Sunday, August 24, 2008

A time for cake ...

When I started my blog in 2005, I posted this profile:

For 37 years I've had two culinary careers -- one that paid the bills and the other imagined. Growing up in Fresno in the 1960s, I attended Camp San Joaquin in Sequoia National Forest. To me the cook and his assistant had the best job. Where else could I pursuit my passion for cooking and my love of the mountains at the same time, I reasoned? With retirement nearing, ambition may soon turn to gold, Lord willing.
Well, retirement from my day job arrives this Friday. I'm in line for a camp chef job for the 2009 summer camp season.

I'll keep you posted as I search for work the coming camp season. While I may be decades older than most who work these camps, I trust my 4 a.m. cinnamon rolls will put a smile on faces somewhere in Northern California.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Serving the mess cooks ...

Hard working mess cooks have long been under appreciated in the U.S. Navy. In my day, seamen worked 90-day tours in the galley, mess deck and scullery. Unlike the cooks -- who enjoyed a day-on, day-off schedule (even at sea) -- mess cooks often worked 12 or more hours each day. Food service attendant is the modern term for mess cook.

BUSAN, Korea (Aug. 20, 2008) -- Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Paris Luh, a food service attendant, enjoys an Asian-Pacific meal served by Culinary Specialist 1st Class Egbert Sampedro (left) aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) while Yeoman Seaman Kristopher Phay enjoys an Asian-Pacific meal served by Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Octavia Jones (below).

The ship's culinary specialists prepared a special meal for the FSAs to show their appreciation. FSAs are augmented from other divisions throughout the ship to assist the responsibilities of the Food Service Division.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Viramontes.

Armed Forces Recipe Service

I fixed the link to the U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service. Adobe Acrobat copies (in PDF format) are available for download for free from the U.S. Army Quartermaster website.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Weaverville cookoff

Don Mason continues to feed me information about Northern California Dutch oven cookoffs:

Hi Dutch oven cooks:

On Saturday, October 11, 2008, the Trinity County Historical Society is hosting the first annual TCHS Dutch Oven Cook Off. The cooking area opens at 7:00 a.m.; cooks meeting and sign-in will start promptly at 9:00 a.m. with judging commencing at 1:00 p.m.

This is a 1 to 3 pot cook-off; main dish, bread, and dessert. There is a $10 entry fee per dish. The public will be invited to purchase a tasting ticket and a ballot ($5 per person) to sample and vote for the people’s choice for each category. All proceeds go the TCHS.

The Dutch oven cookoff will be held at the Jake Jackson Museum located at 780 Main Street, Weaverville, California. You will have a 12’x12’ cooking area with one table. You will be cooking in an open area so bring a type of E-Z up instant shelter.

Awards will be given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each category. An award for first place in each category for People’s Choice Award will also be given.

Other activities will be occurring during this weekend including the Salmon Festival at the Highland Art Center located across the highway from the museum. The museum itself will be open including a blacksmithing course held the same day.

Come and show off your culinary skills and enjoy beautiful Trinity County.

For more information contact George Chapman at (530) 623-2323 (H) or 530-410-8013 (C) or email

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fortuna apple harvest Dutch oven cookoff

Here's information on the Fortuna apple harvest Dutch oven cookoff. If interested in cooking along the north coast of California, contact Marvin Rutledge at (707) 764-3547. He can send additional information and an application.

The cookoff will be help on Saturday, Octover 4, 2008 in conjunction with the Fortuna Apple Harvest Festival in "downtown Fortuna, Rohner Park, Redwood Village Shopping Center and other locations around Fortuna." The cookoff is sponsered by the Fortuna Dutch Oven Society.

The event celebrates the apple-growing heritage on the coastal plain south of Eureka, which dates to 1869.

There are about 25 varieties of apples grown in the Clendenen orchard including Mutsi, Idared, Fuji, Jonagold, Bellflower, Spitzenberg, Golden Delicious and Gravenstein. At the Clendenen's roadside market, the estate-grown apples are featured along with bakery goods and local produce.
Keeping with the theme of the festival, desserts for the contest must contain apples. This will give Dutch oven cooks and bakers an opportunity to test their apple cooking skills. Why not woo the judges with your apple dishes?

Who knows, maybe Team Fogcrawler's (Joanie Hartman, Dean Hubbard and Coulton Hubbard of Eureka) apple-vanilla cream cheese cobble ala mode will take first in desserts this year, after placing second in 2006.

Dutch Oven Cook-Off Contestant Cooking Rules

1. Cook great food and have lots of fun.

2. Enter one, two or three categories of your choice ($10 each or $20 for all three).

3. Teams may consist of one, two, or three members.

4. Teams provide all ingredients, and cooking utensils.

5. Please use good health practices. Ice chests are recommended. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.

6. You must use charcoal briquettes and all fires must be at least 12 inches off the ground.

7. All foods must be totally prepared and cooked on site using Dutch ovens as the primary cooking utensil. Sourdough starter are exempt from this rule.

8. The use of battery or electric appliances is not allowed.

9. The use of home processed foods or wild game is not allowed.

10. Gas or propane stove is only allowed to heat water for good hygiene and safe food practices. A fire extinguisher should be present for the gas and propane stove.

11. When the entry is presented in the judging area, it will be judged on how evenly it is cooked, appearance and taste. Garnishing is not part of the judged score.

12. Judges word is final. Bribing or poisoning the Judges is prohibited.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New blog link

Last May I introduced Tyrone's blog. The topic fascinated me on two levels -- Tyrone and his wife, Stephanie, volunteer as chef and nurse, respectively, on the African Mercy.

And Tyrone has chronicled his service on the ship, where he serves three meals each day to 400 crew as the ship cruises the waters off the East African coast.

Tyrone recently merged his original blog, AFM Menu, with his wife's equally compelling journal. The new blog -- now called Tyrone & Stephanie -- contains a double dose of their mission effort.

And this time I added a link to their blog in the adjoining column. In the mean time, click on over to their blog and website often. Tyrone publishes the ship's weekly menu and explorers his passion for cooking as he learns what it's like to cook for different cultures.

Let's join Tyrone and his sweetheart in their work of love.

Here's this week's menu:

Week of August 11th - 17th

Monday -- Salmon, Mushroom Risotto, snow peas
Tuesday -- African Night! (chicken)
Wednesday -- Panko Pork, Soy Noodle, Stir Fry Vegetable
Thursday -- Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Friday -- Chicken Tortilla Soup, Rice
Saturday -- Roast Lamb, Couscous, Broccoli
Sunday -- Meatball Sub, Fries
Sunday Breakfast -- Scrambled Eggs, Bacon

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Disease prevention at Virginia Boy Scout camp

I found another camp kitchen story Monday evening. The Waynesboro News Virginian published this one on its website on August 4, 2008.

The story recounts food safety measures being taken by head cook Annette Bess of Camp Shenandoah, a Boy Scout camp in Swoope, Virginia.

After a serious E. coli outbreak at a camp in nearby Goshen, "safety vigilance is a constant," says the lead paragraph. The outbreak closed the larger camp and sent 17 campers and one adult to the hospital.

The article first gives you the impression the Bess implemented a series of measures in reaction to the Goshen outbreak. When you read it, it’s clear that she uses standard measures to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a food-borne illness striking Camp Shenandoah.

Bess brings food safety credentials to her leadership role at the camp from her regular job:

Bess, a food services supervisor in the Waynesboro Public School division, is one of eight people on the camp’s food service staff and has gone through numerous training seminars on food handling and safety practices. She outlined steps the camp takes to ensure proper food sanitation, saying that it is as much about common sense as anything else.
That common sense approach includes "preventative measures, she said, include cooking and holding foods to their proper temperatures, checking food with calibrated thermometers, taking food temperatures three times a day and following proper sanitation procedures," says writer Jimmy Laroue.

The camp incorporates other measures into its prevention plan. It excludes sick staff members from preparing food and stores chemicals and food items in separate locations. Staff monitors refrigeration temperatures throughout the day.

And Bess discards all leftovers "just to be on the safe side." Although this sounds wasteful, it's a smart move.

Many camps use the family style of service. The cooks dish the meal onto platters and bowls. A waiters from each table then brings the dishes to the dining table, where the diners serve themselves as they do at home.

From the moment the food leaves the kitchen, it's under assault. Contaminants attack the food from many quarters -- dirty hands, sick campers and an open-air dining area.

The "safe side" -- and many state health codes -- dictate that such food not be re-used.

The article is a reminder to all cooks -- not just camp cooks -- of the four-fold approach to food safety. While the article doesn’t cite, Bess clearly follows its four-fold approach to fighting the bacterial growth in food. These measures come from the FightBac website:

  • Clean -- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash utensils and surfaces with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Using a disinfectant cleaner or a diluted mixture of bleach and water on surfaces can provide some added protection.

  • Separate -- Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods; never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood.

  • Cook -- Cook food to a safe internal temperature (this varies for different cuts and types of meat and poultry) and check for doneness with a food thermometer. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.

  • Chill -- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours and make sure the refrigerator is set at no higher than 40°F and that the freezer unit is set at 0°F. Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature of your refrigerator.
The goal of Camp Shenandoah and Bess is to keep the Boy Scouts returning year after year. Like a restaurant, the camp uses good food and a good reputation to ensure that all campers return home healthy.

That gives the Scouts a head start for next year's camp.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Framed cooks ...

Here are two interesting photos of US Navy cooks being framed as they work. It looks like Navy photographers have taken up Alton Brown-style photography with the oven shot.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Aug. 5, 2008) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Danielle Pinango cleans a scuttle as part of her duties with the rehabilitation team aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

The rehabilitation team is responsible for the safety, cleanliness and habitat of all shipboard spaces. Carl Vinson is undergoing a scheduled refueling complex overhaul at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Luis Ramirez.

NORTH ARABIAN SEA (August 9, 2008) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Gabriel Common, from Basile, La., takes pizzas out of the oven in the aft galley aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

Lincoln is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as maritime security operations.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans.

USS Vinson makes final preparations to reopen galleys

By Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Brandon Monette, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS Va. (NNS) (July 28, 2008) -- USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is making final preparations to reopen the ship's galley facilities as the aircraft carrier draws closer to her crew move aboard, scheduled for Aug. 18.

The initial openings will occur in the aft-crew mess decks, as well as the wardroom, chief petty officer mess and commanding officer galley complexes. Most of the equipment in these galleys has been mounted, installed and is ready for use. Following inspections by the ship's preventive medicine unit, food and dry stores will be moved into the galleys and refrigerated spaces.

"The ship is very prepared to move food on board," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Porsha Lockley. "We are positive that inspections will go well and that we will be moving food onto the ship in no time. Our division has been preparing for the move aboard for some time now, and all the hard work is finally paying off."

In preparation for the opening of galley facilities, Vinson's culinary specialists along with medical personnel, emphasize cleanliness and proper sanitation as an integral part of daily food service operations.

"Equipment and food are not the only things being prepped for the galley opening," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW/AW) Jose Belen, leading petty officer for the ship's preventive medicine team.

"Our team is training all galley personnel on food preparation safety, equipment handling and proper sanitation practices. Together, we aim to prevent any health issues that may degrade military readiness."

When fully operational, each galley will supply the crew with a 14-day menu cycle that will include main entrees, a salad, drink and dessert bar. Master Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Pedro Padilla, who heads the ship's galley operations, said his culinary specialists aim to establish a reputation of excellence.

"We pride ourselves on providing the crew with a variety of food selections and excellent service. I am very pleased with the progress we are making, and I am positive that we won't skip a beat as we transition to food services on board."

Carl Vinson is undergoing her scheduled refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.

During RCOH Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel will be replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure will be upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and prepare for another 25 years or more of service.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Readying the galley one pallet at a time

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyle P. Malloy, Pre-Commissioning Unit George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va (NNS) (August 5, 2008) -- Sailors from Pre-Commissioning Unit George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) moved roughly 100 pallets of frozen food aboard July 7, completing one more step in the process of moving aboard the ship.

The most recent food on-load took about five hours, requiring two different groups working as an assembly line, according to Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Matthew Houston, cargo leading petty officer.

To achieve the command's goal of moving all of its personnel onto the aircraft carrier, some of the galleys (food facilities) need to be fully operational. The ship's supply department, especially the culinary specialists, are working to stock the galleys before the crew moves aboard, according to Houston.

"We are working long days," Houston said. "If we're going to move aboard we have got to have food, so no matter how long it takes or what it takes, we have to make sure it happens."

Stafford-Wright said the success of the move-aboard process, especially for the galleys, requires the cooperation of the entire crew.

Both Houston and Stafford-Wright acknowledge the amount of effort being put forth by the junior Sailors in the department.

"This is hard work, unloading boxes of food," said Houston. "Sometimes I am surprised by these Sailors who work as hard as they do without complaining."

Once the food is aboard, Houston said the department's culinary specialists will participate in weekend training to ensure food preparation will be up to Bush standards.

"They are on top of it," said Stafford-Wright. "When they get tasked with something, it gets done."

The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush is under construction at Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pennsylvania camp kitchen burns

I'm sure it was an upsetting day for one Pennsylvania camp cook. The kitchen at Trails End Camp in Beach Lake burned in a Thursday morning fire, according to a WNEP TV on-line news story.

The fire started in the laundry, which was located next to the kitchen. A concrete fire wall saved the adjoining dining hall, said the Wayne Independent on-line story from nearby Homestead, Penn.

The "concrete fire wall put in place after a worse inferno 11 years ago, said Beach Lake Fire Chief Tony Franklin," continued the article. The 1997 blaze completely destroyed the kitchen and dining room, the chief reported to the newspaper.

Neither new story reported a cause to the fire, which completely destroyed the laundry and kitchen. The state fire marshell will investigate.

I suspect that the camp is thankful none of the 550 campers were near the kitchen during the fire, which started sometime after 5 a.m. The children would've been asleep in their cabins at the early hour.

The Wayne Independent continued:

No one was in the building at the time of the fire, the Chief related. The camp had a function there last night and everyone was out by 3:30 a.m. With 550 hungry campers, camp management was quick to order food from Sysco Corp., and campers were having breakfast on picnic tables. Camp Director Marc Honigfeld said on scene that everything was under control.

Shelter Cove at Odell Lake

We spent the last couple days of our 2008 vacation at Oregon's Odell Lake, which is known for its abundant Kokanee fisheries. As we crossed the Cascades on State Route 58, I suggested to Debbie that we camp at the north end of the lake.

Even though she enjoyed the lake during our 2006 camping trip, the south end of the lake is know for its brisk wind and whitecaps on the lake. I suggested that we should try Shelter Cove, a private resort on the sheltered north end.

After five midnight marathons at my brother-in-law's house, our camp at Shelter Cove gave us a change to relax in front of the campfire and do nothing for three days. Shelter Cove's spaciously wooded RV campground gave us a chance to spread out and stretch our legs.

Sometimes camping is about doing a whole lot of doing nothing. It's a time to relax and enjoy the great American outdoors. You don't need grand list of accomplishments to enjoy a nice, lake-side campsite.

After pulling into camp Wednesday evening, I spent much of Thursday catching up on my notebook. Coffee in hand, I spent most of Thursday alternating between our camp and the community campfire, which burned most of the day.

Although I carry the notebook with me almost everywhere I go, I didn't take the time to write in it. I spent most of my time talking to family since we all live far apart. And when I wasn't talking, I processed photos on the laptop.

I'd select Shelter Cove if you have a choice between the two resorts at Odell Lake. Blessed by a gentler wind, Shelter Cove's spacious campground contains some 88 sites. Most have electricity and are spacious enough to park even the largest Class A motorhome.

We plan to return to Shelter Cove in the next two years. I like the idea of having a favorite place -- one that we can return to year-after-year.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When the deer aren't biting ...

Every fisherman has to entertain himself when the fish aren't biting. The hunter's dilemma is equally demanding. What do you do when the deer have scattered?

The hunter's challenge, according to "Five Things Hunters Should Know" from the Base Camp Legends blog, is to explain away those times "when we’re not seeing (any) game."

The idea is to create scenarios that display your hunting bravado. After all it's not your fault the deer would rather trek in prime cougar country that to face a crowd of hunters.

This is number three in a list of five possibilities. It's involvement of the camp cook makes it worth repeating at 'Round the Chuckbox. Here goes:

Unwrap any food items and smash it all into a small baggy. Then at the end of the day, make sure you’re the last person back ... as late as you possibly can. When ... others begin wondering about you, take some brush and scratch yourself up with it a bit, and put on a real exhausted look.

Then stagger in to camp and tell everyone that you were down in the bottom of the canyon when you realized someone had taken your food from your pack and look accusingly at each person. They’ll all know they weren't the ones, but they’ll think someone did it.

"That sounds like something Jimmy would do," they'll think.

Then tell them how at the bottom of the canyon and realizing you had very little food, you had to struggle through cliffs, brush, and the pure ruggedness of that canyon using every last ounce of energy just to make it back to camp - you were busy trying to survive and didn't have time to to even think about hunting.

It might be a good idea to eat your food several hours before wandering into camp because the camp cook will realize you must be starving and will proceed to try and pump you full of food. If you just ate, you might get away with telling them that your stomach is so empty it hurts to eat.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Comfort food

Here's the best definition of restaurant comfort food that I've heard yet:
It's home made, and I don't have to make it.
As spoken by a female customer at the Central City Cafe in Huntington, West Virginia on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network tonight.

Steel beach picnic brings Abe sailors together

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arianne Anderson, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) gathered on the flight deck for a steel beach picnic July 26.

Sailors put work on the back-burner and played sports, listened to music performed by Lincoln's own rock band, "Death by Chicken," and disc jockey Onitap of the ship's KRUZ Radio and enjoyed barbequed food.

"A steel beach picnic is a great morale booster," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (AW) Joseph Tenorio, of Lincoln's Supply Department. "It's a one-of-a-kind experience. Nowhere else in the world can you have a barbecue on a flight deck. It's definitely unique."

Machinist's Mate Fireman Phillip Smith, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a member of Lincoln's Engineering Department, said he had a good time at the steel beach picnic.

"The steak was really good, and I liked the band. It boosts morale and makes us [Sailors] feel normal again. It gives me that 'home' feeling."

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Rashad Jones, a Los Angeles native, and member of Lincoln's Engineering Department, added, "I think events like this make us more civilized to one another. We get to relax and hang out and not deal with the stresses of deployment for a few hours. I think we should do these more often."

As Sailors tossed a football around, ate steaks and burgers, members of Lincoln's Supply Department's S-2, S-5 and S-11 divisions were busy cooking, organizing and making sure everything went as planned, Tenorio said.

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's definitely worth it. I am happy to do this for the crew. It feels like the Fourth of July. I just hope everyone enjoys it. It's meant to allow the crew unwind and relax."

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ferdinand Ajel, from Avenel, N.J, (pictured) laughed after taking a pie in the face as part of a Morale, Welfare and Recreation fundraiser.

Lincoln's Commanding Officer, Capt. Patrick Hall, said the steel beach picnic was a well-deserved event.

"You guys earned this, so enjoy it. I'd like to say 'thank you' to all the people putting this on for us. You all worked together to get things done and I think everyone had a good time overall. Good job to everyone."

Lincoln is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as maritime security operations. Operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States' commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johndion Magsipoc (Death by Chicken) and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans (pie throwing).