The first big test for the ovens came on the first of eight pizza nights. I couldn't go one meal without re-lighting the oven pilot. Many meals I had to re-light it one or two times.
The process to light a pilot was cumbersome at best. I knelt down, pushed the pilot button down with my left hand and shoved the stick lighter up next to the pilot.
My hand cramped as I depressed the red button. And I couldn't release it because it it took a minute or more to heat the pilot to a point where it'd stay lit.
In the 35 to 40 minutes it took to bake a cake, I was usually on my knees three or four time making sure the burner was still burning. The pilot had to be re-lit once just to bake the cake.
Jim must've sensed my frustration with the whole process. I talked to him about the ovens daily with the hope that he'd locate the technical manual and repair the oven.
But there was no manual to be found on-line. Jim expressed his reluctance to tinker with adjusting the pilot. Although as the camp director, Jim has trained himself to maintain the camp, he had never tackled the oven.
Trepidation surfaced as I approached the first pizza night. Both ovens had to heat to 500 degrees for an hour or more as I baked 20 (12-inch) pizzas. The only way the meal would be successful was to have two ovens that worked perfectly.
"Both ovens handled reasonably well," I recorded in my notebook with some relief. "I had to manually light the left oven -- it worked all evening." Although the right oven eventually gave out, disaster was adverted that night.
To manually light the burner (or bypass the pilot), I jammed the stick lighter up against the burner and turned the oven dial to 350 degrees. Flame slid down the burner after a 10-second pause.
This was the only time that I successfully lit the burner in this manner. I tried unsuccessfully one other time. Safety concerns (like burning all hair off my head and face) restrained me from trying the unsafe method any more.
The right oven gave me more fits that first pizza night. "(It) gave out on me twice and I couldn't re-light it after the second time," I wrote.
That means that I went to me knees -- a physically challenging move for this fifty-something chef -- and once again jammed the stick lighter up against the pilot and start the process over. Fortunately, I was able to finish baking the pizza in the left-hand oven.
To be continued ...
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