Application To Employ A Camp Cook

I have worked for three different Western Big Game and Fishing Outfits in different capacities for three seasons. I also learned a little in guide school about the business. These outfitters, who are often unique and colorful individuals, have a lot of difficulty keeping employees. They usually chalk it up to it being “hard work” as though they are the only people in the country who know what hard work is.

Most recently, I did a 5 day work-for-stay at an Outfitters lodge in Wyoming. They had the same issues as many others. I was not attached to the job, it was just to give me a place to heal up and do something good for someone else. Seeing and hearing their issues inspired me to write an Application To Employ A Camp Cook. It is doubtful that any outfitters will read this, but if they do, hopefully their ego is smaller than their cowboy hat and they can gain some insight into why they go through 16 employees every season just to keep a few who end up staying the longest, but still leave the outfit early.

  • What size pots and pans do you have?
  • How many cooking surfaces are there and what kind? (Stove eyes, oven, grill, in town, in camp?)
  • What is your typical and max capacity of guests?
  • How many cooks do you typically go through in a season?
  • WHY?
  • How high is the turn-over in your other positions?
  • WHY??
  • If you don’t know why, then what makes you think you will have any luck with me?
  • Do you believe it is professional to speak disdainfully about the myriad of previous cooks you have had in the past to your current staff? Is it acceptable to speak about camp cooks in a low regard?
  • Do you believe that the quality of the ingredients affects the quality of the finished meal? Why?
  • Are you going to ask me to cook $25 dinner plates with $1 worth of ingredients? Will my ingredients all be from the Dollar General? Will I have any control over this?
  • Please provide a beginning inventory list if you are not willing to take my ingredient list for the meal plan you asked me to create.
  • Will I be provided with what I need or reimbursed for bringing my own tools and spices?
  • I cook with cast iron, especially in camp. Is this a problem with your packer? (If there is a problem then don’t hire me or keep your mouth shut.)
  • As the cook/camp manager will I be able to run the kitchen/camp how I need to (as is typically the case)?
  • If yes to the previous question, when I say or do something in the kitchen, such as: keeping people out while I work, or collecting the dishes myself so dirty cowboys don’t get your glasses greasy, will you tell me: “That’s not how we do things around here.” ?
  • Will you constantly tell me how your wife and mother do things? If so, why aren’t they filling the position?
  • Do you intend to hold my tips as ransom until the end of the season and steal them from me if I quit?
  • Do you intend to collect and “tax” my cash tips?
  • Which one is my horse and why?
  • Will my camp hand know how to start and maintain a fire? If he is also working with the animals, will I have to stop cooking to go out there and show him how to do his job? If so, will I be paid extra?
  • Will I have a permanent camp hand taking care of wood and water?
  • If not, will I be paid for doing the job of camp hand and cook?
  • Please list 3 references of cooks who would work for you again. (Who are not currently being paid by you)
  • Please list 3 references of other staff who would work for you again.
  • FINALLY, are you aware of this cowboy cook tradition that I follow: When a cowboy gets between the cook and the stove, you get two other cowboys to hold him down while the cook whips him with a pair of chaps or chinks?

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