Job Description of a Camp Cook

Sep 20, 2019

Camp chefs require no formal education. Learn about education options, training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Camp cooks prepare and make a large amount of food for campers or vacationers, working efficiently off a budget. Culinary experience is usually preferred, and some camp cooks have completed formal cooking programs.

Essential Information

A camp cook is responsible for creating recipes and preparing all meals served at an outdoor, tourism, child care, or recreation facility. This person also monitors the safety and sanitary levels of activities within the kitchen to ensure that the food is cooked in clean and safe environment. While it is possible to work as a camp cook with no formal education, on-the-job training under a more experienced cook is provided in almost all cases. Those interested in a formal education may choose to complete a culinary arts program at the undergraduate level.

Required Education None mandatory; certificate, diploma, and degree programs in the culinary arts are available; on-the-job training is typically provided
Other Requirements Voluntary certification as a food safety manager is available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% for all chefs and head cooks
Median Annual Salary (2018) $48,460 for all chefs and head cooks

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training and Requirements

Candidates interested in becoming camp cooks should have some comparable experience, such as working in a lodge or school kitchen. Additionally, employers may prefer to hire a certified food safety manager. A camp cook typically must be at least 18 years old with a valid U.S. driver's license.

Although there's no set educational requirement for this career, a person interested in becoming a camp cook may attend a postsecondary culinary arts school to learn necessary techniques and skills. These programs may offer a broad overview of cooking and menu planning techniques, or they may offer a specialization in a realm such as classic French cooking or desserts. They may result in a certificate, diploma, or undergraduate degree.

However, many people learn kitchen skills through hands-on experience or on-the-job training. Working as a short-order cook or food preparation cook may introduce someone to the communication styles and fundamental skills needed to pursue a leadership role in a kitchen. A more seasoned chef may teach an entry-level cook how to prepare various recipes and maintain a working kitchen.

Job Duties

A camp cook's primary concern is food preparation within a set budget. A camp cook must be able to create unique menus that fit a variety of meal plans, including those with gluten, nut, or other food allergies. Vegetarian food preparation is also an important skill set. A camp cook must be able prepare various meals for the program to fit the nutritional needs of all campers.

It is also important for a camp cook to be able to monitor food inventories and prepare orders for additional goods. A camp cook must be able to work within a budget and base orders off of available funds, while minimizing waste.

He or she must be a good leader and capable of providing direction. A cook typically manages other kitchen staff, assistant cooks, food preparation workers, and dishwashing staff. The cook must be able to assign tasks to the crew based on ability.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $81,150 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $26,320 or less per year. The employment of such cooks is expected to increase much faster than average between 2018 and 2028, per the BLS.

Camp cooks should have prior experience with food prep and cooking, which can be attained on the job or through postsecondary training programs. Knowledge of each camper's special dietary needs is essential, so camp cooks must be able to create diverse meals while sticking to a budget.

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