So, I am finishing up one glorious month at base camp as kitchen commander. I arranged with Jocelyn to come out here for the whole month of February as a follow up to when I came out here last September. In fact I had to squeeze the month in between some permaculture work and site visits in Hawaii last January and Permaculture voices in March, and I am so glad I did.
Why am I glad? Because it allowed me to really test out the Kitchen Commander position and see what is possible. When I first visited and observed the system in place, I estimated that a good cook could do the job of cooking for the crew and overseeing cleanup as well as improve kitchen systems and do awesome kitchen projects, and I originally, I broke it down something like this...
3-4 hrs. Actually cooking
1 hr. Cleaning and overseeing community members clean up
1/2 - 1 hr. Doing systems improvement like making an inventory spreadsheet, or putting up nice wooden signs to guide people on kitchen use
1/2 - 1 Doing awesome experimental kitchen projects like flavored salts, canning, pickling, etc.
I figured that would make for a six hour day, six days a week, so a 36 hr. Work week which seems plenty fair for a salaried position. And at the same time would allow the kitchen commander to get involved in other awesome Homesteadding activities from making seedballs to fencing, to planting, to hugelkulture, etc.
I compared this position and salary to a restaurant cooking job, which in the super expensive Bay Area pays about $10-15 an hour, for 5 eight hour days a week. In this job you work as hard and as fast as you can for eight often sweaty and grueling hours a day and still have to pay your own rent, some of your own food, commuting expenses if you have them, etc. It's a job for illegal immigrants and passionate obsessed chefs in the making, and it puts you below the poverty line. So, I calculated that you would come out way ahead at wheaton labs, especially sice there is little to spend money on. I figured you would have an easier job AND come out with some savings, probably even be above the poverty line.
So, this month I got to test out my theories, and I will post to this thread over the next month to show people what I did, what I discovered, what we ate (yes I have photos) and how I improved my efficiency over the month.
But, let me give a quick summary, and that is...
After two weeks 'practice' on the kitchen equipment and paleo cooking, and the ingredients at hand, and people's food preferences, I got down to 3hours a day of actual cooking time, and some days less. And about an hour clean up with community members help was very doable. And I didn't have a grueling work pace like in a restaurant, in fact I had a relaxed work pace.
Breakfast 30 mins. Usually eggs of some type, sausage of some type and greens or sweet potatoes, etc.
Lunch. 1 hr varied, I will post menus and photos
Dinner. 1 hr varied, I will post menus and photos
And I still had to time to play with the hay box cooker, butcher and brine a whole pig, make seedballs, innoculate straw with fungi, design and make fences, attend food production systems meetings, play cards against humanity, walk the land, gossip with Jocelyn et al. About the day's events, go shooting, visit a local spa a couple of times, get trapped up on a mountain in the snow for half a day, attend an Eco summit in missoula, as well as a film festival, Skype with my Fiancée (yea I said it, Fiancee), etc. AND I had time to do my work back home long distance, setting up several culinary and permaculture workshop for March, April and beyond as well as a whole host of other activities. (Thank god I have hugelbeds, and don't need to attend to my garden regularly).
Did I do a perfect job? No. I started off needing more hours, and cleaning less than I should, after two weeks I started hitting my stride, and in my last week I managed to cook off enough food to feed the core winter group here for the next week or so. And I could still improve greatly, that's what life is about.
Disclaimer: there were only 8-10 people here this month, that number will go up in the summer. But three considerations come into play here 1) more people means more chopping but the same cooking processes. Cooking 1 fish is the same as cooking 5 fish. 2) when there are more people here, like 20 or more, maybe, then the kitchen Commander would have more hands to help in the kitchen, so this system scales up easily. 3) this job, community structure and lifestyle ain't for everyone, BUT for the right person.... Who has probably listened to all or most of the podcasts, then maybe, just maybe...
Let me say that, I loved Caitlin's post about her experience here last summer, she hit a lot of nails right on the head, and as the next month rolls around I will post many more thoughts and photos to help develop this space. So, please post your thoughts, questions, considerations, etc. And if you like this sorta thing, well then, come on out to the......
So, who will take up the gauntlet, who will become the next, and hopefully permanent Kitchen Commander? Whoever does can count on my support.
Later, today I fly back to the west coast, to continue living the dream, but I look forward to being back here in June for the Eco living summit that Zach Weiss is putting on in Montana (check it out on the forums this week), and seeing a whole bunch of people, living, laughing, crying and overcoming in community.
Lastly, if you have a permaculture based homestead and want to talk about the kitchen possibilities you can either post here for all the permie world to see and learn or PM me as well.
Jump at the sun y'all,
a permaculture chef