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  • Writer's picturerayorndorff

Cooking for a crowd!

It has been a whirlwind 3 weeks as Shirley and I started our summer season at IRMR up in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. This is an absolutely beautiful place to spend the summer. Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch has something for everyone. For me, lots of long hours, split shifts, and aching feet, but it has been worth every minute as I am working alongside our executive chef, Victor Kendelhart. So many things to learn about preparing meals for larger numbers of guests and staff. Victor has been great in letting me run with the employee meal planning, prep, and delivery for lunch and dinner.

Injected into all of this of course is my core philosophy of eating fresh and colorfully! So what have I learned so far in this summer externship? I've learned that I don't yet have a grasp on portion and quantities for 15-20 people. I'm either cooking too little, or cooking too much. It sounds like simple math, but sometimes the numbers just don't 'add' up. I've learned how to simultaneously prepare a meal for the hungry, and adapt the recipe for our small group of Vegan's on staff. There is usually some joint preparation that can be done, and then split as the proteins go into the main portion. Advance preparation and thought goes into what ingredients are vegan and how it affects the dish as it is constructed. I'm also still learning about time management. Helping in the kitchen every morning prepare guest breakfast, smoothies and the ranches signature bagged lunches, leaves only an hour and a half or so to prepare crew lunch. I get a little bit more time in the afternoon as I start my pm shift at 3 and have to have dinner plated for the crew at 5PM. Its always a mad rush at the end, I feel like one of the competition chefs on those TV shows as they count down the minutes and seconds until someone shouts 'times up!' and I throw my hands up in the air as the digital clock on the kitchen wall reads 5:00PM!

One of the greatest things I have experienced here is the collaboration with the other kitchen staff and of course the executive chef. Bouncing menu ideas off of one another, or how to make substitute flavors out of what is available in the kitchen. How to make something vegan, from a great white bean Caesar dressing (thank you John!), to pesto, or tasting and offering suggestions on what else a sauce or dish might need. It truly takes group thought and effort to pull this off day after day and night after night. I sleep well at night from the physical and mental activities of the day. I am blessed to have a general manager and chef (Connie & Vic) who have worked very hard to give Shirley and I two days off in a row (together) to recoup and recharge. I recognize this is unique and unusual, and we are grateful.

We don't let any grass grow under our feet on those days off. We are hiking the Sawtooths, trails here at the ranch, and taking small side trips to small towns nearby. We are off today and heading up to Salmon, ID, where Lewis and Clark spent a few days back in August of 1805 debating how they were going to get to the Pacific Ocean after discovering the headwaters of the Missouri River at the Continental divide. Amazing story of courage perseverance, and in a way, a symbol of this summer as we continue this journey following our passion and making every day count! Till next time, remember -


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