ShyeAnne is a remote camp cook on the spectacular West Coast of British Columbia, Canada.
The Rewards of a Remote Camp Cooking Job
I cook in a remote logging camp for a living. I also take care of the first aid duties when I am the designated first aid attendant on the job.
This is a challenging, financially rewarding career.
Traveling to Work
I fly over vast areas of ocean, rivers, streams and forests to get to work.
I love the adventure of it all. I love being on a remote barge or land camp, far away from the traffic, noise, trials and tribulations of the 'outside' world.
Due to advancements in technology that bring with it instant communication from almost anywhere, that charm of camp cook life has faded a bit.
I Love Mornings
During the summer months, I need to be up and in the kitchen by 3 AM. For some reason, known only to God, I am cheerful in the morning. I like to get my baking for the day during this quiet time before the guys start getting up.
I have learned over the years that not everyone is in the same state of bliss as I am in the AM. I am a quick study when it comes to body language, and I recognize that on some mornings, it is best to just sing and dance on the inside. Outward displays of cheerfulness may be met with grumpy glances or frosty frowns.
Camp Kitchen Facility
The camp kitchen I am currently working in is equipped with the basics. I have a flat-top propane grill, six burners, and two ovens. I have three refrigerators, two chest freezers, a commercial-size mixer and a meat slicer.
A really well-equipped kitchen would have a dishwasher and a deep fryer, but I do not miss either one of those appliances.
There are anywhere from 2–12 guys in this particular camp, a comfortable number for one person to attend to the catering and cleaning. Some camps are much larger, holding dozens and sometimes hundreds of workers.
Most of the guys, most of the time, are, if not cheerful, at least pleasant. Everyone works hard in a logging camp environment. The guys go about their morning routines, preparing for the day ahead and making sure they have lots of water, food, and bug and bear spray. We are smack in the middle of the great bear rainforest. Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and deer are often spotted at the work sites.
Most of the guys, and the occasional woman, that come into camp are hard-working individuals. The lazy and/or dishonest ones get weeded out pretty fast. Everyone needs to pull their weight and get along in such a small environment.
Every spring, a crew of tree planters comes into camp to plant tree seedlings and begin the reforestation process.
Tree planters are a hearty and hardy bunch of really strong humans with voracious appetites. They swarm into camp, a crew of seedling packing planting warriors. The crew of half a dozen to a dozen planters stays for about a week, planting thousands of trees and eating pounds and pounds of food during that time.
A logging camp breakfast consists of morning meal basics, including bacon, ham and sausage. Depending on the size of the crew, I prep the meats the evening before. I lay the meat on cooking trays to pop in the oven in the morning. Once in a while, I might get creative and make a corned beef hash, but I have found that most guys, over time, like to stick to the breakfast basics. I pan fry frozen cubed or shredded hash brown potatoes. If there are leftover potatoes from the previous night's supper, I will fry those up. I add chopped peppers, green onions, and sometimes thin slices of Chorizo sausage to liven the potatoes up a bit.
Fresh-baked muffins, strudel, pizza pops or just about anything made with puff pastry smells delicious when baked first thing, along with the breakfast meats. I put out a freshly baked item every morning. When the baked goods, breakfast meats and hash browns are ready, they go into the steam table to stay warm. I prepare eggs to order for the guys. I make a pot of porridge if there is a porridge eater or two in the crew. Fresh fruit, berries, cut melons and pineapple, for example, are prepped and made available during breakfast.
I cook a never-ending stream of food to keep the crew's appetites satisfied. I start their day with fresh muffins, bacon, hash browns and eggs, french toast, pancakes or omelets – their choice. The guys prepare their own lunches. I put out four or five deli meats on the lunch table as well as two or three cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumbers, sliced peppers and anything else that would be good on a sandwich or in a wrap. There are also hard-boiled eggs, leftover supper meats, apples, oranges, bananas and other fruits in season available.
They come back to a hearty home-cooked meal at the end of the day. I cook a wide variety of dishes, including lasagna, pot roast, pork chops, ham, turkey – the list goes on. The main course usually consists of a starch, potatoes, rice, noodles, etc., and two vegetables, meat, and gravy or cheese sauce if warranted. Fresh dessert is prepared daily, including pies, cakes, and pudding.
My favorite task in camp is baking fresh baked goods. I enjoy making homemade bread and cinnamon buns, cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and other pastries, and the guys love eating them. I love everything about baking, from the mixing to the heavenly aroma and tasting the final product.
A close second is making homemade soup. Soup-building is always an adventure, and no two pots of soup are ever the same.
I love the adventure of boating to work. I am not too crazy about flying in little float planes anymore. I love seeing bears, wolves and cougars – all from a distance, mind you! I enjoy all the trials and tribulations and all the hard-working, hard-living men and women that I encounter out here in the bush. This is a challenging and rewarding job. I hope I get to do it for a few more years.
Questions & Answers
Question: I currently work for a catering company out of Edmonton. For various reasons, I'm looking for something more resembling the work you. Do you have any job searching tactics that you can pass on to obtaining this goal?
Answer: I compiled a list of all the logging companies on Vancouver Island, where I live, and sent resumes to the ones I researched and found out had remote camps. Networking and word of mouth helped me narrow down my search. I also found out the names of catering companies providing services for the camps and sent my resumes to them. It took me a couple of months to get the first job. I have worked as steadily as I chose to for the past 25 years now. I was advised to get Occupational 1st Aid Level 3 certification which helped me secure employment too. There is a need for 1st Aid Attendants; there needs to be one once the numbers each at a certain level. It makes sense for the cook to have certification and it usually nets a bit more of an hourly wage if you are in a union camp. 1st Aid certification helps but isn't necessary. I secured employment in many camps without having the certification too. Asking questions of people such as myself is a good networking tool.
© 2016 ShyeAnne