Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cutting Tables

We've been asked to explain the mystery surrounding the "Do Not Set" cups that occasionally appear on staff tables in the dining hall. This morning there were 32 campers, leaders, and staff who attended the equestrian overnight program and had breakfast at Camp Eagle before riding horses back to Cedars. Therefore, we did not serve 32 in the dining hall, meaning that we cut 4 tables for breakfast (32 / 8 people per table) to ensure that we do not overcook and waste food. Other recurring table reductions are for NBZ Foxmen, troops that choose to host parents night during the week with a potluck meal in their campsite, aviation flight days, and other camp programs. The dining hall staff works to move the "Do Not Set" cups around so that staff tables are cut equally and fairly. Sometimes there is a naughty staff table at odds with the program director, in which case he declares that table to be cut first.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Staff of the Week & Charlene Myers

As I've said before, the dining hall staff this year is one of the best ever. Carl was this year's first recipient of the CIT of the week award. Kyle received the youth staff of the week last week. Both were well deserved.

Let me continue the staff introductions with Charlene Myers. This is Charlene's 4th year on staff. She previously was one of the afternoon cooks but this year switched to mornings, arriving at 6:00 AM. You'll never find Charlene standing still. She is always doing something, whether that's panning food, watching the ovens, sweeping floors, getting food from storage, or other task. Charlene cooks at the new grade school in Fremont during the academic year, and has cooked in the Fremont school system for 35 years. Through this extensive experience she has been able to teach us new tricks. Charlene bakes scrumptious goodies as a hobby and side business. Most days she brings us a plate of the edge pieces for the kitchen staff to share. We don't go hungry around here. Charlene once showed us a picture of herself and President Clinton. She was working for a caterer in Omaha, and he was making a campaign stop at a function that was catered by her employer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sorting Silverware

This week we have been integrating adult volunteers to help sort silverware following meals. It is a tedious task, and it really helps the dishroom crew finish more quickly to have the extra help. The best silverware sorter in the history of camp is Ben Nachman. I refer to him as Edward Scissorhands for his ability to sort silverware by the fistfull with both hands at the same time. Talk about finger dexterity, he should be a magician. One thing is for certain, he is a genuinely nice young man, and we miss having him around camp.

Monday, June 22, 2009


This week we are cooking for a few less tables than the past couple, but most of the difference is offset by an increase at Camp Eagle, which is hosting Operation Purple, a camping opportunity for children with a parent in the armed forces. We are pleased to support this effort.

Refrigeration, freezing, and telephone have been restored--still waiting for internet service.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


We're still recovering from the electrical storms of early Friday morning. Fortunately, there was no physical damage around camp. However, it appears that the dining hall took a lightning bolt, as we have lost internet connectivity, the telephone system, and part of the electrical service to the coolers and freezer. Given the experience and resourcefullness of the food service staff, we have been able to adjust, but the challenges have us all worn down this week. Not to be worried, if everything was predictable and easy around here, it would be boring and uninspired.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sorry, no blog post today--I'm eating my birthday cake!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cook Marty Kirchmeier

I have a lot of great help in the dining hall this year. It seems appropriate to highlight their contributions in a series of posts spread over the summer. I'll begin with Marty Kirchmeier. Marty is a hard-working cook who originally started in the dish room in 2004. He is an Eagle Scout from Sioux City who attends the University of Iowa. There is very little about the dining hall that Marty does not know. His favorite activity is either mopping or running the floor machine.

This year Marty is staying in the basement of Karp with the "senior" members of staff and the opossumus clan. They left AARP membership materials on his bunk, and we now refer to Marty as a junior AARP member.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My First Summer

Preparing the food orders for Thursday (Cash-Wa) and Friday (Sysco), I started thinking about the way things used to be. Originally there was no telephone in the dining hall. The only phone was in the camp office. Hence, to order food, I would have to go up to the administration building to use the phone. (There were no cell phones in 1990 either.) Being a busy office, it was hard to hear. Plus, I was tying up their line and often got a busy signal with the food vendors. Sometimes, I would drive home to order food. At the time, the vendors required that I use product numbers (542200) rather than the item (1/2 oz. strawberry jam packets) for what was to be ordered. It was a large undertaking. Presently, the dining hall has a dedicated telephone number. I place several orders per week and get food deliveries 3 times per week while milk, juice, and ice cream is delivered twice per week. A salesperson from each vendor comes to camp once each week with a wireless laptop. They have real-time information about what is available in their warehouses. I simply tell them what I want, and they confirm the order. They are familiar with what we use on a regular basis, which makes ordering much easier. I could place web orders, but even the salespeople advise against it for two reasons. First, there is no information provided about stock outs. In other words, I could place an order, and only find out that they were out of a particular item when the truck arrived. Second, the order entry requires a high degree of precision and product knowledge. For instance, recognizing that ice cream is ordered by the carton of 24 serving cups rather than a case of 6 cartons. We have very good working relationships with all of our dining hall vendors, which has made my job a lot easier.

Monday, June 15, 2009


We are fortunate to get wonderful bread and buns donated by Rotella's Italian Bakery in Omaha. It is delivered weekly, and we place it on bread rollers for storage until it is needed. The delivery ticket for this week indicated 5,400 bread items. Yet, the week 2 crowd managed to eat through our supply of sliced bread. We have plenty of jelly packets and peanut butter, but the bread is on the way!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Beef Stroganoff has been a well-received staple of the Sunday dinner menu for many years. Unfortunately Betty Crocker opted to discontinue the 14-pound food service cases of pasta noodles and seasoning mix. Though it is the same product as the Hamburger Helper family-size boxes you find at your local grocery store, purchasing and opening enough individual boxes to serve 650 is not practical. Marty Kirchmeier and Chuckles have been joking around the kitchen that they will go into business making stroganoff noodles along with the appropriately sized Rubbermaid containers that we can no longer get to fit the silverware cart. Without stroganoff to serve tonight, we will be dining on beef stew with added green beans, french bread, fruit salad, and chocolate pudding.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


With closing campfire in the dining hall last night, the floors still need some attention tomorrow morning before the next group of campers arrive. The usual Saturday morning continental breakfast was served this morning (doughnut, milk, juice, cereal). This is an especially light day because there are leftover 6' party subs from staff week that will be served for the Sunday staff lunch. When no cooking is needed for Sunday lunch, it means more time for us to recover a little in the dining hall. Thanks for the break, Don (camp director).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Guardian of the Council Fire

Guest blogger, Chuck McAllister: Mom was elevated from Sachem to Guardian last night. Due to rain earlier in the day, ceremonies were held in the dining hall. Even though most of us would prefer holding ceremonies at the regular site, the dining hall aspect was most appropriate for Mom's elevation. She was certainly caught by surprise, and it was an emotional night for all. She says that she was still teary-eyed (and undoubtedly tired) on the way home and drove right past her driveway, turning around at the highway.

In the dining hall today, we are baking almost 1500 chocolate chip cookies for parents night. Next to go in the ovens are the baked beans and sloppy joes....yep, we decided to take a break from the taco boats that have been done for the past couple of years. Since the Roberts milk truck just pulled up to the dock earlier than anticipated, I'd better go rotate milk in the cooler before Mom is calling my name.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NCS Visitation

Today we are expecting the NCS visitation team. If you are not familiar, the Boy Scouts have external visitors who evaluate all aspects of summer camp to ensure that acceptable standards are being met. We're ready in the dining hall. The hot/cold charts are continually current, food thermometers are always used to check food temperature before it is served, the storeroom is clean and organized, and other food service requirements are being met. We don't do anything special just because it's NCS day, just another day in the kitchen, and the State of Nebraska does a surprise visit. This reminds me--one year NCS and the state happened to come on the same day--that was a crazy day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Old Dining Hall

Our current dining hall opened in 1990, the same summer that I started as food service manager, making 2009 my 20th year. I cooked a couple of times in the old dining hall as a volunteer, probably for camporee or OA events. It was 140 degrees in the kitchen because it wasn't ventilated well at all. Back then summer camp hosted 150-200 Scouts per week and we cooked a little more from scratch. The Scoutmasters used to cook the Wednesday night meal, and one week, Darlene (the cook at the time) made cinnamon rolls for Thursday breakfast. Well, the Scoutmasters fried chicken for Wednesday dinner and served the cinnamon rolls for dessert. Darlene freaked when she arrived on Thursday morning to find that the breakfast she prepared was gone! In the current dining hall, I have one piece of equipment from the old dining hall--that's the brazer, and it is at least 35 years old.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Dining Hall Procedures

We have made some changes this year to how food is served in the dining hall. Most notably, north and south camp waiters are served at the same time. North camp enters the old "In" door while south camp comes in what we used to call the "Out" door. Both exit through the center door. This allows us to cut down on the time it takes everyone to get their food. It requires a few extra hands to pull trays from the heat stacks and hand bowls and platters to the waiters, but it has been working pretty well so far. It will be a little tricky for lunch today (hamburgers) when we attempt to serve seconds, have a salad bar, refill butter & peanut butter containers, and replace empty bread bags with fresh loaves.