Sunday, March 25, 2012

A warm welcome 'home'

Each time I return to work after and extended breather (usually vacation), I relearn how much the residents appreciate my work at Bridges. As the chef for a drug and alcohol recovery house, I've grown into one of the most popular staff members. This is, naturally, because I'm the guy who prepares the meals and keeps the cupboards stocked.

Each resident greeted me in turn as I walked in the back door last Monday. After a week in Oregon, I returned refreshed. The conference gave the opportunity to recharge by culinary batteries. I came home with ideas on how to incorporate fresh bread into the diet.

They were happy to see that Debbie and I had arrived home safely. With rare exceptions, the residents who cook in my absence don't share my ability to cook flavorful meals. They knew that their "meal ticket" had returned to work.

I've learned that I can make a difference in the lives of women who struggle with addiction. Gentle advise often flows from my lips. I leave the serious counseling to our therapist and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) counselors. I teach by example, showing the women how to work.

My warm welcome "home" helped me overlook a few misplaced pots and plans. Nor did I dwell too long on the menu changes in my absence. In the end, the resident cooks did a good job feeding the house, a daunting task for those unaccustomed to feeding 25 each day.

Now that I'm back to work, I'll work on expanding the baking program. I should be able to replace purchased rolls and buns with fresh baked bread. It'll take one or two weeks to work several yeast doughs into my weekly routine.

Then in October, Debbie and I fly away to Texas for Kent Rollin's Chuck Wagon Cooking School, where we'll wrestle Dutch ovens and Bertha (Kent's woodstove) from oh-dark-thirty until the stars appear. After a week in a teepee on the Red River in fall, I'll be the one who's ready to return to work!

In the first photograph, chefs gather 'round the dining table at Canby Grove Camp in Canby, Ore., for a cup of coffee and fellowship on the final day of the Christian Chefs International conference. The next photo shows me demonstrating the versatility of the Mair lid lifter. I gave a presentation on Dutch oven cooking to the chefs at the conference.