The Great Hall
Summer Camp Menus The Great Hall: Summer Camp Menus
By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Tuesday, July 04, 2000 - 11:55 pm: Edit

Just finishing up my 3rd week as camp dinner cook for a kids overnight camp in the mountains. For 16 years the dinner cooking has been done by the staff (read teenaged counselors) and the breakfast/lunch done by a mom who never went away after the first summer. They never have had anyone professional cooking before. The amount of food they waste is astronomical - eek - big time waste. I changed the menu some last week and met with the food service distributor to look at some better items to use to cut back on the waste. I am just fishing around looking for some menu ideas.



By Cyberelvis (Cyberelvis) on Thursday, July 06, 2000 - 12:27 am: Edit

In order to help you with menu ideas, I need to know what equipment you are working with and what you've already burnt yourself out on!

I grew up cooking for a Boy Scout Troop that I was the SPL (Senior Patrol Leader) for. Are you cooking with cast-iron over a campfire? Do you have natural gas burners? What can you use that's available in the wildnerness that you can set these girls off to find?

Waiting to help-


By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Friday, July 07, 2000 - 12:43 am: Edit

Actually, we have a good kitchen. 2 convection ovens, an 8 burner gas stove and side griddle. Nice prep table, dishwasher, two speed racks, a microwave, lots of hotel pans, huge stock pots, etc.

The problem is the menu. I am burnt out on it already. It's a two week rotation menu, which is primarily for a change of pace for the staff, since the campers only come for one week stints. As the menu stands now the mains are meatball sandwiches, spaghetti, tacos, ham, those rolled turkey breasts/thighs (which she used to take from the freezer right into the oven to roast)with baked potatoes as the starch, picnics every Friday night. There is a salad bar every night.

Now I am being met with some resistance about making changes to the menu. A small example is the tussle that we are going through about whether or not the carrots ought to be grated for the salad bar. She said we had to grate them, not cut them in coins like I have been doing. When I asked about the benefit of grating them, her answer was because she thinks they are easier to chew that way. You can imagine how irritated she got when I added olives, cheese and pickles to the salad bar, too. Oy Veh!

Suggest on....


By Dpconsu (Dpconsu) on Friday, July 07, 2000 - 09:23 am: Edit

Dear girlchef,
It sounds to me like you have taken on a job, knowing full well all the details prior to starting, including the rotation menu. And now you want to change it!

You were hired to perform a task, so perform it!
Your particular tastes are of no concern to the powers that be, just do the job that you were hired to do. If your boss wants you to grate carrots, grate them and smile!

Were you told that you had control over menu changes and buying before you started? or has this only become a factor afterwards.Did you just go ahead and make changes without telling/asking you boss first? if you did, it is no wonder that she is pissed at you, I would be to.

You mentioned food waste, is it from the kitchen prior to being served? ie, poor food management, or from foods not being chosen by the kids and thrown out? or is there a lot of food on plates that is scraped into the trash?

If it is from the kids not wanting the food or trying it and then dishing it out into the trash, then take this as evidence that the menu needs changing to your boss.Maybe she has a budget to conform to and your new ideas to the menu might be sending the costs over that budget, so her butt is on the line.

Remember where you are; it is a camp for kids, it is not the "Ritz Carlton" You have serve American kids foods that they will eat or they will not eat it! Hell! I am supprised that you get to do a salad bar, as most kids go "EEEEEK" at the mere sight of vegetables.

Come on girl, lighten up, it is just a summer job and part of your learning curve, there is no perfect job!

By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Friday, July 07, 2000 - 11:55 am: Edit

You are right - exactly right. I do have this character flaw that compels me to always try to the absolute best that I can and not ever settle on the mediocre. This time, though, I guess I am going to have to just settle and try to guess what this part of the learning curve will mean to me in the future.

Camp on...... :-)


By Dpconsu (Dpconsu) on Friday, July 07, 2000 - 09:22 pm: Edit

Ata Girl!

Be like the willow in the wind, bend with it when it is blowing strong and survive. The blow hards do not last as long as a willow ever will.

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Friday, July 07, 2000 - 11:10 pm: Edit

Girlchef - are your particular tastes really of no interest to the powers that be? Why would they bother hiring a professional chef if they didn't want your professional expertise? Just curious!

Maybe you could introduce some new items by planning theme nights, you might even be able to tie in with other camp activities. (Horseback riding - western BBQ...something like that??).

Do the kids get to do any campfire cooking? What about the kind of foil packet meals that can be cooked in a campfire? (They can be cooked in the oven.) It's possible kids could even put together their own packets from several meat and veggie choices. It's amazing what kids will eat when they have choices. Mark names on each with a permanent marker and roast. If a salad bar works, other serve yourself bar/buffet ideas might go over.

I think creativity will help win people to your side. It might even allow change to occur without the more reticent individuals noticing. They might even enjoy it! It's your choice, though. Maybe it would be better to bend to the will of others.

By Dpconsu (Dpconsu) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 02:00 am: Edit

This is really for Ramondeo,
If I understood girlchef correctly, she has a two week cycle of menus and as she only mentioned one distributer, it is logical to assume that she is bound by an agreement with a corporation, probably "SYSCO" or some such other enterprize. Therefore, she is very limited as to what she gets to order. READ THE FIRST POSTINGS!

By Panini (Panini) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 03:01 pm: Edit

I read the first posting and did not get that at all,she fishing for new ideas. If the cycle is primarily for staffers than poll them and see what it is that they want. Then blend with the campers menu. Some of my first jobs were in the Poconos at camps, it was a blast! You should be able to make everyone happy. Just don't forget the kids have to have a nutritionally balanced meal. Don't leave it up to them to pick and choose. Carbs,water etc. Make yourself visable in the dining hall. Sit and eat with campers and staff once and a while. I loved these jobs because I was not that knowedgeable then but I was certainly the big person on camp us.
If you are contracted with Sysco, even better, they will have to get whatever you want. They carry everthing anyway. Midnight staff snacks were always a big hit.
Have fun!!

By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 05:04 pm: Edit

Well, actually, it isn't Sysco. There is a problem with the size of the delivery trucks that can travel on the small road to the camp kitchen. Sysco has only 18 wheelers so they won't/can't deliver. Currently we use US Foodservice, but they don't deliver everything, like milk and produce.

I used to work for Sysco. I still bleed blue cubes, lol!

This problem of mine all really boils down to the daytime cook, who is not my boss but has worked at the camp for 13 years and this is the way they have always done it. The camp director, who told me I could do anything I wanted with the menu, is the one who blows in the wind.

Anyway, I was only fishing around for menu ideas.


By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 05:09 pm: Edit

Dpconsu - You seem to make alot of assumptions from a pretty limited amount of information. I don't follow your logic. She said she "met with the food service distributor to look at some better items to use to cut back on the waste." How do you jump to "she is bound by an agreement with a corporation, probably "SYSCO" or some such other enterprize" ?

Even if she were limited, she could take the ingredients from meatballs, spaghetti, tacos, ham and turkey roast and do a whole lot more than those particular meals with them.

What's the real scoop girlchef?

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 05:11 pm: Edit

Wow - I guess we were posting at just the same time, girlchef. Thanks for the clarification!

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 05:12 pm: Edit

Panini - thanks!

By Panini (Panini) on Saturday, July 08, 2000 - 10:50 pm: Edit

Do you serve family style for each table? A pinch of sugar in the vegies goes a long way.Do you serve things like meatloaf, mashed potatoes,etc?
Don't let yourself be intimidated by the lifer.Take charge. Come up with new menu ideas. We used to give hokey names for things like shepperds pie. Maybe instead of speghetti you can make a pasta dish like baked zita.Dump cake for dessert. Let us know more about the gredients on hand.
Most of all, have fun and don't settle for mediocrity.

By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 10:28 am: Edit

Thanks to you for your nice support, Panini, Ramodeo, and Cyberelvis.

Michael, as a consultant, do you approach your clients with such a negatives? I really wanted to say much more, but truthfully, your post stopped me in my tracks. BTW, I looked at your website. You need some help with it. It ought to load the same for Netscape and IE. From Netscape, it looks like it bled over. I hope for the sake of your bottom line, you didn't have to pay too much to have your site done for you.

Now, to the heart of the matter.

I really was just looking for menu suggestions. I am concerned about the nutritional quality of the food they have been serving at camp. I have asked for the numbers, food cost, what the cost of the served meals are, etc. Have not gotten any answers, though. I think that since the camp has never employed a professional before, they may not have ever taken a good look at their numbers. I even told the director how much money I could save them by changing stuff around, but maybe she feels it is unimportant to look at the numbers or something. Or she just doesn't want to rock the boat with the lifer daycook. I don't want to upset the applecart, either, but I have a hard time, professionally speaking, seeing how awful this kitchen is run.

Waste number one - all extra food that comes from preping goes into the compost buckets. So, for example, brocolli that they use the crowns of for the salad bar, the stems go into the compost bucket. I have begun chopping up the stems and adding them to the crowns and putting them all together in the serving dish. At the end of the day, the leftovers from prepping all day are just tosses. I suggested making a hearty vegetable soup out of it. I still want to implement that.

They don't serve milk at all three meals because getting milk delivered seems to be a problem. For dinner we serve water (which isn't that bad of a thing, but milk would be better), or nasty bug juice, a powder mix that is a neon color, blue, orange, red. Sob.....I just can't stand it.

The produce is awful, too. At this time of year, where we are in Central PA, it is a high crime to see the anemic tomatoes show up in the walk-in. And the thing is someone actually stops at a store to buy them.

Moreover, I have a problem with cooking those turkey breast/thigh things and baked potatoes all at the same meal. The kitchen is hot enough as it is. It doesn't need to have the convection ovens going all day. She was putting them right from the freezer to the oven. Geesh. Last week I added a pulled-chicken barbeque to the menu, which got rave reviews from the staff. Heating it up caused much less heat in the kitchen, which everyone seemed to appreciate.

So my three major concerns are:
1) Better nutrition
2) less heat in the kitchen which is controllable with a menu change.
3) less waste

Can I have the recipe for dumpcake? The current desserts run from ice cream bars to canned puddings and applesauce. The daycook keeps the brownies and cakes for her lunch menu, along with hot dogs, mac and cheese (which she buys premade), subs, pizza - in otherwords all the good things, and she isn't about to give up any of these.

Yes, we serve family style.

Looking forward to more constructive input from you all.


By Panini (Panini) on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 04:26 pm: Edit

Dump cake is canned cherry or apple filling or what ever, pour white cake mix over the top , dot with butter and bake.

It's hard for me to remember, 30 yrs ago, but we used to do the sloppy joe thing, chicken fried steak,hamberger helper type thing,chicken tetrazini, etc,
You mighr want to try theme nights,Mexican fajitas, Chinese stir fry with all those broccoli stems and waste,Sweedish meatballs over noodles,
German Brats, Southwest bar b que which you already did, America pot roast etc. just an idea. You can substitute any prepared items in these dishes. I did cook for a residential treatment camp for emotionally and mentally disturbed, so watch you sugar, preservatives, salt etc. for your staffs sake.
What's camp with out BUG JUICE? You can dress it up with bottled or canned concentrates, throw in a bottle of gingerale and a can of lemonade.
Good luck and make it fun food for the campers and staff. You budget is like a country club, the monies come in up front, like memberships, and is dispursed. You might be better off just doing your thing and just ask how your doing as you go along.

By Girlchef (Girlchef) on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 08:28 pm: Edit

Wow! You really came through. Those are great ideas. I hate getting menu block, if you know what I mean. Super, especially about the drinks.

And the dump cake.



By a_howe on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 10:04 pm: Edit

Camp-that brings back memories.
The one piece of advice I'd offer anyone in a camp situation is not to go too far off the beaten path for the kids. I was employed at a camp that wanted to go the most natural, organic route possible. this resulted in a menu that scared a lot of kids (and councelors) and an OVERWELMING amount of cereal, toasted cheese sandwiches and PB&J's being requested.
The big hit nights were nights where councelors hosted or we had a theme. One councelor did a mexican night, which was a huge hit. Also, a make-your-own-sundae bar that was a huge crowd pleaser! Good luck.

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