, etc.
  • Plan a leftover blow-out for the last meal--if it can be served safety, it's on the serving line Saturday morning !
  • Garbage and recyling--at Daybreak Camp, we always spend an hour on Saturday compacting the dumpsters because they're too full
  • Take care of personal belongings--don't forget to allot time so your staff can pack their bags
  • Meet with the facility manager--plan a walk-through with the facility manager when you're ready to turn the keys back

The 2004 kitchen crew at the Northern California FC Camp. The girl that I'm holding just happens to be an exact copy of my oldest daughter--in personality and looks!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Daybreak Camp Cook Article

Here's a link to an article from the Los Gatos (California) Weekly Times about Daybreak head cook Becky Cahoon:

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 8

This is my second-to-last blog taken from three years of "lessons learned." I'll post one note tomorrow that's appropriately titled, "Don't Forget About De-Mobilization."

Military Wisdom Says "Walk the Ground"

When a military unit occupies a new position, the first thing a troop leader does is to "walk the ground." The commander learns the lay of the land, notes likely enemy avenues of approach and looks for ideal places to spot weapons. He does this to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the battlefield.

Likewise, the camp chef must tour the kitchen and dining facilities, especially when using the kitchen for the first time. A trip to the camp--I toured Daybreak Camp in February 2002--removes unnecessary surprises.

I learned, for instance, that while the kitchen had two mixers (a 10-quart commercial model and a 5-quart Kitchen Aid), the larger of the two didn't have sufficient capacity to prepare enough dough for 150 campers in one batch. Though this wan't earth shattering news, it told me that I would have to allot enough time to prepare two batches of the pizza dough and the cinnamon roll dough on their respective days.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 7

You know a lot about the food business, especially if you've been going it to 35 years as I have. So what happens if you break your leg the week prior to camp? Or you decide it's time to move on and pass the baton to a younger chef?

My answer is to keep detailed records. I'm always ready to teach someone my job because I don't plan on being the camp chef forever. At this point, I'm looking at another four or five years (until my son graduates high school). I need to start thinking about a predecessor.

Document Your Extensive Knowledge Base as a Chef

As chef, you can't be present in the kitchen all the time. Daily meetings with the director, inventories and Costco runs occupy your time. And there are times that you have to walk out of the kitchen to preserve your sanity (like your 10th or 11th continuous hour in the kitchen -- my point about working staff to the bone applies to the chef as well).

Keep your knowledge base in a three-ring binder. The cooks can reference the menu, corresponding recipes and purchase lists when necessary. Each year, I have printed military recipes from into a recipe binder.

Each day's recipes are readily available behind daily divider tabs in the binder. I also created a food production planning worksheet that lists all of the tasks that must be accomplished each day (thawing, prep for the next day recipes to cook, for instance).

And don't forget to keep detailed records. As the saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword. Daily food production worksheets and food safety logs, accurately completed, can defend your organization against allegations of foodborne illness. It also gives you history for next year's camp.

I'll post some photographs of my binders tomorrow ...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 6

Camp food service is labor intensive. It takes a lot of volunteers to run the camp kitchen. Unless you're running an austier menu and feeding on paper plates, you're going to need support from the campers. Traditionally, this comes in the form of K.P. duty.

Here are my thoughts:

Service is not a Four-Letter Word

Scriptures are full of references to service to God and man. At FC Camp, we still require the campers to perform K.P. even though the trend at some camps has been to discontinue service jobs. Service instills character and keeps them humble (remember James 4: 6 says that there are two kinds of people in the world--the humble and the proud).

We use a two-tiered system for K.P. Each meal, two 11th and 12th grade campers were assigned to the kitchen to perform the heavier work (sweeping, mopping and garbage removal, for instance). The younger campers (4th through 10th grades) rotated by meal to the kitchen. They set tables (hoppers), served the meal (servers) and scraped dirty dished (cleaners). Each child, on average, only served two meals in the kitchen or dining room. The adults typically do K.P. for the first and last meals.

Here are the job descriptions for the various K.P. positions:

Dining Room Host

Reports to: Chef
Work hours: Reports at 0800 - 1200 - 1700 (may get one meal off)

  1. Supervises dining room and outdoor eating areas.
  2. Coordinates use of KPs with cabin counselors and camp director.
  3. Supervises KPs in their cleaning duties.
  4. Prepares cold and hot beverages.
  5. Assigns cleaning tasks to K.P.s.
  6. Assists the cooks set up the salad and dessert bars.
  7. Assists the dishwasher as needed.
  8. Applies HACCP food safety principles during meal service and clean up.
  9. Cleans insulated beverage containers.
  10. Assists in other camp program areas between meals.
Cabin Counselor
  1. Assemble the campers from the selected cabin in the dining room 30 minutes before the meal.
  2. Report to the dining room host that your cabin is ready to work.
  3. The dining room host will explain your duties and give a handwashing demonstration.
  4. Find out from the dining room host how many campers will be needed for each team.
  5. Divide the campers into three teams: (1) hoppers--dining room crew; (2) servers--steam line crew; (3) cleaners--dirty dish crew.
  6. Monitor the campers to see that they remain on the job.
  7. Encourage the campers and assist the dining room host as needed.
  8. The counselor, hoppers and cleaners may eat as soon as the prayer is said. The servers have to wait until the end of the meal.
Hoppers––dining room crew
  1. Wash your hands in hot water with soap for 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  2. Put a hat and apron on. You will be told if you need to wear disposable gloves.
  3. Set each table with: 8 place settings (napkin, fork, spoon, knife and cup), 1 salt and pepper set, 1 pitcher of ice water and 1 pitcher of punch.
  4. Place condiments and other dishes as directed on each table.
  5. As soon as prayer is said, the hoppers may get in line and eat first.
  6. During the meal, be ready to re-fill ice water and punch pitchers. Also replenish any other food dishes as needed.
  7. After the meal, clear each table. Place serving dishes, pictures, silverware and cups in the dirty dish tubs. Return leftover punch and food to the kitchen.
  8. Pick up litter in the patio and surrounding area.
  9. Sweep the patio area and empty the garbage.
  10. Check with your counselor before leaving.
Servers––steam line crew
  1. Wash your hands in hot water with soap for 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  2. Put a hat and apron on. You will be told if you need to wear disposable gloves.
  3. The cook will show you how to serve each item on the steam line.
  4. Serve the meal. Neatly place each item on the plate.
  5. Clean any spills on the steam line and on the floor as the happen.
  6. Do not eat or drink while serving the meal.
  7. You may eat as soon as all campers have eaten (before the second’s bell is rung).
  8. Check with your counselor before leaving.
Cleaners––dirty dish crew
  1. Wash your hands in hot water with soap for 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  2. Put a hat and apron on. You will be told if you need to wear disposable gloves.
  3. Set the dirty dish area up on the covered patio. The dining room host will tell you how to do this.
  4. As soon as prayer is said, the cleaners may get in line and eat first.
  5. During the meal, help the campers scrape and sort the dishes into dish racks.
  6. Run dish racks to the dishwasher when they fill up.
  7. After the meal, clean the dish sorting area.
  8. Clean the sorting table.
  9. Put away clean dishes as instructed by the dishwasher.
  10. Empty the garbage cans as they fill up.
  11. Check with your counselor before leaving.

Proper Food Cooling Technique

William Luke, a chuckwagon caterer and certified executive chef from Clovis, California, pointed out an error at 'Round the Chuckbox. I had the times for the two-stage cooling process reversed here (scroll down to the picture of sausage gravy cooling). Here's William's email:


While reviewing you site regarding camp and sanitation I noticed an error.

The two stage cooling process is:
135-deg F to 70-deg F in TWO hours
70-deg F to 41-deg F in FOUR hours
a total of 6 hours.

Also, the Danger Zone has just recently been changed to 135-deg F to 41-deg F.

Shannon Griffin (left) and William Luke prepare a barbecue last summer in Gridley, California.

I enjoyed your site about cooking at a girls camp. Have done a bit of that in a past life (Boy Scouts).

I also teach classes at NAS Lemoore through the Adopt-A-Ship Programl.

I am a former member of IDOS (when it was first forming many years ago) and still sling the pots around the fire with my Chuckwagon. (My weekend job-PLAY TIME)

Happy Cookin'.
William P. Luke, CEC
Chef Instructor
ROP Culinary Arts Program
Elkhorn Correctional Facility

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 5

Remember that many camps rely on volunteer staff. That means they receive no monetary compensation for their hard work and dedication to the camp program. And many have given up a week of hard-earned vacation time to work at the camp. Therefore, it's important to:

Thank Your Staff

Kitchen duty involves hard work and long hours (earlier points notwithstanding). Pat your staff on the back.

In 2003, during the camp's annual talent show, I called all of the cooks and dishwashers to the stage by name and personally thanked them. After a few hoots and hollers for the peanut butter, mayonnaise and dill pickle sandwiches, I called each person to the stage and personally thanked them for their hard work.

Another thing staff and campers do at FC Camp is hand out candygrams. A candygram is a small candy bar or lollipop that's been taped to a cute messaged that usually says, "I appreciate you." They're passed out toward the end of dinner each day.

For all aspiring chefs out there, remember it's the cooks under your charge that make you a chef. Without them, you're just a cook. A chef is a leader of cooks. And great leaders recognize their staff (even if it means getting an earful from you wife turned camp cook because you pulled her on stage).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Concern for Inadequate Facilities at Camp, Part 2

Here's my recommendations for Jennifer:


You go to camp the weekend that I get home. Our session this year is July 24 to 30. The advantage that I have over your trip is that I have access to a complete institutional kitchen. So many of the things I'm talking about are minor concerns for my operation.

I thought of three additional food safety concerns after I sent the email off yesterday. They are:

Potable water supply--Make sure that you have sufficient potable water being delivered to the kitchen. I can't tell you how much in terms of flow, but you need to make sure that the amount is sufficient to handle all cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Also make sure you have a hand washing sink in the kitchen.

I would plan on using paper plates and cups for the whole week if you don't any way to adequately wash and sanitize all the dinner ware. (Remember that paperware drives waist removal.) Ideally, you should have separate sinks for vegetable prep and for washing dishes.

Sewage capacity--Of course, related to water supply is sewage. Again, I can't give you any numbers. Make sure that the existing system can handle the volume of sewage you expect to generate. This can be troublesome if you're working with a septic system. You may need to coordinate shower times with cooking times so the camp doesn't overload the sewage system.

Health permit--I can't tell you if the local jurisdiction requires a health permit or not. Some jurisdictions will, regardless of the type of group being fed. Others won't because you're a closed group who's not feeding the public.

As I said yesterday, all is not lost just because you have inadequate facilities. I've fed sailors in the field with much less than adequate kitchen facilities during my service with the Seabees. You just have to plan to bring in extra equipment and charge ahead.

Here's a few suggestions to make the week work for you:

Provide extra refrigeration--Refrigeration seems to be your biggest concern at this point. Can you secure one or more additional refrigerators? Or borrow a chest freezer for the week? Someone from your group may have one that can be transported on the back of a pick-up truck.

Worst case, you can acquire a battery of large ice coolers from the participants and use them to keep food cold. But be aware that ice coolers will normally not hold food at 41-deg or lower. My experience is that they tend to run 45- to 50-deg, even when loaded with ice. Make sure that you clean and sanitize any borrowed ice coolers before putting them to use.

We did that for a 5th-grade school trip to the coast for my daughter's class several years ago. During the organizing phase for the trip, the cook put a call out for ice coolers. We used about 12 for 80 students and adults for a three-day trip. You'll need to locate an ice source as well.

Purchase food more often--Ideally, you should try to purchase all the food for the week in one trip to the grocer. But this may not be practical for perishable food for your trip. You may need to purchase fresh and perishable food every day or every other day. If that's the case, I'd find a competent person (one who can make on-the-spot decisions) to be your shopper.

You need to be in the kitchen directing food preparation. This means that you won't have time to do the shopping during the week as well. You might be able to arrange deliveries from one of the warehouse stores (we have Costco, Smart & Final and Sam's Club in California) if you're within their delivery area.

Carefully plan the menu--If you haven't done so already, write a menu that takes limited refrigeration and cooking facilities in to consideration. This means that you'll have to purchase more ready-to-eat and more ready-to-cook products and do less scratch cooking. It also means that you may need a higher food cost dedicated to the children's meals. I run about a $5 per person per day food cost for my camp, which is higher than many summer-long camps. See my blogs on purchasing for additional ideas.

Cook outdoors--Do you have access to cast iron Dutch ovens? If you can borrow some, it only takes four 14-inch (8-quart) ovens to feed a 6-ounce portion of a casserole to 125 campers. You need five to six 14-inch Dutch ovens to feed an 8-ounce portion.

You can still produce some wonderful meals if you combine Dutch oven cooking with the BBQ grill. You could grill a chicken hindquarter on the BBQ grill and prepare baked beans or scalloped potatoes in Dutch ovens. You can top the meal off with salads and fresh fruit instead of cooking a traditional vegetable. You can prepare a dessert in Dutch ovens or provide a ready-to-eat like cookies, fruit pie, etc.

You can also provide a two- or three-burner propane stove (the good ones are made by Camp Chef) to compliment the range in the kitchen. But remember that you shouldn't use the propane stove indoors because of fumes. And don't forget that you can place a stockpot or sauce pan on top of the BBQ grill if it's sturdy enough. This is a quick way to heat a sauce or pot of beans.

I hope that this helps you, Jennifer. I don't leave for camp until the 22nd. So I'll be available to answer questions. In fact, I'll be able to plug my laptop computer into a phone line at camp this year. I should be able to answer any last-minute questions in the week before you leave.

Steve Karoly

Concern for Inadequate Facilities at Camp, Part 1

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Concern for Inadequate Facilities at Camp

I received this comment and plea for assistance from Jennifer last weekend. I'm posting part of my email response so others can benefit from her concerns.

Jennifer said...
I am have committed to cooking on a mission trip for about 125 people. That part does not scare me as much as the limited facility. One residential kitchen/fridge/stove. One large charcoal grill. My goal is to try to nutritionally enhance the kids in the week we are there (Appalachian Mountain kids). Got any suggestions?

Hi Jennifer:

It sounds like it'll be a worthwhile trip. You'll be richly rewarded by you're service to the children and their adult leaders. Of course, like anyone who volunteers in a camp setting, you won't be rewarded in cash or other tangibles. The reward comes in the satisfaction that you've donated time to improve someone's life.

You concerns are well-placed. Like you, I have concerns about the food preparation and storage facilities at the camp site. Few residential kitchens are designed to serve 125 people. It's going to be very difficult to feed that large of a group from a four-burner range, home oven and a five to eight cubic foot refrigerator.

Here's my discussion of the food safety concerns that I see from the limited information that I have:

Limited refrigeration--You'll be hard-pressed to store sufficient potentially hazardous food in a normal home refrigerator for even one meal. All potentially hazardous food (PHF) must be stored under refrigeration at 41-deg or lower. In California, PHF is "food that is in a form capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms that may cause food infections or food intoxications." Just about all perishable foods fall into this definition.

Limited cooking facilities--You'll have a difficult time cooking for a large crown without the barbecue grill. It may be doable with the BBQ, but you limit the menu to grilled food for the week (and I'm not saying that's a bad thing). Four burners and a small oven limit batch size. Smaller batch size means that it takes longer to cook a meal.

A spaghetti sauce and pasta meal, for instance, for 125 persons will require about 6 gallons of sauce and 10 pounds of pasta. You could simmer the sauce in a 40-quart saucepan, but that's too big for a standard home range top burner.

So you must divide the sauce into two stockpots. You'll need at least two 20-quart stockpots for the pasta as well (or boil the pasta in two batches, consecutively). This leaves you no room for a vegetable and anything else, like dessert sauces, that need cooking on the range.

Transportation to and from the market--Transportation is always a big concern because PHF will be in the temperature danger zone from the time you leave the market until you arrive at the kitchen. This could be an hour or more up hot, mountain roads.

And then you need someplace to store this food once you off load it into the kitchen. I always recommend using one of the large foodservice houses, like Sysco or US Foodservice, if they'll accept your business. Of course, they're often reluctant to make one-time deliveries to remote locations.

No hot holding equipment--Inadequate hot and cold holding of PHF is always a concern in any kitchen. This concern is diminished if all your patrons eat within a 30 to 60 minute window in a single dining area. You could use the range top or oven to keep food warm, especially is a meal is delayed. But remember, you already have limited resources.

No facilities to properly cool and hold leftovers--Children can be finicky eaters. You'll run out of food one meal. Then they'll act like frugal eaters the next. So, you must be ready to deal with leftovers. This means you have to have adequate equipment and/or sufficient qualities if sanitary ice to cool food quickly through the danger zone (135-deg down to 41-deg). Then after cooling, you need a refrigerator that will hold the food at 41-deg or lower.

No ice-making facilities--Ice is a wonderful commodity when you have limited facilities. You can use to cool a battery of ice chests and cold salads and other cold menu items on the serving line. Without a commercial-grade ice maker, you're going to have to purchase ice in bulk from a local market or food service vendor.

The big issues that you need to resolve now are limited refrigeration, limited cooking resources and transportation. The remaining issues will resolve themselves (within reason) if you solve the primary issues now. I'll list some recommendations in a second email within a day or two.

I don't want to discourage you from making the trip. You just have a few challenges that must be addressed before you arrive on site. You should be successful if you can implement a few forthcoming recommendations (extra refrigeration or ice chests, extra cooking equipment, frequent purchasing to limit storage of food and a menu tailored to the facilities).

Thanks for writing,

Steve Karoly

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Life Begins and Ends with God

In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen
(Matthew 6:9-13).

The model prayer of Jesus begins and ends with God. When we pray in this manner, as taught by Jesus, we recognize our place before Him. Everything we have and need in this life flows from and is provided by God.

The prayers of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-11) and Daniel (Daniel 9:4-19) recognized their dependence on God. Like Jesus' prayer, these prayers began and ended with God. They honored God in His ability to supply their needs, especially His ability to forgive the sins of repentant sinners.

If God is the beginning and end in our lives, that means we're in the middle. Not "stuck between a rock and a hard place," as the popular saying goes. Instead, Jesus teaches us to humbly acknowledge our dependence on God for all our daily needs.

What are these needs? Yes, we have daily needs for food and clothing (see Matthew 6:25-34) that Jesus aptly said God would provide. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33)" We must place God first in our lives.

Prime among these needs is the need for forgiveness. Jesus forsook heaven (Phil 2:5-11) and came to earth to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). We have forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus. This was only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

In your prayers remember God who created you and who sustains you on this earth. Remember that life begins and ends with God.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Second Set of Lessons from a Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 4

You can't do it alone. Unless you're superman (or superwoman), you need a competent crew to help prepare nutritious meals for the campers.

Here are the lessons that I've learned in three years of camp:

Don't Work Your Staff to the Bone

Unless you're on some kind of ego trip or have an overactive work ethic, hire sufficient staff to keep sane work hours. I recommend six to eight hours per person per day if you can schedule enough volunteers. This gives staff time to relax and to participate in some of the camp programs.

Campers dig into the salad bar at lunch. The girl in the white T-shirt to the right is serving soup while on K.P. Each junior cabin rotates K.P. duty. A typical cabin does K.P. duty two or three times during camp. Two senior campers, one young lady and one young man, report to the dining room host each meal. They perform some of the heavier tasks, like washing pots and pan pans and taking garbage to the dumpster.

Our first year, all of the cooks worked 12-hour days. In 2003, many of us still worked long hours, but with longer between-meal breaks. Last year, with camp census at 150 (campers and staff), I used nine men and women in the kitchen.

I'm now considering an innovative schedule, like two meals on, two meals off to ease the workload. Don't forget to allow kitchen staff time to attend worship services and Bible study.

Hire Sufficient Cooks and Dishwashers

The first year, we hired a chef, two cooks, a cook's helper and a dining room host. You've already read about the 12-hour workdays. In 2003, I added two dishwashers to the crew to feed a camp with 135 campers and adults with good results. Last year, I was able to boost staff by two additional part-timers.

The dining room host gives instructions to a girls cabin assigned to K.P. duty for the meal. The dining room host manages "front of the house" activities for the chef. She is incharge of all the dining areas (indoor and outdoor) and supervises the dishwashers and the cabin on K.P. At our camp, the dining room host prepares the beverages and helps set up the salad bar.

At a minimum, you need a chef (or head cook), one cook per shift, a dining room host (in-charge of the "front of the house") and one or more dishwashers to feed an average camp of 100 to 125 persons.

More staff are required to produce a more labor-intensive scratch-prepared menu. A menu that consists of frozen entrees and pre-packaged produce requires fewer cooks. Dishwashers may not be needed if you plan to serve meals on paper plates.