Behind the Scenes: Planning the Camp Menu

We have loved taking you Behind the Scenes this year, and today’s topic might just be the most mysterious: planning the camp menu!

Have you ever noticed how we have your favorite meals more regularly? That every summer we have a few brand new recipes? Or that every day has a huge variety of types of food and flavors? That magic does not happen by accident! In fact, we think you’re going to be surprised by just how much thought and effort goes into every food decision the Kitchen Staff makes. It is a science… and a tasty one at that!

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How do they plan the menu?

When planning, they focus on breakfast first, then they look at lunch and dinner together, and then we plan the desserts. Gervais types it on a detailed spreadsheet that is hung in the Kitchen for all Kitchen Staff to look over, and Alli puts it on a session calendar to look at the overall picture.

Every lunch and dinner has a few slots that need to be filled: a meat, veggie, starch, bread, and dessert.

For all of our meals, they think through what the allergy option is going to be. The goal is to match it as closely as possible to the real dish - think gluten-free buns and veggie patties in place of regular hamburger buns and ground beef patties. If it’s not an easy substitute, they think of the next best thing.

From there, they start looking for balance - the most important thing! Here are a few examples:

  • The hardest part of planning breakfast is making sure they don’t serve our amazing bacon every morning! We rotate sweet (pancakes) and savory (frittata) breakfasts as well.
  • They don’t want to serve chicken 3 meals in a row, so they rotate meats aka we’ll have Meatloaf (ground beef) then Cheesy Chicken then Pork Chops then Hamburgers, and so on.
  • They have to spread out the fun theme meals–it wouldn’t be fun to have Mexican Night, Birthday Ball, Italian Night, and Carnival all in the same week. Since we do repeat our favorite meals (Chicken Fingers and BLTs!), they also spread those out throughout the session
  • We also have to look at how difficult a meal is to prepare. If they’re smoking Pork Butts for BBQ, they have to cook it the day prior so it has plenty of time in the smoker to become tender. They will plan an easier meal (BLTs) to not overwhelm “Cook Side.”
  • They also consider the equipment needed to cook recipes. If they’re cooking Spaghetti, they prepare that in our braziers (imagine a bathtub-sized pot for boiling water or cooking spaghetti sauce), and then the green beans are roasted in the oven.
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How does food ordering and deliveries work?

We have 3 different food distributors to provide Greystone with the ingredients to prepare our meals.

  • Sysco: our main distributor comes twice a week -they have almost everything we need to feed the campers! It takes about 2 hours to get the full Sysco shopping list put together. Gervais will take inventory of all ingredients on hand and make a list of the “basics” we need. Then he sits down and walks through the menu and takes note of the ingredients we need specifically for the next 4 days. Luckily, the Sysco truck always arrives before breakfast on its delivery day, so we do not have to purchase ingredients too far in advance.
  • Paul Collins Produce: An Asheville-based company that drops off all of our produce (fruits and vegetables) three times a week. Y’all sure do love our fruit and salad bars! Other than looking at what produce they specifically need for the main meals served, Gervais normally just glances in our walk-in produce cooler, sees what we have, and then (from memory) places that order with Paul Collins.
  • International Gourmet Foods (IGF): They deliver once a week and provide us with specialty items like the Caputo 00 pizza flour, olives and pickles for the salad bar, gluten-free foods, and the olive oil we put on the tables.
  • We also order the Ice Hut granola bars and some allergy-free foods from the local Co-op.

It never fails that they need to make a quick run to the grocery store for smaller items!

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What about new recipes?

Gervais and Alli have been preparing food on a large scale for over 50 years, that experience allows them to look at a recipe and know if it can easily be prepared for 800 campers and staff. Luckily, the Kitchen has top-of-the-line equipment which allows most new recipes to be followed as is.

New recipes either come from a new dish they have made at home during the winter or a new menu item to satisfy whatever fun theme meal we’re having. They use a software program to scale up a recipe from “Serves 8” to “Serves 800”, but even that can be incorrect. They’ll look at the main ingredient in a recipe and match up its amount to an already existing recipe to help scale it. For example, most of the time they plan for 4oz of chicken per person per meal, but if a recipe scales up to only 3oz, they’ll bump it a little more to make sure they prepare enough.

Our Prep Side consistently prepares new recipes when finding vegan and vegetarian options for the salad bar. Just like the campers love trying new activities to advance their skills, the Kitchen Staff does, too! Trying new recipes allows them to step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills.