As hungry campers who have expended their energy during days filled with activities will know, Noo has been running Summer Camp catering for 10 years. “The first time was one week, then I did two weeks, and it’s been the full three weeks ever since,” she says.
Noo’s involvement came about because the regular camp cook wanted a week off. “I liked the idea of a challenge and had never done anything this big before,” she says. “My own kids were coming to camp at that stage too.”
Catering for Summer Camps has really become a ministry for Noo. “For one thing, being a mum, it’s good to have a ‘mum’ in the area for the kids,” she says. “I have a lot of parents before we get her go, ‘I’m sending my child for the first time! I’ve told them that you’re in the kitchen if they need you!’ And the kids pretty much don’t come, but it puts the parents at ease. I love this age range of children and enjoy interacting with them. It’s an opportunity to be a Christian for them. They remember you forever too!”
But that’s not the only reason to be involved in Summer Camps — “There’s the kids’ tummies! I like to know that their tummies are full and I like to show them that you can make good vegetarian food,” says Noo. “As a mum, you know what kids like and dislike, and that you need to keep them full while keeping things healthy and nutritious, as well as giving them a bit of a treat. I lean on the side of giving them lots of veggies though, and not much fried stuff. It helps with their energy levels for activities.”
She notes, “I thrive on a challenge — having the meals out on time and making them healthy keeps us on our toes!”
Noo and her team are experts at catering for kids with food allergies and intolerances too. Each person with an allergy or intolerance is given their own dedicated plate. “I tell them when they arrive that they shouldn’t eat anything that’s not on their plate with their name on it,” she says.
There are other challenges with catering, including getting the quantities right. “Over the years, I’ve gotten that down pat,” she says. “We also have to get the timing right so everything’s ready at 5.30pm on the dot, and then cleaned up and gone in an hour! Every year, we find something new that works even better than the previous year and think we can’t perfect it. But inevitably, every year we do find improvements! It’s all about being willing to experiment and be flexible.”
It also helps to work with the same team each year, although Noo did have some newbies on her team this year who were being trained. “You get to a stage where you don’t have to say anything to the team — it’s all intuitive,” says Noo.
Noo’s also about to celebrate her 10th anniversary at Avondale School in catering at their canteen. She used to work as a doctors’ receptionist, but when the canteen job became available, she took it. Noo says, “I’ve always liked to cook. You’ll never see me without a recipe book tucked into my bag!”