I'm most attracted to small to medium camps, those serving up to 200 campers and staff per meal. This gives me the opportunity to work with an intimate group of campers. You know everyone, and they quickly learn who you are.
I found after seven years as the chef for the Northern California FC Camp that you get to know many of the campers and counselors. It's encouraging to watch young campers enter the program as young fourth graders and leave eight years later mature Christian adults ready to face the challenges of living in the world.
Of course, the food is my reason for working at a camp. Small to medium camps give me an environment where I can easily tailor the menu to the likes and dislikes of the campers. It's always much easier to react to special dietary needs and special requests when you know the kids.
The aspect of a small camp that attracts me most is that I get a chance to keep my hand in all segments of the kitchen. Unlike large institutions, where you typically supervise one department or work through a team of chefs to produce the meal, you're the main cook (and chief bottle washer!).
A camp chef is much closer to the action. When you write the menu, you know what will work and what won't because you're the cook who'll cook all those dishes. Feedback is immediate.
A small dedicated staff of cooks and assistants gives me a chance to personally develop each person's talent and to mentor as he prepares for the next step in the kitchen. I can follow the daily progress of each person, partially because you're working in a moderately-size kitchen.
Since I love to teach, I can tailor a program for each cook and assistant, both based on their career needs and the needs of the camp. And my love for teaching also applies to the campers, especially when the topic is outdoor cooking.
I could go on, but will close for now. I have a lot more to say about my passion for camp cooking. I'll cover the outdoors, salary, living with reduced income and the need to be flexible in your job search in coming posts.
More to come ...
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