Monday, June 24, 2013

Taking a day off

The downside of working six twelve-hour days each week is you get little time to yourself. We try to get away for dinner one or two evenings each week. Since our Sunday is day off, we assemble with the local saints for worship, then drive off to the former logging town of Greyeagle for lunch and time on the Internet.

Yesterday's drive was unique. We work along the former Western Pacific Railroad Feather River Route. The line's current owner, the massive Union Pacific Railroad, has been running a lot of freight traffic over the rail line. The railroaders among the staff at Oakland Camp (the housekeeping supervisor and myself) have enjoyed watching (and listening when we're busy) to trains each hour.

Catching three trains on our day off was an exciting opportunity. I'll let the photographs tell the story.

As we drove east toward Blairsden and Greyeagle, an eastbound UP high-railer caught my attention at the Spring Garden siding. Thinking I could snap a photo as it crossed the bridge at Blairsden, we sped east on Highway 70. Instead of the track inspection vehicle, this local freight train appeared. My guess is that the high-railer took the siding.

The local took the hole (or siding) once he crossed the bridge. The waiting westbound intermodal freight was the superior train. As soon as the local cleared the main, the westbound gave two long blasts on the horn and proceeded west toward Keddie and the Feather River.
I took this photo as the westbound freight passed over the bridge at Blairsden.
Later in the day, Debbie and I saw this westbound coal drag as we returned to Quincy and the camp. With sufficient time to drive to the Williams Loop, we drove west. At the Loop, I photographed the train as it wound around under itself. Here the lead locomotive is ready to exit the loop and continue its westbound journey toward the canyon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Egg scramble with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach

Last Monday, we served scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach for breakfast. The campers, a group of 60-plus artists, enjoyed the refreshing change from normal camp food. For around 140 campers, we used 24 pounds of liquid eggs, 5 pounds of slice mushrooms, 20 large tomatoes and 7-1/2 pounds of spinach leaves.

The vegetarians ate the breakfast entrée. A tofu scramble with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach was prepared for 10 vegans. See my last post for a description of prep for the meal on Sunday.

To prepare sufficient eggs for a 12 by 20 by 2-inch hotel pan, Jesse first placed 4 to 5 spoonsful of mushrooms, 3 to 4 spoonsful of diced tomatoes and 2 to 3 tongs of spinach on the oiled griddle. After several quick turns, the vegetables were ready for the eggs.

Jesse next poured two cartons of liquid eggs over the sautéed vegetables. He had to work fast to keep eggs from running down into the grease pit. Once scrambled, the eggs were placed in the waiting hotel pan. That morning, 140 campers ate the contents of six 2-inch hotel pans of egg scramble. We always cook eggs to the soft stage as they continue to cook for several minutes in the pan.

 Jesse also scrambled 2 cartons of plain eggs for those who don't like vegetables. The vegans ate 3 pounds of tofu.

Speed racks

I love speed racks. They help my team at Oakland Feather River Camp organize ingredients for the next meal. You'll often hear a cook yell "Coming through" as he moves the rack from the reefer to the hot line for meal production.

Although I don't know where the term comes from, Oakland Camp's two sheet pan racks are in constant use. One is loaded with baked goods. It's stored close to the convection ovens. The second unit is often loaded with prep for the next day. It spends much of the day in the walk-in cooler.

Last Sunday I guided Jesse, a young prep cook at the camp, as he prepared the ingredients for scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach for breakfast on Monday. With a short two-hour window to get ready for breakfast, there's no time to prep for the scramble in the morning. Jesse used most of an hour to wash and slice five pounds of mushrooms, dice 20 large tomatoes and open a case of pre-washed spinach.

After the vegetables were cut, he placed a case of eggs (15 cartons each with two pounds of liquid eggs in each carton) on the bottom shelf in the speed rack. Once the potatoes were panned and set on the middle shelves of the rack, Jesse wheeled it into the walk-in.

As Jesse learned last week, speed racks save time in the kitchen. They help the cook move product, cooked and uncooked, from one point to another. And when properly organized, the speed rack allows the cook to perform his job with efficiency and ease.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A lot goin' on ...

Like many camps, the pace picks up at Oakland Camp kitchen as the meal approaches. The food processor was used to prepare chimichurri (in the wood bowl) and cilantro lime vinaigrette (the mess). The strawberry shortcake was ready for assembly. And the beef stew with meat and vegetarian versions on the range was ready for panning.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pulled pork party

We were running a bit late the other day with barbecued pulled pork. I had placed two pork butts, rubbed with the appropriate spices, in the bottom convection oven at 7 a.m. By 11 a.m., the pork should've emerged ready to shred. Sometime around 9 a.m., I discovered that the oven had cut off. The pork lost an hour or more of precious roasting time. Giving the two roasts and additional hour, my sous chef (in the Phillies ballcap) pulled the pork at noon. After cooling it for 15 minutes, he called a couple dishwashers over. They quickly shredded the meat and tossed in barbecue sauce for our 12:30 p.m. mealtime.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Has the information super-highway bypassed your camp?

The Fish Tacos at Pangaea Cafe
Camping may not be the best career for the Internet junkie. Service at many camps, especially those in rural areas across the country, is non-existent. While camp administration may subscribe to a local on-line provider for the office and key staff, recreational use of precious bandwidth is out.

Service at my office is based on a wireless hotspot that's paired with a signal booster. It works most days. By that I mean that I can send and receive email and place orders with my vendors. Heavy research on websites the rely on intense add-ons is out.

Today was one of those days. I waisted two hours trying to access the website of one of my major suppliers. That's two hours of searching, rebooting, logging on and being kicked off.

All I wanted to do was show the vegetarian cook what the vendor offered for the vegetarian and vegan menu. I'd call her into the office, start the search, only to send her back to the kitchen because our super-highway was behaving more like a bottle of ketchup.

To resolve the problem, my wife and I drove into Quincy. Many Oakland Camp employees head to Pangaea Cafe and Pub for a bite and quality time with the laptop. If you must sacrifice your evening to Internet research, Monday nights at Pangaea are best. The Internet flows like coffee and the "Fish Tacos" provide superb entertainment.

Seasoned with a side of Bluegrass and hit of Zydeco, the ensemble band makes for wonderful eatin' -- and surfin' -- at Pangaea. You'll catch yourself joining in the chorus to "I'll Fly Away" while you tap away on the keyboard. Research is hard work, especially when toe-tappin' music carries your mind elsewhere.

Camp isn't a hotbed of Internet activity. It's a place where campfire chats, great chow and relationships rule. Program directors -- and, yes, chefs -- want staff to leave smart phones and laptops in their cabins. If you must partake of the information super-highway, head to town on your offtime. The food's good, musicians entertain and the Internet (usually) flows freely.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Camp cook job listing for Bear Valley Y Camp

This job listing for camp cook posted yesterday afternoon on Sacramento Craig's List. Review the camp website for additional details about the camp. The camp is located about 4-1/2 miles west of the junction  between State Route 20 and Interstate 80. Please direct any questions regarding the position and camp to the email address below.

Resident Camp Cook (Bear Valley Camp)

The Camp Cook provides meal preparation (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for 60-90 hungry camp participants. The job requires excellent organizational and people skills. The Cook is a camp leader role that influences the morale, culture and success of camp.
  • Places food and supply orders.
  • Supervise kitchen crew-volunteers
  • Supervises the food and supply deliveries.
  • Maintains current inventory.
  • Responsible for cleanliness of the kitchen, appliances,
  • Prepares and serves meals as scheduled.
  • Ultimately responsible for cleaning the ovens, stoves, grill, and meal preparation area for assigned meals.
  • Ultimately responsible for the kitchen cleanup process for assigned meals.
  • Ensures that the kitchen is in tip-top shape, meeting Health Department requirements, at all times.
  • Reports maintenance needs to the Property Manager.
  1. 18 years of age.
  2. High School Diploma or GED. Culinary training preferred.
  3. Current food handler's certification
  4. One to two years experience cooking for large dining enterprises, eighty (80) people or more.
  5. Ability to manage multiple tasks and meet time schedules.
  6. Good personal hygiene habits.
  7. Ability to traverse camp properties and other outdoor sites.
  8. Ability to stand, sit, or walk for an extended period of time. Reach overhead and below the knees, including bending, twisting, pulling, and stooping. Move, lift, carry, push, pull, and place objects weighing less than or equal to 40-50 pounds without assistance.
  9. Ability to operate kitchen equipment.
Additional Information:
Position Type: Full Time/Temporary Seasonal
Filing date by: June 21, 2013
Submit Resume to:

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Grilled cheese extravaganza

Grilled cheese three ways was on the menu Saturday at noon. Can you guess which sandwich was the most popular?

Top to bottom: (1) provolone cheese, cilantro sauce and grilled onions; (2) provolone and cheddar; (3) cheddar, bacon and tomato; and (4) cheddar and tomato for the vegetarians.

For 75 camper and staff, we prepared 18 cilantro sauce and onion sandwiches, 18 plain grilled cheese, 36 bacon and tomato and 6 cheese and tomato. The bacon and tomato was so popular that we quickly assembled a second sheet pan (as expected!). The sandwiches were cut in half to service. That let each diner mix-n-match one, two or three halves as desired.