Whenever men work in the great outdoors, be they cowboys, miners, lumberjacks or soldiers, they work up a big appetite. And someone's got to feed them. In small outfits, the workers might take turns cooking up the vittles, but above a certain population, it makes sense to have a dedicated Camp Cook. Besides, someone has to drive the chuckwagon. Since the primary requirements for food in this setting is its volume, nutritional value (in particular, being high in calories) and an ability to be produced fast, in large quantities, with primitive means and from easily preserved and efficiently stored ingredients, things like the food's look and taste take a back seat.
In fiction, camp cooks tend to be a source of comic relief, with many a gag about their horrible cooking or coffee, and their inability to take criticism on the subject. Many camp cooks are older folks, no longer able to do the main work of the camp, but often an ethnic minority is used instead. (In older works, this frequently is accompanied by truly awful stereotype humor.) Don't be surprised if the cook has a Let's Get Dangerous! moment near the end of the story—many are quite deft with their cooking implements.
May have the appropriate nickname of "Cookie".
A classic "bit" for the camp cook is ringing a metal triangle to announce that dinner is ready.
- Master Swordsman Eishun of Mahou Sensei Negima! took this role while travelling with Nagi's Ala Rubra. He is very particular about people wasting the food he prepared.
- Considering how she has a specialty camp stew, Caro of Lyrical Nanoha seems to have gotten this role in the Frontier Nature Conservation Corps.
- Chop-Chop had this as his speciality for the Blackhawks, until modern retcons turned him from the Ethnic Scrappy into a full member of the team.
- "Biscuits" Baker was the camp cook for the Dogiron Crew in the Trail Boss, Matt Savage western comic from DC Comics.
- A recurring character in Lucky Luke, one example being in "The Singing Wire". One gives this advice for making coffee: Grind the beans, add water in the mug and set a horseshoe on top. If the horseshoe sinks, add more coffee grounds.
- Roadblack from G.I. Joe first joined the army intending to be this, but he found military cooking techniques appalling, and transferred the infantry. Many stories imply he still plans to become a proper chef after retiring. One issue showed Roadblock's range: as part of Training from Hell for prospective new Joes, he served up "mystery meat on a shingle" that had one candidate wondering how it got so grey, but after the trials were over, the three that made it onto the team were treated to an incredible feast.
- Asterix: In Asterix the Legionary, the cook is first met when Asterix and Obelix go to complain about the food (bacon, cheese and corn, cooked together to save time. Only the Briton likes it.) and end up dumping him in his own cooking pot. After that, he gets much more imaginative with his menus (somehow managing to cook up seafood soufflé while in the African desert), while the two Roman officers stick to the traditional grub.
- Cookie from Beetle Bailey. His food is pretty bad, but fortunately for him, Sarge will eat everything.
- Lucky Eddie is the cook for Hägar the Horrible's crew, and he's terrible. In one strip he cooks rodents. ("Just add more ketchup!" he suggests.) Hagar forbids him from cooking for his actual family, and in one strip, Lucky Eddie himself is unwilling to eat his own food.
- Jebediah "Cookie" Farnsworth of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. A big believer in the power of grease. His faith in vegetables, on the other hand, is far smaller.
Cookie: I've got your four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey and lard!
- "Charlie" in the original King Kong (1933), a particularly painful faux-Chinese performance.
- Gabby, the chef from the 1947 B-movie Queen Of The Amazons. Spends most of his time reciting odd poetry and talking with his pet monkey until he turns out to be the head of an ivory-smuggling operation.
- The character of "Cookie" in City Slickers. Perhaps more memorable for the eulogy he gives at Curly's burial than for his cooking.
- "Cookie" from Forbidden Planet has food so bad it drives Robby the Robot to drink.
- Jebediah Nightlinger from The Cowboys, who also acts as Team Mom. Notably, his food is actually pretty good.
- Land And Freedom by Ken Loach. The protagonist joins a communist unit where the women fight alongside the men. Halfway through the movie the unit is incorporated into the regular forces and the women are forced to take non-combatant roles; one of them becomes the cook despite not knowing how to cook anything but beans.
- Subverted, inverted, and averted, simultaneously, by Men of Honor. The main character is a Black American man who is one of the cooks on a Naval ship because at that time (the 1950's) racism wouldn't let a Black person be anything else in the navy. Even when his act of defiance gets him reassigned as a rescue diver on the ship, The Captain won't allow him to bunk with the divers, ordering him to remain with the cooks. When the same captain recommends him to be a deep sea diver, the racist instructor demeans him by calling him "cookie".
- A rather dark example was Ms. Vorhees, Jason's mother in the Friday the 13th series and the killer in the first movie; she was the cook at Crystal Lake, and not really a bad one, but she sought revenge against the counselors for her son's death.
- Casey Ryback is the cook aboard the USS Missouri in Under Siege. While not much is said about his cooking, the fact that he used to be a Navy SEAL helps him use various kitchen implements to neutralize the mercenaries who have taken over the ship.
- In Robin Hood: Men in Tights Latrine is at first mistaken for a witch, she's using all sorts of gooey ingredients, including "eyeballs of a crocodile". A moment later the viewers learn she actually the cook.
- Paul Bunyan's camp cook was Sourdough Sam, who specializes in large-scale recipes for the oversized lumberjack and his crew. He had other chefs working under him, including Hot Biscuit Slim and Hot Biscuit Sally who — naturally — specialized in biscuits, and Cream Puff Fatty, who made desserts. Unlike most examples of this Trope, their food was pretty good.
- Cowboy humor claims that any man working on a cattle drive had the right to shoot the cook. However, he had to take over the cook's job if he did.
- Charles "Chow" Winkler from The New Tom Swift Jr. Adventures children's book series. From The Other Wiki's Tom Swift page: "A comic relief character...A roly-poly "former chuck wagon cook" born in Texas, he is an older man, beloved for his gaudy western shirts, cowboy hats, bizarre culinary concoctions (like Armadillo Stew), and for such expressions as "Brand my space biscuits!". He accompanies all Swift expeditions (even in outer space) as the Swifts' executive chef." Despite being a bit dumb (even if we weren't comparing him to the Swifts), he's an excellent cook, even when forced to improvise (e.g., when shipwrecked).
- The Phule's Company books by Robert Asprin had Sergeant Escrima, whose grasp of English seemed to vary wildly between books. Short, short-tempered, comedically "foreign", master chef and master escrima fighter. Did we mention short-tempered? For the love of God, don't criticize his cooking.
- A saying from a Known Space short story: "Food will win the war, but how do we get the enemy to eat it?" And then, the main character of the story proceeds to win a battle by hacking the autochef after her ship gets taken.
- Corporal Scallot, the quartermaster in Monstrous Regiment. His specialty is "scubbo", a stew made from whatever's available, but if nothing's available, he can also cook legs. (Although he thinks eating your own legs probably makes you blind.) The role is later taken by Shufti, who turns out to be a lot better at it.
- Greasy Sae of The Hunger Games series becomes the Camp Cook for Area 13. Her specialty is beef stew made from dog meat.
- Zachariah, the African-American ship's cook in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Not a comic figure; the mentor role he plays toward young Charlotte skirts Magical Negro territory.
- The cook of the We're Here in Captains Courageous, by contrast, is a literal Magical Negro, who has recurring visions of the men Harvey and Dan will grow into. He also speaks Gaelic.
- In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, the first person Freckles meets at the camp is the cook, who tells him he won't find a place here.
- In Holmes on the Range, the ranch Big Red and Old Red end up on is served by "the Swede", whose cooking is decent and whose accent is impenetrable.
- Totally averted in Thunderhead, Luigi Bonarotti's meals include among others quails and truffles.
- When The Time Warp Trio are sent back to The Wild West, the first human they meet is known only as "Cooky." Given his description and personality, it seems quite possible that he, or one of his close relatives, lived through the Twilight of the Old West and eventually took a job with one Lyle Tiberius Rourke.
- The Sea Wolf: Thomas "Cooky" Mugridge, heavy Cockney accent, filthy habits, not a good cook.
- The Unknown Soldier: Poor Corporal Mäkilä is the cook for the main characters' unit, and most of what he produces is tasteless at best and inedible at worst. However, it is shown that Mäkilä is a pretty decent cook when he has something to work with, but that the ingredients at the Finnish army supplies, most of which are wartime surrogates, aren't really "something". Either way, the main characters heap endless abuse on poor Mäkilä for something which is only tangentially his fault.
- Pvt. Igor Straminsky of the 4077th MASH. Technically, Igor just serves the food, he doesn't cook it (as he's quick to remind the other characters when they complain). There was an actual cook who appeared in a couple of episodes, however.
- Airman Darren Becker of Stargate Universe. The low quality of his food is usually blamed on the absolutely crap ingredients he has to work with.
- Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager. He's shown to be quite adept when he has the right ingredients and can be coerced into following the recipe. However, many of the foodstuffs on Voyager are either makeshift substitutes or completely new to everyone. Also, Neelix loves to experiment in the kitchen, is much more fond of spicy food than most of the crew, and tends to cook to his own tastes.
- Salty in Huge. He manages to make "fat camp" diet food actually taste good.
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Fatigues", it's revealed that Frank Costanza was a camp cook in Korea. He was the best cook in the army, until one day his platoon received a supply crate of meat that was expired. In his hubris, the thought he could salvage the meat with the perfect combination of spices, but went too far and made the food too spicy, making all of the soldiers sick. He is plagued by PTSD-like flashbacks of that night, and refused to ever cook again.
- In the backstory of Happy Days Howard Cunningham was his platoon's cook during World War II.
- Cookie was the circus cook in Frontier Circus. He plays a major role in "The Shaggy Kings" when the circus' food supply is poisoned.
- Utah Phillips's song "The Goodnight-Loving Trail" subverts the comic aspects of this trope by taking a sad and sympathetic view of cowboys who are too old to do anything but cook on the drives, despite lyrics like "With your snake oil and herbs and your liniment too/You can do anything that a doctor can do/Except find a cure for your own goddamn stew." The cowboys dub the cook "The Old Woman"; it's bad enough getting old, without being ridiculed too.
- In a more humorous vein, there is his spoken-word piece "Moose Turd Pie", which is his re-telling of a "Shaggy Dog" Story concerning a man's attempt to get replaced when he is unwillingly made camp cook of his railroad work crew.
- The Australian folk song "Thargomindah Road" is about a cattle drive told from the point of the view of the camp cook.
- Tom Lehrer's "It Makes a Fella Proud to be a Soldier", on the album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, has a verse for the base cook:
Our old mess sergeant's tastebuds had been shot off in the war
But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps
To think of all the marvelous ways
They're using plastics nowadays
It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier.
- Ratlings in Warhammer 40,000 often act as cooks for the regiments they are attached to. However, being essentially Hobbits in Space!!, they are actually pretty good.
- Before them, the Halflings in Warhammer did the same thing. In the Mordheim supplement, which focuses on mercenary warbands in the eponymous ruined city, hiring a halfling chef actually increases the size of your company. Empire armies used to include the Halfling Hot Pot artillery piece which Halfling Chefs use to hurl cauldrons of soup at the enemy.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! game, the Marauding Captain seems to have this job in his identity as Marmiting Captain.
- In the opera Paul Bunyan, the lumberjacks first get two One Note Cooks, Sam Sharpey and Ben Benny. After they get sick of eating just soups and beans, and Slim comes along and says he can cook other things, Sam and Ben are relieved of this duty.
- One of Ford Cruller's alter egos in Psychonauts is the Camp Cook for the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, where the game takes place, and also runs the camp store. He even has an odd juxtaposition of competency; his food is never done whenever you visit him, but the camp store is always open and stocked with at least Psi Cores and Dream Fluffs, even during a crisis. Guess we know which job he really likes.
- In World of Warcraft, an Alliance expedition stranded on Azuremist Island includes "Cookie" McWeaksauce. Their limited resources have resulted in a somewhat limited menu:
Admiral Odyseus: Hey, Cookie! What's for dinner tonight? And don't say chicken!
"Cookie" McWeaksauce: Yarr, Admiral. Let me think about it... Arrr... It be comin' into focus. It looks like it be succulent pork ribs basted with its own delectable juices and a side o' Captain Sander's Secret Sauce — fer dippin'. And fer dessert we be havin' cheesecake, flown in fresh from Stormwind on the wings o' angels...
Admiral Odyseus: Wow! Really?
"Cookie" McWeaksauce: No. Not really...
["Cookie" shoots a chicken]
"Cookie" McWeaksauce: It be chicken.
Admiral Odyseus: I hate you so much, Cookie.
- An aversion to the notion that a camp's cook must be some sort of a wacky, harmless goof. Fallout: New Vegas has Cook-Cook, the, well, cook for the drugged-up and psychotic Fiends. He cooks up a surprisingly good stew, which is quite healthy for the Courier. He also is a twisted, perverse, Ax-Crazy cannibal who tortures people for fun. With a flamethrower. Noted by the Reasonable Authority Figure who sends the Courier after the Fiend leaders to be an utter Pyromaniac with seemingly no morals whatsoever. He also implies that Cook-Cook is a little too into his favorite Brahmin, Queenie, in the most Squicktastic way possible. So reviled is Cook-Cook that there are a couple of non-quest NPCs who will pay the Courier good money upon being informed that he's dead.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair immediately asks Morrigan if she can cook once finding out she's going to join the party. After being angrily chewed out by her (and snarked at by the player character), he quickly says that it's because his cooking would kill everyone. Who precisely ends up as the actual camp cook is never revealed.
- Mass Effect:
- Mess Sergeant Rupert Gardner of the Normandy SR-2, from Mass Effect 2, is a classically incompetent, over-the-hill military cook. His food is universally ridiculed by the crew, although he claims it has more to do with the rations Cerberus provided (buy him some ingredients, and the crew's morale increases noticeably). He's also voiced by the same actor as resident Butt-Monkey Strawman Political Donnel Udina, for extra humor value.
- In Mass Effect: Andromeda, this role is taken by Drack, the resident krogan. He takes up residence in the ship's kitchen, and apparently his roasts are considered amazing by the rest of the crew.
- Fire Emblem Elibe:
- Lowen is implied to have this role in supports. No explanation for how people eat if he happens to die. Justified since he's also implied to be the son and grandson of former Pheraean royal cooks.
- He's not the only cook in the cast, Rebecca is a pretty good one too. Predictably, Lowen is one of the her potential boyfriends.
- In Final Fantasy XV, Ignis cooks meals for the party when they're camping outdoors, with his cooking being a skill that can be leveled so that he can provide better meals to provide better resting bonuses.
- Simon Pearson from Red Dead Redemption II is the cook for the Dutch Van Der Linde gang, a former Navy man at that. He'll happily accept any meat and game that Arthur brings back to camp so he can cook it, and he'll even help craft valuable items for the player or the camp. Once Dutch starts going insane, Simon quietly leaves the gang and eventually gets married and becomes the shopkeeper for Rhodes' general store.
- The travelling Heterodyne show's cook in Girl Genius. (Unnamed in the original comic, called Taki in the novelizations.) His main job is, however, not so much cooking food for eating as making pies that are used for more... ballistic purposes during the shows. He's a Spark, as well, so he makes even more bizarre creations. Such as his Calming Pie, which actually works on heroine Agatha when she's caught up in a moment of supreme vengeful rage. He's still working on his Unified Pie Theory.
- Schlock Mercenary has Ch'vorthq, who has a motorized whisk on one of his prosthetic arms and a habit of using it all the time. Most of the company prefer to eat out of the vending machines than suffer through his purees, whose delicate balance of ingredients is ruined by getting mixed so finely "you barely even need to digest it". Learning not to do that was a painful, incident-laden process.
- Fred from Camp Weedonwantcha. He's actually a very good cook for his age (he considers it therapeutic), especially in comparison to the last cook, who refused to serve anything besides imitation sardines.
- Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Sea Haunt". Charlie, the Chinese cook the Quests find aboard a deserted ship.
- Chef Hatchet from Total Drama, at least in the seasons that actually take place at camp. Unlike most examples, he's actually a good cook... when he cooks for the staff. It's part of his job to deliberately make terrible food for the contestants.
- In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, one episode had the heroes encounter B.A. McCarr, who worked for Cobra as a cook, until they left him to die when the FLAGG sank. (He managed to survive, but really wasn't happy about them abandoning him.) Supposedly, his food wasn't all-too good, as it gave a whole unit of Vipers food poisoning.
- Very few members of the U.S. Armed Forces are remembered for being chefs, but long before he founded Wendy's, Dave Thomas was a mess sergeant at an American base in Germany during the 1950s.