Cooking over a campfire for 127 people

This year, Company of the Staple catered for 127 people between Friday dinner and Monday morning. The menu can be found here.

It involved an incredible amount of work from a very hard working team. Here, we go through what it took to pull this off, and how you could do it to.

Approx 9 months before event – Historical research, test cooking, planning and spreadsheets. Hugh updates his custom software to generate shopping lists. It has to be updated for new or changed recipes and relies on test cook data like making various people eat chicken pies for dinner to see how much it takes to fill them up. Each meal must be historically accurate, logistically feasible, cater to all dietary requirements and be sufficiently nutritionally varied. Louise plans the menu based around these requirements and passes the shopping list on to Roxy.

2 weeks before event – Every night for a week, Roxy comes home from work and makes pie pastry from scratch. By the end of the week, there needs to be 24kg of pastry in the fridge.

1 week before event – Pre-cook Shop Day – Rox takes the day off work and, with a team of helpers, hits the wholesale markets for 360 eggs, 2 trolleys fruit and veggies, 30kg of meat and 1 car-load of supermarket items like butter, flour, dried fruit etc.

1 week before event – Pre-cook Day – A crew of Staple members and friends meet at a rented commercial kitchen, (Sydney Kitchen Hire) and spend a full day making pies and cut meat. (The Run schedule for the Precook day can be found here.) It has indispensable toys like a blast chiller, dough sheeter and 10-tray oven. In the evening, 24 large savoury pies, 175 sweet tarts, cut meat and other bits are vacuum packed and taken to a warehouse on the other side of town where a rented commercial freezer and fridge, 800L apiece, are waiting. (We hire the fridge and chest freezer from Aircon Rentals.)

1 week before event – Bump-in Day – The kitchen pavilions, furniture, fireplace etc are built on site.

1 day before event РFinal Shop РA further 35kg fresh meat and ham, 10kg of cheese, 30kg of fruit and veg, 180 fresh bread rolls and 40 fresh bread loaves are bought and driven to the site. The fridge and freezer contents are moved into a bunch of borrowed eskis (coolers) and driven to the site. Oven is supervised being moved into position with an offroad forklift. Richard builds the first fire and assumes control of all further thermal requirements.

At this point, we’re ready for two 14-hour days of outdoor cooking, rain or shine, in front of the paying public. (The run schedule for what was supposed to be accomplished over St Ives can be found here.) Dozens of volunteers chop wood, carry water, prep ingredients and scrub pots until everybody is fed and happy. By the time it’s all packed down, we had served 200 bowls of soup, 254 breakfasts, 228 lunches, and 284 dinners.

Easy as.
Featured image is of Saturday lunch at the Ku-ring-gai Council St Ives Medieval Fair. Photo taken by Shawn Sjinstra.

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