As Tawonga’s Kitchen Manager, Aaron Lurie is responsible for providing tasty, healthy and nourishing meals for nearly 500 people each and every day. Aaron’s first season on staff was in 2008 as a prep cook. Since then he’s worked as a lead cook as well as the assistant kitchen manager, gaining an intimate knowledge of Tawonga’s kitchen. When speaking with Aaron you can really sense how deeply Camp has impacted his life and the pride he feels giving back to the community. Check out a short interview with Aaron to get a behind the scenes look at Camp Tawonga’s kitchen:
What is your role as Tawonga’s Kitchen Manager?
As kitchen manager, my primary responsibility is to make sure the entire kitchen is running smoothly and that the meals are cooked in an orderly fashion. I create the weekly menus for the main kitchen and alternative foods department as well as manage inventory and ordering from the various vendors. On top of that I supervise and support all of the individuals who work in the kitchen.
What are some new developments in the Tawonga kitchen?
Because the Tawonga community continues to grow we are accounting for bigger quantities and more service. Accommodating various alternative food needs is something we put a lot of thought and care into– no matter what your dietary needs are I guarantee there is something for you to eat here at Camp! The salad bar that we brought in last year is a major development because it provides kid friendly options like peas, corn, garbanzo beans and other veggies which compliment the main meal. In recent years we’ve also began serving homemade baked goods like breaded desserts and challah.
How has it improved in the last few years?
Our kitchen has improved in a lot of ways. It’s our vision to one day make every single meal from scratch and not rely on frozen or processed food, and we’re almost there. We’re also working really hard to shift to all organic ingredients. For example, we have all organic milk and mostly organic produce. I work with Sysco to find meat that is sustainably raised and when possible order from local sources in Oakdale or from farms in Tuolumne County. We’ve also taken it up a notch by providing a lot of diverse cuisines like curry meals, salmon with risotto, Mediterranean plates, etc.
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
I love the look of relief on prep cooks faces after they successfully pull through an intense shift of prepping, serving and clearing. I really enjoy getting to see them have a family meal together after the shift where they debrief and relax. Another gratifying aspect is the “we want the kitchen staff” cheer– everything we do is for the kids so when it feels good for them, it feels good for us. Sometimes working in the kitchen is stressful but when kids express gratitude for the meal they just ate it’s simply an amazing feeling.
Anything else you would like to share?
Camp Tawonga has been a big part of my life. I started cooking when I was a prep cook here at Tawonga in 2008 and it really helped me gain the neccessary professional skills before entering the “real world” cooking environment. When I worked at The Local Butcher Shop in Oakland I used my experience from the Camp kitchen and flourished in this new working environment because of it. It’s been very rewarding and productive to be a part of this community. I hope I’ve made a positive impact for the people here and for this department in the same way Tawonga has impacted me.
Aaron is a huge reason why campers and staff alike continue to enjoy satisfying, healthy and sustainable meals– thanks Aaron!
Below are pictures of a few kitchen staff members as well as other activities from the day. Tune in again later tonight as we say Shabbat Shalom from Tawonga!