Saturday, June 03, 2006

Preparations for Camp

I've been spending a good part of my non-working hours getting ready for my fifth year to chef the kitchen for the Northern California Florida College Camp in Felton. I have my staff in place with 11 or 12 from 2005 returning to the kitchen this year. The menu is ready and my Sysco Food Services of San Francisco rep faxed the order guide to me yesterday.

My Binders

I organize my menu, notes, inventory and recipes for camp into two binders. The first -- "Camp Food Service Operations Binder" -- is used to assemble all the emails and notes for the administrative end of running a camp kitchen. All this information gets filed under appropriate tabs (menu, program, production, purchasing, food safety, staff, training, facility and snack shack).

The second binder -- "Camp Menu and Recipe Binder" --holds the "meat" of the information to operate the kitchen. The menu, inventory, purchase guides and recipes are again filed under the appropriate tabs. I include a tab for each day of the week where I file the recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Recipes for salads and cookies are located under their own tabs.

The binders help me organize all of the records for the camp kitchen. I do this for two reasons: I case I get sick and can't work the camp, all the details to operate the kitchen are recorded in the two binders. They also serve as the records for camp. Each year, I look up information from prior as I plan for camp food service. Just in case, the county health department can review the binders in the event of a food borne illness complain (it's not happen yet).

Detailed records are a must. 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.

The binders will come in handy when I decide it's time to move on and pass the baton to a younger chef. 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 (or until my son graduates high school). I need to start thinking about a predecessor. (A note on the next chef -- I have identified a 30-something mother that's willing to learn the job. She starts her training next year.)

As chef, I've learned that I can't be present in the kitchen all the time. Daily meetings with the director, inventories and Costco runs occupy my time. The cooks reference the menu, corresponding recipes and purchase lists when necessary.

Each year, I print the recipes from into the 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).

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