CulinArt takes summer camp food service to new heights - CulinArt Group

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CulinArt takes summer camp food service to new heights

August 11, 2021—Summer camp is, by nature, a situation fraught with concerns for those charged with feeding campers. From the need to produce large quantities of meals that recharge young minds and bodies while pleasing everyone in short time periods, to an acute awareness of food allergies and food safety, the task is no walk in the park, as it were. This year, layer on the dangers of COVID-19 and the low vaccination rates of youngsters and the concerns and challenges are only heightened.

CulinArt managers overseeing such operations, however, stepped up to the task in typical fashion.

One of those operations is Camp Winacka, a Girl Scout camp in the mountains northeast of San Diego where, this summer, CulinArt has been feeding approx. 200 Scouts and 50 staff three meals a day. Campers range in age from six to 18 and present a variety of dietary needs when they sit down to dine, historically family-style. “Due to regional COVID-19 regulations,” says Rachid Lahik, regional culinary director for CulinArt, “we had to create an entirely new serving system for this unit.”

Instead of passing bowls and ladles, Scouts move through one of two serving stations where staff dish up the sort of “hospitality that CulinArt is known for,” Lahik notes. This includes French toast or Denver scrambled eggs for breakfast; chicken Teriyaki or beef chili for lunch; and, say, roast beef and mashed potatoes or barbeque chicken for dinner—not to mention, of course, s’mores or pretzels and string cheese for evening snacks.

This is the first time Lahik, who joined CulinArt in 2019, has run a summer camp. “Having the Girls Scouts of San Diego as a partner has been a great experience,” he says. “We have been focused on food quality and safety. Our three-week menu is constantly evolving based on feedback from the Program Director and campers. So far this summer, this unit has been successful and receiving great feedback. We have also been able to connect with Chefs to End Hunger to reallocate all leftover food to communities in need. I am happy to have been able to connect the Girl Scouts with this great cause.”

Lahik adds that by the end of the Camp season, he and the team at Camp Winacka will have served more than 18,000 meals. Another CulinArt camp manager familiar with that kind of volume this summer is Heather Galli, who is the sole CulinArt associate at South Mountain YMCA Camps in Reinholds, Pa., about 90 minutes northwest of Philadelphia.

For 210 campers and staff, Galli—with help from a cook, utility, and three salad/prep workers employed by the camp—produces three meals a day plus snacks six days a week. The list of special meal options is long: “vegan, vegetarian, no dairy, no soy, no pork/beef, no nuts of any kind, no honey, no strawberries,” she explains.

Galli performs all chef and manager responsibilities which, because of the meal period structure, equates to typical 10-hour day. “Heather preps out every meal for the entire week for the team to finish,” says District Manager Joe Ginder. “She has put in a lot of time to make this successful and train the existing staff to meet our standards.”

This includes all summer holidays, starting from the camp’s opening on Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. South Mountain attracts both youth organizations who hold their camps there as well as families and individuals taking camp vacations. Despite a rainy opening weekend, “Heather got tremendous feedback from guests on the quality of food she brought to their annual vacation destination,” Ginder notes, adding, “we receive positive feedback every week on meal options not only for campers but the large YMCA staff that runs the mountain.”

Other summer camps where CulinArt staff are raising the culinary bar include:

  • George School, Newtown, Pa., where lunch is provided to 240 day and equestrian campers and 75 staff daily, according to Tony Velez, dir. of dining services. CulinArt offers one hot option daily (with a vegetarian alternative) along with sandwiches, salads, fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks and snacks. As at Camp Winacka, two service points keep the kids socially distanced.
  • Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, which hosts 465 campers over five weeks in an urban setting. With Food Service Manager Jessica Borkosky’s oversight, CulinArt serves two meals a day to 75 of those campers, including such popular items as burgers (and Beyond Burgers), pizza, fried chicken, salads, and turkey-and-cheese roll-ups.
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  • August 12, 2021
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What our clients are saying

“Just came back to campus after a year of pandemic [and] just want to say that I can really tell the effort that both dining halls and all of the other locations are really putting in to make us students still feel like there is more than enough food available, good food, fresh food, healthy food. I don't think students are aware that there is such a food shortage/worker shortage and that what goes on behind the scenes must be a logistical nightmare. But I recognize it at least :) the staff was been so friendly and kind, even in the very rare occasion when something took longer than expected I could tell they were trying their absolute hardest to provide it fast and with great quality. Great job to all of them, this one student greatly appreciates the effort you all do. -Student, Stony Brook University”

“This is EXACTLY the type of service and experience we had always envisioned for our patients at MSK Koch!  Thank you Chef Ryan for going out of your way for this patient and all patients and staff!”

“I’m the GM for Branson [Ultrasonics] and based in the Brookfield office.  This is the first week that the café has been up and running in our new headquarters and just want to acknowledge the great job Adam Schnittert and the CulinArt staff onsite have done.  Our employees’ feedback thus far has been very positive.  The expanded options and menu quality have been very well received.  Just want to send you a quick note of thanks.”

“I wanted to recognize the individuals at the Valley Forge Site Café who have been supporting us throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.  I have been onsite at least a few days every week since June 2020 and I noticed that the team continued to provide quality and timely service for breakfast and lunch.  They effectively packaged the food to maintain CDC guidelines. Thank you!  ”

“I just wanted to express my thanks and give two thumbs up for the updates to our lunch menu. My selections have been quite tasty—corned beef Reuben, jambalaya—and I appreciate that, too! I am looking forward to trying some new items in the coming weeks. Keep up the good work!”

“Thank You! Chef Budd [and team], you overcame a new online ordering system (and hundreds of labels daily!), provided creative and healthy menus, continued to connect with local farmers to incorporate locally sourced ingredients, and worked tirelessly to serve the school community on three campuses.  While it feels like you are all a little like the Wizard of Oz right now, working behind a curtain in a kitchen far away, we sense your smiles and your passion to deliver the best possible service during these trying times. We are all so grateful!”

“Thank you for including me today in the food waste demonstration/[chef competition] and flattering me with the role of “judge.” I will proudly don the [Stop Food Waste Day] apron the next time I plan an “event” in our own kitchen. I think this is a very worthwhile cause and the statistics you read off are staggering. They, alone, can intimidate a home chef, let alone be the “driver’ for a professional one.”

“I wanted to let you know that for this entire school year I have been so well fed! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE all the diversity of salad choices we have each day and the amazing entrees.  My favorites are the carnitas, chili, curry, and cajun chicken days.  I am so grateful for all the care that goes into the food because I know I do not eat enough vegetables or balanced meals without you and your crew's work.  Thank you so much!  You take such great care of us!!”

“Just wanted to thank you and the team at Lake Success for taking care of us for my daughter's birthday. I figured the event was going to be straight forward, but it felt like the event was treated with just as much care and attention to detail as a wedding or other big event, which was very much appreciated. You anticipated everything that we needed and are so capable, bravo! The party was 10x more beautiful and lovely in reality compared to how I imagined it, thanks to you guys.”

“Thank you and your staff for all the care and thought you give CSW adults and students. You approach events with such care and elegance- I don’t know how you do it! Especially day after day. Please thank all your staff for their wonderful work and kind manner with all of us. Here is to a great year!”

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