Thursday, February 27, 2014

The camp menu

I used a two-week cycle menu last summer at Oakland Feather River Camp. Even though I felt a one-week menu would've worked, the extra week doubled the meals for campers and staff. The added week was a selling point for the cooks and camp staff. It gave the cooks more variety to work with and helped alleviate staff menu burnout. (I often read that summer camp staff quickly tire of eating that same things week and week.)

By the time the camp hired me in early-April, my notebook was filled with ideas for the salad bar, vegetarian meals and the main menu. I quickly sketched the menu out after I arrived at camp in May. Once the cooks arrived (a week after my report date), I trained them how to execute each the menu item. Two weekend sessions in May gave the cooks the opportunity to present the full menu to camps of large numbers.

Menu rotation began in early June with staff training week. The second week was used for the first session of the summer, Adult Art Camp and the first of five week-long family camps. I revised the menu to include kid-approved favorites for Camp Kidd and Camp Sierra, held in late June. The two weeks rotated until the end of camp in mid-August.

This year I plan to begin staff training with the second menu week. Since many families come to the same session each year, flipping the menu will let them experience the other side of the menu when they come to camp.

An early menu draft for the 2014 summer season. I plan to recycle unpopular and high-cost menu items, find ways to add more interest to breakfast and rework some of the side dishes. Kid-friendly dishes will compliment meals, such as the fish dinner on Saturday, that weren't popular with children.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Oakland Feather River Camp needs cooks and dishwashers for 2014 summer season

Oakland Feather River Camp posted this job advertisement for summer food service staff today. To apply, follow the link to the SF Bay Area Craigslist post and click the 'reply' button in the upper left corner of the page. An application can be found on the camp website. A companion ad has been posted to the American Camp Association job board.

I am returning to the camp in May as the chef and food service manager.

Oakland Feather River Camp is looking for skilled, flexible, friendly, accountable and mature summer staff for our Family Camp. The staff of Oakland Feather River Camp creates the atmosphere in which campers develop memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.

We will be hiring the following positions: Head Cook, Prep Cooks, Vegan/Vegetarian Cook, and Dishwashers. Ideal candidates are energetic and enthusiastic people who like to connect with others in an authentic way have experience camping or living out of doors, are friendly, helpful, organized and safety focused. All camp staff must have a desire to serve people while living in a rustic, natural environment.

Under the direction of the Food Service Manager these staff will prepare food for to ensure the timely service of quality meals with ample selection and nutrition for 250 - 300 campers daily. All cooks must be safety oriented, friendly, helpful, organized, knowledgeable about food and cooking and have experience working in a commercial kitchen.

Kitchen staff must be considerate of individuals with special diets and/or food allergies and will participate cooperatively as part of a supportive and cohesive team. Knowledge of a commercial kitchen and the health and safety procedures and regulations associated with food preparation is a priority.

Oakland Feather River Camp is located in Quincy, California, approximately 250 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area. The camp is located at 3,500 feet in elevation on 65 acres in the beautiful Plumas National Forest. In this pristine environment we provide family and youth campers with exciting and fun activities as well as opportunities for laid back relaxation. We offer rustic cabins and tent-cabins on platforms with nearby restrooms and hot showers, and three healthy meals a day. Campers come for as short or long as they like.

All camp positions require a combination of education and relevant experience that would likely provide the required knowledge, skills, certifications and abilities to successfully perform the duties required. Applicants shall be at least 18 years of age, have a valid drivers license and submit to required background checks.

All staff work six days per week. Salary is DOE. Room and board are provided for duration of the summer season.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Vegan black bean chili

At Oakland Feather River Camp, vegetarian meals are offered in addition to the regular meat-based meal. The vegetarian meal is served on a separate steam line to avoid confusion. This allows vegetarian diners (and meat eaters who enjoy vegetarian cuisine as well) to select their meal without having to worry about meat products. Any food item placed on the vegetarian line is prepared without meat, poultry or fish.

I often serve the same entrée and side dishes on both meat and vegetarian lines. When chili con carne is menued on the regular menu, for instance, bean chili is placed on the vegetarian serving line. This simplifies production and allows the cooks to make efficient use of their time. While the chili con carne and black bean chili are cooked in separate pots, the beans for both entrees will be cooked in the same pot, then divided between the two applications.

When we have a number of vegans in camp, I instruct the vegetarian cook to prepare as many entrées as possible without animal products. This helps to avoid duplication of effort for the vegetarian and vegan population at camp. To please vegetarian campers, we place grated cheese and sour cream on the vegetarian line.

I began preparing vegan black bean chili for the Argonaut Farm to Fork Café in Coloma, California, in December. It quickly became a favorite of our customers. And I enjoy cooking the chili week after week. This recipe will supplant the one we were using last summer at camp.

Adapted from Chef Helen Lacono's gem of a cookbook, Kaua'i Farmers' Market Soups (self-published in 2013), the chili is a marriage of freshly cooked black beans with a rich puree of onions, poblano chiles, carrots, red bell peppers and garlic. A pot of beans surrounded by a smooth, mildly spiced sauce, makes for a wonderful bowl of comfort food.


Use the black bean chili recipe as a starting point, adding or subtracting ingredients to suit the tastes of your campers. For a chunky chili, skip the puréeing step. Simply cut the vegetables to uniform size, sauté in olive oil and add to the cooked beans.

For a smoky chili, replace the paprika with smoked paprika. Chipotle peppers add a smoky dimension as well. You can also roast the poblano chiles and red bell peppers over an open flame if desired.

For a meat chili, add 3-1/2 to 4 pounds grilled diced Italian sausage or cooked ground turkey to the chili. My favorite is a chicken and apple sausage.

3 pounds black beans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound onion, diced small
8 ounces carrot, diced small
1 pound poblano pepper, diced small
1-1/4 pounds red bell pepper, diced small
1 ounce  garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
Vegetable stock

Pick over beans, removing discolored beans and foreign matter. Wash thoroughly. Place beans and salt in 10 to 12-quart stockpot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Add water as necessary to keep the beans covered. Simmer 1-1/2 hours or until just tender. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid if used to thin the chili.

Puree onion, carrot, chili pepper, bell pepper and garlic in a blender or food processor. In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook puree mixture in olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, oregano and basil to puree mixture. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Add to beans in stockpot.

Add tomato, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to chili. Simmer over low heat 20 to 30 minutes to develop flavor. Thin chili to desired consistency with vegetable stock or reserved bean liquid. Adjust seasoning.

Makes 6-1/2 quarts. Portion into 25 (8-ounce) or 20 (10-ounce) servings. If desired, serve over steamed brown rice and garnish with fresh salsa.