Little did I know that my first adventure as The Dinner Whisperer would entail months of planning and preparation for a 7-day luxury motorcoach tour through Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons. Both are destinations where I had been before, but only for one too-rushed day while on a roadtrip from Chicago to Seattle back in 2013. I felt competent and confident in my abilities to produce food successfully for our tour guests given a glamping experience in June 2015 on top of all my other event planning opportunities. My personal chef team in Seattle had proven their abilities to maintain their workload and handle incoming business without my constant supervision, so I agreed to take on the venture as the Hospitality Chef for a luxury tourism company.
Cooking on a moving bus has its ups and downs. And side to sides. I quickly learned and managed to control that queasy feeling in my stomach as I worked in a galley kitchen on a touring bus that navigated the twists and turns of the wild west. Each day’s menu included a variety of breakfast items, morning and afternoon snacks, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Thank goodness there were opportunities for guests to enjoy dining in a local restaurant along the way for lunch or dinner. That gave me a brief break to focus on plans for the next mealtime. Most of the day’s meals were thoughtfully-designed to incorporate local and seasonal ingredients. Being a wordsmith, I also had fun making specialty items like “Buffalo Bill Coyo-tea” and “Gin and Te-tonics”.
I planned menu items that could be served cold or room temperature and saved the hot meals for grilling outside or cooking on the bus using electric appliances like a crockpot, waffle irons, and an electric skillet. (For the record, I don’t recommend cooking bacon in enclosed spaces while you feel motion sickness). Storage space on the bus was at a premium, meaning we took only what we needed for ingredients and supplies, and shopped along the way for fresh meats and produce items. Luckily we had 2 small refrigerators in the main bus cabin, however we chose not to run the generators at night (noise ordinances) which meant the perishable food needed to be transferred to our hotel room fridges each night and reloaded in the morning. All of these are important logistics to be mindful of should any of you have the opportunity to cook in a moving vehicle.
Somehow I managed not to chop a finger off as I wielded a sharp chef’s knife en route. My body was not spared bruising, however, as I bounced from front of the bus to back of the bus like a pingpong ball at times while serving our guests. It’s all part of the adventure to gain your “sea legs” quickly enough and place that checkmark next to another accomplishment.
The guests on our tour were absolutely fabulous. They arrived as 5 couples from 4 different states and departed as 10 best friends sharing hugs, email addresses, and promises to travel together again soon. As for me, I’m already looking ahead to a 10-day tour through the Canadian Rockies in July 2016 with some ideas for how to improve my “cooking on a bus” skills.