Cooks: The Heart of a Camp


Most people love to eat great food, but while working in a remote camp, such as a Tree planting camp, food takes on more of an emotional role in addition to a mandatory daily function. In fact, if you ask anyone who has worked in a camp before just how important the food is, they will most definitely say that the food is the highlight of their day and the phrase “the heart of the camp is the kitchen” is used frequently.

So what does it all mean, cooking in a camp? What makes up this heart that feeds and nourishes so many people? Most people have a difficult time describing what exactly it is, because it becomes more of a personal feeling and interpretation than something that has a precise definition. When you are working outside, in all kinds of weather, doing extremely physically demanding work, how do you truly explain the feeling of coming back to camp at the end of a really long day to a hot, delicious meal served with a smile? It’s kind of like a warm blanket and your favorite pair of slippers inducing relaxation and comfort. The feeling you have when you first wake up in the bitter cold of the early spring season, that the smells, light and soul coming from the kitchen helps you crawl out of bed and get moving.

Cooking in camp extends well past the physical use of one’s hands to create a tasty meal people will enjoy, it takes on a more intangible role as well. The cook becomes the den mother or father to the camp’s residents, who frequently come to the cook to talk about their day, to ask for advice, when they are sick and when they are lonely amongst other things. The cook becomes the go-to person for those in camp, the common thread of comfort for all of those working hard, the heart. In my experience, this connection with the cook makes the food taste that much better. Though it’s not possible to please everyone, every time, assembling and delivering a meal made with love is always well received.

Cooking in a camp situation is hard work and requires a high level of dedication. Being responsible for the nourishment of other human beings is not an easy task, especially when doing so in the middle of nowhere. There is an immense amount of planning, organization and skill required to cook in a remote setting, not to mention the tremendous amount of responsibility associated with doing so. There are menus to plan, grocery orders to place, food safety plans to review, the list goes on and on. Cooks are in fact artists and take immense pride in their creations, pouring their heart and soul into their work day after day.

Cooks are up well before the crack of dawn to make sure that breakfast is hot and ready for those going out to work for the day and when the camp workers are relaxing during the evening after dinner, the cooks are often preparing for the next morning.

The role of a camp cook is an extremely challenging one, however it’s completely worth it, those experienced camp cooks know it is truly one of the most rewarding experiences they will ever encounter. Knowing that you and the food you’ve created is the highlight of so many people’s day is rewarding in itself, but comments like “that was the best meal I’ve ever had” or “I definitely don’t eat like this at home” stick with you forever.

What are some of your most fond meals that you have had while working in camp?

Megan Maclure,

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” —-Adelle Davis