Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Still cookin' on a bird farm

Here are three more culinary pictures from US Navy air craft carriers ...

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 28, 2008) Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Foreman prepares food for lunch in the aft galley aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz is operating as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet in the western Pacific and Indian oceans. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Lanese.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 28, 2008) Culinary Specialist Seaman Dorinda Cisneros dumps hot wings in a pan to serve to Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during afternoon chow. Theodore Roosevelt and her embarked air wing are conducting a Composite Training Unit Exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Suits.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 28, 2008) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Asha Johnson checks the temperature of chicken being cooked for Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and her embarked air wing are conducting a Composite Training Unit Exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Suits.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A walk around Sutter Creek

Last Friday, Debbie and I joined the El Dorado Camera Club for a photographic walk around Sutter Creek, the self-proclaimed "Jewel of the Gold Country." From my vantage, the historic Gold Rush town has earned its motto well.

This was the first time I was able to join the club for one of its Shooter's Safari Adventures. Employment, family gatherings and work at the engine house have kept me from participating in the six months since I joined the club. This time I took the day off.

Spending a pleasant morning in company with eight to 10 photographers is a nice way to spend a spring Friday. Few tourists and the gentle morning light gave the photographers several distinct venues to capture.

The Shooter's Safari gave me a chance to watch other photographers at work -- many more experienced than I. I only asked one or two questions. Watching them at work -- from framing and composition to subject selection to lens and use of the tripod -- benefits me most.

Even though I usually don't like to copy other photographer's work, especially when you're standing next to his tripod. Photography is a very personal art. Beyond basic rules, the camera gives you the chance to interpret the scene.

You can view Sutter Creek images of these EDCC members:

Hick's photography (Sierra Springs Photography) is especially refreshing. When I view her work, I often find myself saying, "Why didn't I think of that composure?"

This morning she posted on her blog a nicely colored picture of the footpath that leads to a foot bridge over Sutter Creek. I guess I was too busy aiming my camera at old cast iron objects at the Knight Foundry. When I finally walked onto the bridge, all I saw was overgrown vegetation on the path.

Debbie and I plan to return to Sutter Creek as does Hick and her husband. These trips will help my photography and give Deb and I a chance to spend time together.

Honeycomb pipe and metal storage at Knight Foundry. The storage rack is located on the west end of the blacksmith building. It's a photographer's treasure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Dealing with menu fatigue

For much of culinary history, the chef quietly worked the back of the house. He sought little glory for himself or his food as the customer was his main focus. The chef always looked for ways to satisfy their wants through food and the dining experience.

In some environments -- the small, chef-owned restaurant, for instance -- the chef traditionally had greater freedom to craft a menu that pleased his creative yearnings. As long as patrons returned to the restaurant, he was free to create innovative meals.

Each year I change the menu for the senior banquet, which is held on Thursday evening. In 2007, the menu consisted of sauteed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and iced chocolate cake. I usually try to match the menu with the theme for the banquet. As you can see, disco was the theme for 2007.

Other settings, the chef was (and still is) bound by rules that restrict his creative spirit. In camps (plus schools, hospitals, prisons), the kitchen's role must always fit in with the institution's mission. The camp chef has a great responsibility toward the nutritional needs of those under his care.

I bring this point up because every cook is driven to a degree by the an innate desire to create and serve new dishes. I'm sure this comes from a personal desire to satisfy one's "inner culinary self."

Each year I struggle with the impulse to drastically change the menu for camp. Even though I believe that I serve a good menu -- one that's well accepted by campers and staff alike -- the chef in me wants alter several menu items.

Each time I contemplate changing the menu item, my motivation comes to mind. I always ask myself, "Am I getting tired of the dish?" Even if the answer is yes, I usually keep it on the menu because the kids like the dish.

The luxury of changing the menu to satisfy my personal desire is a "nice to have" element of being a camp chef. I always have to fall back on the camper's needs in terms of nutrition and meal satisfaction.

Besides, constantly changing the menu can work against you. Kitchen staff and the campers rely on a steady menu from year to year. Volunteer cooks benefit by being able to replicate the same meals each year with minimal training. And the campers look forward to certain dishes each year as June approaches.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fire camp pictures

While searching for information about the food unit leader for the Firgo Fire in New Mexico, I found a sieries of picture from a 2006 fire camp. At the time, Joneen "Jony" Cockman was the alternate food unit leader for the Eastern Arizona Incident Management Team.

Jony took this series of photographs at the base camp for the Potato Complex Fire, which burned for 10 days in Sitgreaves National Forest in June 2006. I'm sure the cooks picture are employees of the caterer.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spike camp on the Trigo Incident

Even though it's a bit early to be reporting on fire camp kitchens in Northern California, they're right on time in New Mexico. is reporting six major wildland fires in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The kitchen is feeding the 506 firefighters who're working to contain the 4,600-acre fire in the Cibola National Forest.

The Pima and Southern Pueblos Agency fire crews pick breakfast up after working on the fire line all night. Usually, meals are assembled at the base camp kitchen and transported (by truck or helo) to spike camps located close to the fire line. Joneen Cockman is the food unit leader for the fire.

Photograph by L. Kearns.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Three ladies cooking

Where else are you going to find a picture of three lovely ladies cooking a feast fit for a railroader? At 'Round the Chuckbox, of course.

Chief mechanical officer Phil Reader and Ed "Oil Can" Kelly, PR man for the Pacific Coast Railroad Company, have been feeding me pictures of the railroad's commissary crew. Here's the menu for one of their runs last fall:
In P.C.R.R. tradition, the evening included a scrumptious BBQ feast prepared on the Phil Reader "Cowboy Hibachi." The entree was Phil's slow-marinated teriyaki marinated tri-tip, served with Karell's homemade pumpkin bisque soup. Other offerings included fried chicken supplied by Patti and Italian romaine and raddichio blend by Fresh Express (hey, we can't have everything gourmet!) Of course, no crew feast is complete without one of Mary's incredible dessert offerings, and this time we were treated to "black and white cupcakes;" a hollow chocolate cupcake with a chocolate chip cheesecake filling.
For the record, the lady on the tracks is the PCRR No. 2, aka Denver and Rio Grande "Roger Linn." The 2-4-0 Vulcan locomotive was featured on the TV show Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman from the early 1990s. The locomotive never served on the D&RG. She's still dressed in her Hollywood colors.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Menu items with decreasing acceptability

Each year I review the camp menu and the food preparation worksheet from the prior year. My goal is to check the acceptability of each item on the menu. I them have to decide if I'll replace less popular menu items or look for a recipe that uses different flavors.

Even though our camp really doesn't have any vegetarians, meatless options are served on the steam line and salad bar. Few menu items enjoy 100 percent acceptability. Vegetarian items are given as an alternative. And they're there for undeclared vegetarian campers.

The popularity of some items -- chicken tenders on opening night, for instance -- have steadily decreased each year. During the inaugural year in 2002, the campers couldn't get enough. Now I trim the amount I purchase each year even though I'm feeding more campers each year.

I haven't decided if I'll replace the chicken tenders. If I don't, I may "repackage" the meal with new flavors, like in a sandwich on a hoagy roll. I could also use the pulled chicken (I purchased too much in 2007 anyway!) and make a quick fajita or burrito. I'll keep you posted.

I've found the best way to get campers to eat is to provide good food -- food that's familiar and food they enjoy. My menus follow the proposition, "You can lead the children to the table, but you can't make them eat."

It does no good to prepare nutritionally sound meals if the campers won't eat. A low-fat meal loaded with multi-grain breads and cereals may look good on the nutritional drawing board. But it does not benefit children if they won't eat.

I find my role as chief cook and menu planner as one who finds that balance between nutrition and the need to feed a diet to campers that will satisfy their social and health needs.

Elisa (left) and Lisa assemble lasagna for Tuesday night's dinner. (To confuse matters, I also have an Alisa on staff!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bulkeley's food service department ensuring morale, crew satisfaction

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Wyscaver, Nassau Strike Group Public Affairs

USS BULKELEY, At Sea (NNS) (April 4, 2008) -- As the guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) continues to carry out its mission objectives as part of the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group, the ship's food service department is working to ensure that her Sailors are well-fed and cared for.

Many responsibilities exist for every food service department, but it's how these everyday tasks are handled that separates quality from average.

"Our responsibilities are to provide three square meals a day for the crew. It's essential to morale because in order to carry out everyday tasks, Sailors need nutrients through quality meals," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Andrew Suzio, automated records keeper, Bulkeley's S-2 division.

Bulkeley's food service personnel explain they are willing to go above and beyond to boost the morale of the crew.

"We do definitely try to take care of the crew by going the extra mile to do the little things such as Mongolian barbecues, ice cream socials, steel beach picnics, providing food for special shipboard occasions and offering made-to-order items," said Suzio.

Aboard Bulkeley, division personnel are supplemented by the ship's food service assistants. Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Alvin Edwards, Bulkeley's galley supervisor, noted it is a team effort that is helping to make a difference when it comes to improving the quality and image of the galley.

"The FSA's are definitely a big help," explained Edwards. "Their responsibilities include providing the extra help that cooks need, washing dishes, helping with cleanup and ensuring the galley is sanitary.

"While sometimes overlooked, food service plays a critical role in daily shipboard operations and overall mission readiness."

I feel food service is the backbone of the ship. We brighten people's day by making sure they get the food that they like. In the morning, if a Sailor's eggs are prepared right then they're happy and that carries over throughout the rest of the day," said Edwards.

"Food service plays a very important role not only in nutrition but also with the crew's morale. The crew really appreciates having good meals everyday and if you serve a bad product it affects their outlook on deployment," said Lt. Clay Robertson, Bulkeley's food service officer and supply officer.

In order to execute at a significant level day-in and day-out, it's important for each Sailor to truly enjoy their work and have the opportunity to thrive in their environment.

"Bulkeley gives all of our cooks and FSA's a chance to show what they can really do and provides an environment filled with camaraderie. This is one of the best organizations I've ever been apart of. We have a great bunch of culinary specialists and FSA's who really care about the product they put out and put in the extra effort to make every meal special," explained Edwards.

Phil Reader's Cowboy Hibachi

Don Mason posed this question last week: "That is a great picture of that Cowboy Hibachi. I would like to make one. Do you have any more pictures at different angles?"

Well, Don, I think I got much more than what you originally asked. Here are Phil Reader's photographs and description of his newly improved Cowboy Hibachi.

Enjoy ...

    Hi Steve:

    Here are some pictures of the latest and much improved "Cowboy Hibachi".

    This one I built for my old Boy Scout Troop 599. I plan on presenting it to them sometime soon as a surprise at a troop meeting.

    Some of the "improved features" are:
    • Wind screen/heat riser welded to the disc
    • Raised border on the grill to prevent hot dogs from rolling off the grill
    • Rotisserie/spit attachment that can be raised or lowered
    • Coffee pot hook and pouring device and a tool holder
    The uprights are 38 inches long are made from 3/4-inch round stock. The cross bar is also 3/4-inch round stock that started out at 48 inches long.

    Enjoy the pictures. Any questions, just email. Tell your friend to have fun building it. I find mine very useful and versatile -- you can rotisserie, hang a Dutch oven or grill on it. The other night, we even did a stir fry in a wok.


    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Camp 2008 -- Menu review

    Each year as camp approaches, I brush off my notebook and review meal comments. As in past years, I recorded written comments each day as the week progressed. I used the notebook to jot down new recipes, meal likes and dislikes, purchasing comments, etc.

    Many of these comments were transformed into blog entries here at ‘Round the Chuckbox. Click on these links to review entries for the last three years:
    Since opening the camp kitchen in 2002, I've used the same menu. So, I plan to leave the menu in place again this year.

    Other than a flop or two (and the Thursday senior banquet meal), the menu stays the same throughout the week. I’m always reluctant to change much because I've the campers like it.

    I've used the adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” to my benefit. A consistent menu benefits the chef, staff and campers alike. Even though the staff only cook one out of 52 weeks, it gives them consistency. Experience easily transfers to each succeeding year as the cooks learn the menu and its recipes.

    Since 2007 was a fragmented year -- we exchanged several meals during the week -- the menu requires a much closer review for the 2008 session, which runs from June 29 to July 6, 2008. Overall, I believe the menu is sound and well accepted by campers and staff alike.

    My goal is to find menu items to that need changing due to:
    • Menu items with decreasing acceptability -- some items don't have the appeal they once had with campers. Since my goal is to serve nutritious food that campers enjoy and will eat, I may need to reconsider a few items.
    • Cost due to increasing food prices -- this has been a big factor over the last two years. So far, the camp director has been generous. But this may change because increased prices his all program areas and impact the camp's fund raising goals.
    • Personal menu fatigue -- this aspect of menu review contradicts my stated purpose that food is a means to the end. The chef isn't there to satisfy his creative desire.
    I'll explorer each element of my menu review in separate blogs over the next week. Please stay tuned ...

    Saturday, April 05, 2008

    Latest newsletter from Cee Dub

    Howdy from Cee Dub & Pen

    A couple of weeks ago Pen and I arrived home after nine weeks on the road appearing at Sportsmen's Shows in the Northwest. It takes a tremendous amount of work to do about 60 one hour demos over the course of the tour, then there is the 6,500+ miles of driving, strange motel beds, and just being away from home for that long.

    But, we're already looking forward to our Winter Tour 2009. After years of doing these shows some folks might think it all becomes a matter of routine, but it doesn't. Every time we pull into a different town to do a show, it's a home coming for us. Besides the folks we work with, we know in every audience there will be some familiar faces from previous years as well as new friends we'll be meeting for the first time.

    Thanks to all our friends and customers who we reconnected with these past three months in the Pacific Northwest. Pen and I had a blast and we're looking forward to seeing you again next winter.

    Dutch oven cookin' clinics

    • APRIL 19-20, ROUND TOP, TEXAS -- four spots remain
    • APRIL 26-27, HUNT, TEXAS -- three spots remain
    • MAY 5-9, LAS PIEDRAS RANCH CLINIC -- only advanced clinic for 2008 with two spots left
    Are you thinking about signing up for a Dutch oven cooking clinic with Cee Dub? Read on for a little insight into the evolution of my teaching style.

    2008 is our eleventh year of teaching Dutch oven cooking. Here I must make a small confession. When we first started teaching, I admit I took an easy approach. That is, at each clinic I would do the same things over and over. That worked as long as I had a new group for each clinic. But, there came the day when I booked an appearance in a small West Texas town and over half the group were repeat participants from the year before. I couldn't get away with doing the same recipes from the previous year.

    It dawned on me that as a teacher I had to stretch my own boundaries in order to stretch the boundaries and abilities of those who signed up for our clinics. And ... I never teach a clinic that I don't end up learning something from the participants. Every clinic is a win - win situation!Anyway ... register soon to guarantee your spot at a Cee Dub's Dutch oven cooking clinic.

    Click here to sign up for your Dutch Oven Cookin' Clinic with Cee Dub

    Watch for another newsletter in the next couple of weeks featuring an excerpt and a couple of recipes from Cee Dub's new cookbook.Remember an autographed Cee Dub's cookbook(s) makes a great gift for graduations, Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, and spring weddings.

    Keep Your Coals Hot & The Drinks Cold!

    Cee Dub & Pen

    Cookin' in the Park

    Here's information about the Cookin' in the Park cookoff in Red Bluff, California, Saturday, May 17, 2008. Email Don Mason at for additional information. Note the email address on the flyer is wrong (he misspelled his last name!).

    Friday, April 04, 2008

    A hot engine and the Granite Rock No. 10

    After working around a cold engine for nearly three years, I climbed into a hot locomotive this afternoon. I say hot because the crew had steamed the Granite Rock No. 10 at the California State Railroad Museum for opening day tomorrow. You could feel the heat radiating off the backhead even though the ambient temperature hovered in the mid-60s along the Sacramento River.

    Listening to the sounds of the steaming saddle-tank engine (the 0-6-0ST was built by H.K. Porter in 1942) gave me a much needed shot in the arm. After working on a Shay engine that's several years away from its boiler tag, the morale boost helped me recharge my devotion to the project.

    I took the short walk from Amtrak parking lot after work to the museum gift shot to look for a DVD on the Westside Lumber Co. As I turned the corner on to I Street, I caught a glimpse of the No. 10 disappear around the corner into the shops. I though I missed the engine and walked into the store.

    It was the distinctive chug-chug of a rod engine that first alerted me to the presence of the locomotive. So, after leaving the gift shop empty handed, I walked toward the river and mainline of the Sacramento Southern.

    The sound of steam shooting from the dynamo and mechanical action of the air compressor filled my ears as I walked past the Big Four Building. I turned the corner to find the crew pumping water into its two saddle tanks.

    As I did at Roaring Camp in December 2005, I walked up to the crew and introduced myself. For the second time I leaned that the world of steam railroaders is small. Even this newcomer received a warm welcome.

    The fireman graciously described the action of the valves and gauges on the backhead. Unlike my cab ride on the Dixiana at Roaring Camp, I was able to follow along as he showed my how to drain both sight glasses and blow the oil back into the oil tank by turning the blowback valve. Other valves, like the atomizer and blower on the firing manifold with the quadrant, keeps the fireman busy as the engine runs down the tracks.

    I'm ready to head off to the museum in the morning and keep working. A few more shots in our collective arms and we'll soon have a hot Shay running up the old Southern Pacific grade from El Dorado to Missouri Flat Road.

    The photographs are from Saturday, April 4, 2008.

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    USS Nevada sailors take 3rd in joint chowder cook-off

    By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW/NAC) Eric J. Rowley, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Det. Northwest

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. (NNS) (April 2, 2008) -- USS Nevada (SSBN 733) culinary specialists competed in a clam chowder cook-off at McChord Air Force Base's Olympic Dinning Facility, March 27-28.

    Culinary Specialist 3rd Class (SS) Larry Westerfield and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class (SS) Chris Stehr took third place out of nine two-person teams in the 3rd Annual Northwest Clam Chowder Cook-off.

    "I liked this event," said Westerfield. "It was a good way to show who was better for the bragging rights. It was a good competition and I would definitely do it again. Overall it was awesome."

    The nine teams, representing Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, competed in their chowder cooking abilities within a two-hour time limit. An Army team took first place and a Coastguardsmen team took 2nd.

    "It was a fun competition," said Stehr. "I like being able to compete against other branches of service to see what kind of training they get. I learned the Army has really good garnishing abilities."

    The first day was an orientation day where the participants were able to learn a little bit about the history and origin of clam chowder and they discovered potatoes weren't added to the until the 1800s.

    Westerfield and Stehr started making their chowder by making sure all their ingredients were ready to go for their Boston style clam chowder. Then they started sautéing the vegetables in garlic and sherry. Once sautéed, they added flour to make the rue and cooked it until it was a golden brown color to make sure it had a little bit of a nutty flavor.

    "We went for a more traditional style of clam chowder," said Stehr. "We wanted to stay away from a lot of the pre-made products and make the chowder from scratch. We used fresh shallots, new potatoes, garlic, truffle-infused oil, cooking sherry, sea clams and Sicilian sea salt. It was all from scratch to make a more natural flavor."

    Once the mix was a golden brown they added the whipping cream, clam juice, clams and potatoes then let it simmer until all the flavors melded together. Then they added the heavy cream, then more simmering until it was time to present the dish to the judges.

    "The judges said it was a pretty close competition point-wise," said Westerfield. "We were judged on color, texture, aroma and presentation. I really enjoyed our soup when it was done."

    All of the participants received continuing education credits used for a degree in culinary arts.

    Life couldn't be better

    Chief petty officers have served the US Navy for 115 years. I had the honor of being a senior chief petty officer during the 100th anniversary in 1995.

    PACIFIC OCEAN (April 1, 2008)-- Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Choi Lucero carves a roasted pig in the chief's mess aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) to celebrate the 115th anniversary of the establishment of the chief petty officer rate.

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe Painter.