Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saga of the Deer Crossing oven

Two events made life in the Deer Crossing Camp kitchen easier this summer. Debbie's constant companionship was a great comfort to me during her seven-week stay.

She was a constant companion (as I reported here), one with whom I could talk and find solace. Even when we were in different rooms in the lodge, just knowing that she was present. I always knew that I'd see her in a little while and we'd be able to talk.

I can't imagine what this summer would've been like of Jim hadn't allowed Debbie to join me. Each work week would've felt much longer than the sum of its six days. Her presence relieved my mind of endless waiting for my next day off, a wait that would've been marked by loneliness and longing to see her.

I was blessed this summer and I am grateful to the camp's owner and director, Jim Wiltens, for allowing her to stay with me.

The second event had more of a physical impact on my stay at Deer Crossing Wilderness Camp. I discovered early during the training session that the ovens were going to give me fits all summer long.

An early heads up from the camp's 2008 chef in May warned me that the "ovens must be watched carefully for temperature fluctuations." Blake's words came true on Tuesday of my second week at camp.

I served caramelized chicken (chicken breasts basted with a soy-catsup-honey sauce that caramelized in the oven) and mashed potatoes with apple crisp that evening to the 15 staff at camp for training. I had to re-light each oven four or five times. The pilot seemed to blow out each time the burner cycled off.

I wasn't able to brown the crisp topping to a nice, even golden color. Jim and I talked about the ovens that night – this first of many conversations over the next two weeks.

From that first conversation we looked for solutions. Jim searched for a technical manual for the Imperial brand oven on the Internet, but never found one. Neither Jim nor I were willing to play with the oven's settings without some technical guidance.

The problem calmed down during the remainder of the training week. I didn't record anything in my notebook for the until the first pizza night during Session 1. Once I learned to handle the oven with care, like gingerly opening and closing the oven door, the problem seemed to go away for a few days.

To be continued ...

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