Thursday, June 26, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Setting goals for camp

Each year I head to camp with several goals to improve the kitchen operation. Some are aimed at correcting problems from the prior year. Other goals target the efficient operation of the kitchen.

Although tempting, I've learned that I couldn’t develop an effective culinary operation in one year. Instead of tackling all issues in a single season, I limit my focus to two or three issues each year. This works well for my team when you remember that we only meet one week each year.
    An early goal was to train my cooks to competent in the use of commercial kitchen equipment, like the six-foot griddle at Daybreak Camp.

    In the early years, my goals served a more immediate need. I had to write a menu that would survive year-to-year, recruit and train a volunteer team, and set administrative systems (record keeping, inventory, cost control, for instance) in place to effectively manage the kitchen.

    Once these basic systems functioned as intended, I was able to turn my attention to the second tier – things that helped "kick" my operation up to the next level.

    I spend the 2005 season recording detailed notes on each recipe. Even though I used quantity recipes from the beginning, I neglected to note many important aspects of a good recipe.

    I wanted to improve my recipes and make more that a list of ingredients and the basic preparation methodology. To do that I needed to note the quantity that fit into the cooking pans (whether a sheet pan, hotel pan or Dutch oven). And I worked on other aspects of a quality recipe, like noting acceptability factors, developing variations and

    The motivation behind these goals is a mixture of self-improvement and crew motivation. Even while I'm working on self-discipline and improving my skills as a camp chef, I've used goals to raise awareness among the kitchen crew.

    It may be a simple as teaching food and energy conservation to the cooks. More complex issues, like how to plan a meal, also come up. The latter aspect of running a camp kitchen is important. Meal preparation is never as simple as cooking one portion per camper. The chef must consider the complexities of weather, camp activities and age-mix of campers when planning the menu.

    I have three goals in mind for the 2008 season at the Northern California FC Camp. They are:
    1. Reduce the quantity of leftovers that we serve at our closing meal
    2. Keep end-of-camp donations below five percent of total food purchases
    3. Watch food purchases closely due to a reduction in the number of campers
    I'll discuss these goals in the next two or three days. Stay tuned ...

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