Royal Tine Outdoor Camp Cooking School
Learn to cook in the beautiful outdoors!
Check out this blog post for a good summary from student Ruth Woods!
Hello and welcome to the Royal Tine Camp Cook School. Learn how rewarding it is to cook in the refreshing air of the Montana outdoors.
In the process, enjoy camaraderie with the aspiring hunting guides whom you will be cooking for. At our camp cooking school we teach cooking methods to make delicious dishes with the bare essentials and a whole new set of cookware! Cooking with Dutch Ovens over wood heat and incorporating sourdough recipes into menus are only a few of our cooking school’s specialties. Be prepared to impress any client with hearty five course meals. Think of backcountry cooking as a passport to experiencing lifetime opportunities in the pristine wilderness.
Come and take advantage of our camp cooking school and of the high-country pleasures that abound in the Rocky Mountains and embark on your new life. The Royal Tine Camp Cooking School is a learning, living experience!
- Work Ethic
- People Skills
Definition of a camp cook and camp jack: Camp Cook — prepares, serves, and cleans up after meals for clients and crew. A good one must be highly organized, very neat and clean, and enjoy putting some effort into turning out a good home-cooked meal whether for 6 or 16. Sometimes the cook plans menus and orders food and supplies. The cook often works both in camp and on the trail and must be flexible and able to cope without modern conveniences. The cook is also often the camp jack. Camp Jack — is responsible for fuel and water supply, camp maintenance and a wide variety of camp chores. Most outfitter camps keep a lot of equipment and supplies on hand. Every item must be kept neatly stored and in good working order to be available at a moments notice.
- Clothes for at least 7 days (include jeans, long and short sleeve shirts) Shorts are not allowed during instruction, but can be worn on days off.
- Clothes to go to town or a job interview in (nice jeans and shirt)
- Long underwear, sweatshirt w/hood, and warm jacket(s)
- Footwear– must be comfortable and not fatigue you. You will be on your feet around 10 hrs per day. You should also have some camp shoes and shower shoes.
- Sleeping bag rated at least 0 degrees (w/stuff sack and pillow w/cover) (Wiggy’s 1-800-748-1847)
- Warm sleep wear
- Gloves (leather and other of your choice)
- Toiletries (tooth brush/toothpaste, comb, soaps, medications and misc. personal items)
- Travel mirror
- Insulated travel mug or “to go cup” This is your drinking cup during school. We don’t supply cups.
- Towel, face cloth and baby wipes
- Alarm clock with extra batteries
- Flash light with extra batteries (Mini-Mag™, or something as small)
- Notebook w/pencils or pens (1 large, 1 pocket size)
- Leatherman™ tool or similar type
- Duffel bags no larger than 18″x36″(to store and organize your belongings), waterproof is good but not necessary
- Pocket money for laundry & shopping
- 2 bic lighters
Most gear can be purchased at Cabelas 1-800-237-4444, Campmor 1-800-226-7667 or for cold weather footwear Schnees 1-800-922-1562. Contact us if you have any questions or want specific recommendations. Also, to fish on your days off and on the pack trip, a non-resident fishing license is needed and can be purchased for $22/per 2-day sticker or $69 for the year. This price is not included in tuition, because the school cannot purchase a fishing license for you. The fishing license can be purchased at the local gas station. The weather can be unpredictable (highs in the 60’s, lows in the 30’s) in May or June. Be sure and bring warm, comfortable clothing and suitable gear for your stay. Be reminded that there is no running water or electricity at camp. There is an outhouse and a shower tent. Optional: Collapsible chairs for relaxing in or outside your tent Fishing gear (for your day off) Blanket (if you are cold blooded) Anything else to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable—remember, you will be camping for several weeks! As a minimum, you should have all the items on the first list when you come. As you go through the school and on to a job, you will have a much better idea of what you will need and want for further gear.
DAY 2: I was in the cook tent at 5:30 this morning to help LeRee. She just wanted to show us around and get familiar with the place. She did most of the work and I was getting tired just watching her run around. She has a lot of enthusiasm and energy for what she does. We all pitched in to make breakfast and learned how to make Cowboy Coffee.Today we made biscuits and gravy with a side order of eggs. After we cleaned up, LeRee went over some cooking basics, like measurements, keeping a clean kitchen, the use of ingredients. I’m taking a lot of notes. It seems like a lot to learn in a short time but LeRee assured me it will come easier as we go along. Maybe so, but I’m still taking notes.
DAY 3: My first full day as a cook. I was in the cook tent at 5:15 AM. The guide students rotate days as camp jack. The camp jack starts the fire in the cook tent, helps get wood and water for the cook tent, and starts the water for coffee. They are a big help and LeRee recommends that we always thank them and let them know how important their efforts are.With my coffee in hand, we began breakfast. Sausage links, eggs and fresh baked biscuits. One cook student makes the biscuits while the other does the sausage and eggs. Next time we’ll switch jobs so we each get a chance to do all the jobs. LeRee explained how it’s important to have breakfast ready on time when cooking for hunters because they want to leave camp at certain times. It’s as much about timing as it is technique. Getting everything ready on time for twelve people can be a challenge. Now I understand why LeRee is always running around like she does.I helped with supper that night and LeRee showed me how to make peach cobbler. It came out pretty good and there weren’t any leftovers.
DAY 4: Breakfast this morning was another team effort, as we are getting in the swing of things. Our coffee cake turned out great. Good thing, because I was half asleep!! I think I need another cup of that stout Cowboy Coffee. After breakfast, LeRee gave us some basics on what outfitters expect from their cooks and what the job encompasses. After that we covered bread baking and while the bread dough was rising we prepared lunch.After lunch we made apple pies. My pie crust isn’t the best in the world but LeRee showed me what I was doing wrong and said I’ll get more chances to work on it.
Supper tonight was Salisbury steak, potato wedges, peas, fresh baked bread and apple pie. After we cleaned up I got back to my tent a little after 7 PM. A cook has a long day but I learned a lot. A lot more than by trial and error or watching cooking shows all day.
DAY 5: A long day! I got to the cook tent at 5:30 AM and didn’t get back to my tent until 8 PM! We covered sourdough and Dutch oven cooking today. We’re covering so much and so fast it’s hard to remember all of it. LeRee keeps saying it’ll all come together and not to worry. It’s a lot of work but I really do enjoy it. Between lessons we still have to prepare three meals a day. The cook tent is a popular place. On their breaks the guide students, as well as Cody, stop and snoop around looking for cookies. Then, more Dutch oven cooking and baking bread. I got to make my own sourdough starter today. It’ll take a while until its ready so we’re using the camp starter until then. We learned about seasoning and cleaning the Dutch ovens and trying out different recipes.
DAY 6: Up at 5 AM and into the cook tent shortly after. Bacon, eggs and fried potatoes were for breakfast. Everything was on time. Then we learned how to bake in a wood fired oven AKA the Riley Oven; keeping the fire at a constant temperature, turning the pans in the oven so they bake even. They require a lot of adjustments and constant attention. My brownies came out OK, not great, but OK. They weren’t burnt or anything.In the afternoon we visited a local butcher shop and learned about cutting meat. At least I’ll know the basics of meat cutting if I have to prepare any game in camp. One thing I’ve learned is that a cook puts in a long day. I don’t have any trouble sleeping at night.
DAY 7: A really early breakfast today of breakfast sandwiches: English muffins, ham slice, cheese and a fried egg or two. Then the guys packed their lunches and left for an afternoon of hiking. We spent the day cutting up chickens, taking notes and getting ready for supper. Tonight we’ll grill the chicken on a grate over wood coals. We started the fire a couple of hours early to get a nice bed of coals.
DAY 8: My day off and it feels good. After I did laundry in Philipsburg, or P-burg as it’s known locally, I went into Missoula with two of the guide students to do some shopping. On the way back we stopped to get something to eat and it felt good to have someone else cook for me and do the dishes. Tomorrow it’s back to the kitchen tent.
DAY 9: This week LeRee is letting us do the meals more on our own and she’s “hovering” around to answer questions and come to the rescue if we cry “help.” One student is in charge of breakfast and the other assists. We switch off for supper and both work on lunch. The next day we change around so we get a chance to do everything. Maybe I was overconfident because I was ten minutes late with breakfast but nobody said anything, I will work on it next time around.I was running around the cook tent baking bread and cookies, Dutch ovens going and grilling steaks outside. I can see now how important planning is. We sit down in the evening and plan the next day’s menu and write everything down so we don’t forget. LeRee has a cookbook full of fantastic recipes. There’s a good deal of satisfaction when everybody compliments you on your cooking. Cooks live on compliments. I had five Dutch ovens going at the same time today. How cool is that!?
DAY 10: Today I cooked an elk roast in one Dutch oven and baked a batch of dinner rolls in another. The cooking went pretty good and I feel I’m getting more accustomed to this schedule. I’m also getting used to these Dutch ovens. In between our cooking LeRee is giving us short lectures on why we’re doing things a certain way. We learn not only the how, but the why as well. I’m still taking lots of notes.
DAY 11: Today I baked a cake using a Dutch oven and it came out great. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of these ovens. I was in charge of breakfast this morning and it went fine and on time. The other cook student will be in charge of breakfast tomorrow and I’ll be in charge of supper.Now that I’m feeling more comfortable in the cook tent things are going a lot smoother. I know where everything is and I’m getting my timing down better. This “hands on” learning gives you a better understanding of the work.
Tonight’s dinner was beef with black beans, tomato and broccoli salad, three bean casserole with cornbread topping and coleslaw. YUM!!The guide students are going on a night pack trip this evening so we’re making cinnamon rolls after supper so we can have them ready to go for breakfast tomorrow. Camp cooking is a lot about planning ahead and organizing things. As I laid on my cot tonight I could hear the coyotes (aka. song dogs) howling. Nice music to go to sleep by.
DAY 12: It was raining most of the morning and when you’re inside a tent it sounds like it’s raining harder than it actually is outside. Today we cooked two 14 pound turkeys in a pit lined with hot rocks and covered by two feet of dirt. We wrapped them in seven layers of tin foil. Four hours later we dug them up and they were perfect. I guess they call this slow cooking method a “Montana crock-pot”. I made carrots and stuffing in two separate Dutch ovens. These Dutch ovens are great!
DAY 13: It was raining all day and I was inside a warm tent. Glad I’m a cook today! Breakfast was early today at 6:00 and we got everything served on time. For dinner, we made ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, sourdough bread and blueberry pie. I had another chance at the pie crusts and I’m getting better with LeRee walking me through it this time. At the end of the day I’m tired but there’s a certain satisfaction in cooking. I’m going to like this work.
DAY 14: A beautiful day in Montana. I’m still making mistakes but I guess that’s the way it goes. I’m a lot more confident in my cooking abilities and look forward to hiring on with an outfitter. Camp cooking is definitely different from cooking with electricity. You have to pay more attention and watch your food more. The altitude makes longer cooking times and Dutch ovens need to be rotated for even cooking in the fire pit with wood coals. It really keeps you on your toes. You just get the “feel” for this type of cooking after a while. We reviewed a lot of material and LeRee spent time answering our questions. We covered gear a cook will need on the job. Then we cleaned up the cook tent, did an inventory and made a supply list. This afternoon, LeRee had job references for us. I have to make some phone calls and get ready to start my new occupation as “camp cook”. This school was definitely worth it.
Royal Tine Camp Cook School Past Students
Joann Blasberg, Israel
2004 cook student
After a rough start in my new line of work (actually a non-start) with an outfitter in another state, I took a job with GW Peterson Outfitters (Old Glendevey Ranch) in northwest Colorado. I connected with Liv and Garth through a reference from LeRee (I was looking for a new position, fast, and LeRee gave me several names). We hit it off and I started working at the beginning of August and worked through mid-November, except for the last two weeks in August. Working with the Petersons could not have been better. The base camp was incredibly well organized and I had all the equipment I could ask for. I was not able to use anything other than stove top dutch ovens because of fire hazard regulations, but managed quite well with what I had. And, I had been able to do a lot of my baking (breads, cakes and cookies) ahead of time in the wonderful lodge kitchen. But, I truly loved working out of the base camp. It was a 1 1/2 hour ride by horseback to camp and once there, it was just so peaceful and beautiful. I had most of the days to myself which I loved.
My typical day started at 3:30am to light the fire, get the coffee going, start breakfast and prepare the lunch fixings. Breakfast was at 5am and the hunters left at about 5:30-6:00 am. Then, I put the food away, cleared the table and got things ready for clean up. I would try to nap for a couple of hours, then get up and do my exercises. (Garth was astounded that I brought weights to work out) By then, it was time to do some dinner prep (cutting vegetables, preparing sauces or rubs, making desserts, etc). At about lunch time, I would do the breakfast dishes and anything else I had used for dinner prep. If one of the packers came up, I would spend time chatting while I worked on the prep or dishes. After lunch, depending on time, I would try to take a short hike into the woods, read or rest. By late afternoon, I was in full steam toward dinner — I was cooking the meal as well as preparing the appetizer/dips. Dinner was usually at about 8 pm. I chose to sit and eat with the hunters and guides, even though it meant my clean up waited, but that was a big part of the experience for me. I then did a full clean up after dinner and usually got to sleep at about 9:30 or 10 pm.
I was lucky for the season — the Petersons did not need me the last two weeks of August and in my search for a job, before hooking up with the Petersons. I just happened to connect with a guy who needed me in Nevada for just those two weeks, at an opal mining site he used for his “experience” vacations. There, too, the experience was fantastic and Jim was great. I was able to use my dutch oven skills, although Jim had a propane oven, he wanted me to prove I could use the dutch ovens and so — I did!
I already have a job lined up for the next season, with another outfitter that LeRee referred me to (the Petersons were not sure if they needed me for the season and so, I had to find something else). I am looking forward to working with them — I went down to visit with them before I took the job and just liked the feel of the place and the crew. I found that the world of camp cook is simply right for me. I count myself blessed that the experience has been exactly what I wanted. What more can you ask?
Dear Cody and LeRee’,
Just a few lines to update you on what I’ve been doing since the end of August, I’ve been working for Bighorn Outfitters in Salmon, Idaho. We hunt west of Salmon in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area. It’s beautiful. I heard timber wolves howling from camp on the last hunt. The hunters and guides didn’t like it but it’s the first time I’ve ever heard them in the wild. I’m at a camp called Horse Heaven at 8,000 feet elevation. These camps are 8 hours by horseback. I can remember you telling me at school not to hold onto the saddle horn so much. Now I’m holding the reins with two fingers, a sandwich in one hand and a juice drink in the other. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been riding a mule named Rufus. The other guys call me Festus after that guy on Gunsmoke. I don’t care. I like my mule and don’t care if I ever ride a horse again.
On the first hunt, we had 7 inches of snow. On the ride out, the head guide couldn’t find the trail with all the snow and deadfall. I remember what Cody said about mules having good memories. I told him to let Rufus find the trail. He agreed. Rufus walked through all kinds of crap and suddenly made a sharp turn. He was on the trail! “We’re never going to get you off that mule now”, he said. Keep your GPS (global positioning system), I’ve got my MPS(mule positioning system). Rufus even chews Copenhagen. I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t start drinking my whiskey.
Cooking has been going fine and I’ve been getting good tips, nothing under a $100, so far, and a couple of really good ones. The hunters like my food and my stories even though the guides think I’ve been in the backcountry “too long”. I’ve been using so much of what I learned in cooking school. I check my notes a lot. The money I spent on tuition for school was worth every penny. I want to thank you both (Cody and LeRee’) for preparing me so well for this work.
In the past four months, I’ve seen country that most people will never see in their lives. I’ve heard wolves howling; saw a grizzly bear, and herds of buffalo, and I get paid to do it!!! The work is hard and the days are long but I love it.
Bill Kreiger, Pennsylvania
June 2004 cook student
“LeRee’ Just wanted to thank you for taking me on as a ‘cooking student’, but mostly for everything you and Cody have done for us the past couple of weeks. I really appreciate you guys getting us hooked up with Chris, so we could get the truck fixed, for the chinks (can’t wait to wear them) and for helping me with my bow. We’ve really enjoyed the school and getting to know you. Have a great summer!”
Julie Helmers, Indiana
April/May 2000 cook student
July 2004 cook student
Hello LeRee and Cody,
Thanks for a very enjoyable 10-day cook class. I really enjoyed your country, your camp, your instruction, and all the rest. You and Cody really have a good thing going. Besides back woods cooking skills, and basic horsemanship, the things I learned were:
- Don’t put the lid on boiling coffee (it boils over and what a mess)!!
- A red horse is a sorrel.
- 6x4 is not 12 (slight recipe miscalculation!!) What was the matter with me? It must have been a cranial flatchilism!
I got a job in Del Norte, Colorado.
It’s been many years since I was at the Royal Tine Camp Cook School as a student, I tend to come around at least once a year, if I’m in the area, just to say hello. LeRee and Cody really took the time to help me jump start my profession as a wilderness cook into what it is today, and I can’t give them thanks enough for that! It also helped that LeRee was around to smooth out all the rough edges I had as a novice cook when first started cooking in this profession. I’ve not only learned to be able to make a home cooked meal in places you never thought to eat anything that good…but have carried it over to some places that only served five star meals. (they put their pants on one leg at a time just like me and you…so don’t let the flash and dash, money or social class intimidate you!, they’ve got to eat also!)
Although I’m not rolling in the financial splendor of my corporate years of the past….every day of my life is spent at a slower pace, with much happiness and peace, being surrounded by nature. Every day of my life is an adventure now, and that’s the way I like it. I hope to keep that way…..God willing!
Thanks for all you have done for me.