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Camp Cook

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"The poison ivy is particularly delicious today."
Asterix: Look, no joking... what is it?
Roman soldier: It's legionary rations... you'll be getting it every day. Corn, bacon and cheese. All cooked together to save time.

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 these circumstances is its volume, nutritional value (in particular, being high in calories) and an ability to be prepared 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.

While a camp cook in a encampment that is well-provisioned with regular supply runs might only have to fill in forms to order the food they need, in an isolated camp, during wartime, or if weather hampers re-supply trips, the cook will need to be The Scrounger (or connect with one) or use the Black Market, to get food and supplies that Fell Off the Back of a Truck.

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. Also a common element of summer camp stories, especially of the Summer Campy variety.

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.

See also Military Moonshiner and Team Chef. Nothing to do with Always Camp. (In which case, he'd likely insist on being called a chef.)

In Real Life, the skill of the camp cook is crucial to camp morale. A crew that is well-fed with appetizing, nutritious food will work harder and better. As such, some logging and mining camps go to great expense to ensure that the food is good. Cooks have to be up much earlier than the rest of the camp to prepare breakfast and bake for the day ahead. The head cook for a large camp will have junior cooks and food preparers who report to them.

During US history, cooks in the Wild West had to learn to improvise near the end of wagon trips, when supplies ran low. Some cooks would use locally-gathered game and produce to "pad" the ingredients in their pies and stews (one creative cook added cooked turtle meat to his apple pies when the apple barrel ran low).


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Roadblack from G.I. Joe first joined the army intending to be this, but he found military cooking techniques appalling, and transferred to 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.
  • 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.
  • "Biscuits" Baker was the camp cook for the Dogiron Crew in the Trail Boss, Matt Savage western comic from DC Comics.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • 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!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Jake: The opening scene shows two cooks at the McCandles ranch, an aging black man named Moses Brown and a younger, unnamed white man preparing a meal for the household and ranch hands. Both of them attempt to fight back and are shot down when the ranch is attacked by outlaws.
  • The character of "Cookie" in City Slickers. Perhaps more memorable for the eulogy he gives at Curly's burial than for his cooking.
  • Jebediah Nightlinger from The Cowboys, who also acts as Team Mom. Notably, his food is actually pretty good.
  • "Cookie" from Forbidden Planet has food so bad it drives Robby the Robot to drink.
  • A rather dark example is Pamela Voorhees, Jason's mother from the Friday the 13th series and the killer in the first movie. She was the cook at Camp Crystal Lake's initial term of service, and not really a bad one, but she sought revenge against the counselors for her son's supposed death once the camp reopened.
  • In The Gatling Gun, Tin Pot is the Bolland's ranch cook, and is a dab hand with mechanical contrivances. He is the one who manages to get the eponymous gun working.
  • "Charlie" in the original King Kong, a particularly painful faux-Chinese performance.
  • 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".
  • In The Odd Angry Shot, Harry has an ongoing verbal feud with the squadron cook over the questionable quality of the food.
  • 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.
  • 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's actually the cook.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. Captain Lola Beck stops to talk to the cook on her spaceship, whereupon it's revealed that even in The Future the military will still be serving "shit on a shingle" (chipped beef on toast).
  • They Fought for Their Country: Lisichenko is the cook for a squadron of Russian soldiers fighting the Germans in World War II. When Piotr sees Lisichenko digging a foxhole in the front line with the rest of the men, Lisichenko says they can't be expected to hold out without him, then brags about the sheep and cabbage he was able to steal and will make into borscht after the battle is over.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • In a similar vein:
    How did you earn that medal?
    Saved a regiment from annihilation.
    Did you lead a rescue mission? Break a siege?
    Nope, shot the cook.

  • The poem "Boomer Johnson" by Henry Herbert Knibbs is about an gunslinger who takes a job as a camp cook when age starts slowing his quick draw. He's still scary enough that the others don't dare refuse to eat his cooking, until he finally pushes the narrator too far.
  • 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 a Heralds of Valdemar short story, a tower is under siege, and the soldiers guarding it know they won't last more than a few days. They also know- because of the Companion hanging around outside- that one of them will be saved and taken away from the tower. To lighten the mood, somebody snarks that they hope the one leaving will be the cook.
  • 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.
  • Greasy Sae of The Hunger Games series becomes the Camp Cook for Area 13. Her specialty is beef stew made from dog meat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Sea Wolf: Thomas "Cooky" Mugridge, heavy Cockney accent, filthy habits, not a good cook.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, Yeoman Nilesa is this for a large number of Barrayaran soldiers (young men who clearly miss "home cooking" and have evidently not been shy about letting the yeoman know their opinions of his culinary offerings). He is correspondingly surly and hostile. When the protagonist (who has just spent a considerable period hiking through a wilderness with nothing to eat but packets of instant oatmeal and artificial blue cheese salad dressing) samples his food ("a stew-like substance, and real bread with genuine vegetable oil spread") she sincerely declares it to be delicious, causing a rather startling change in poor Nilesa's attitude.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hop Sing of Bonanza. The Cartwrights' happy-go-lucky cook, whose blood pressure rose when the family came late for dinner. Cast here as the faithful domestic, the comedy relief character had little to do beyond chores.
  • Cookie was the circus cook in Frontier Circus. He plays a major role in "The Shaggy Kings" when the circus' food supply is poisoned.
  • In the backstory of Happy Days Howard Cunningham was his platoon's cook during World War II.
  • Salty in Huge. He manages to make "fat camp" diet food actually taste good.
  • 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.
    • Even Hawkeye and BJ are stunned into silence when British and Canadian personnel praise the quality of the food as being infinitely better than anything their own cooks can serve up.
  • George Washington Wishbone of Rawhide. A cantankerous man, he served as the wagon cook for Gil Favor's cattle drovers, alongside his unfortunate assistant Harkness "Mushy" Mushgrove III.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Utah Phillips:
    • His 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Warhammer:
    • Before the Ratlings, the Halflings in 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.
    • Ogres basing their religion on eating, their cooks actually serve as their priests, practicing Gut Magic which depends on what the caster ate.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
  • 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.
  • In Monster Hunter: World, the chef for the Hunter's camp is the Meowscular Chef; a scarred muscular Palico who cooks the player, and presumably other people who live in Astera, delicious meals. Despite not seeming to be able to talk beyond meows, he'll cook the player various stat-enhancing meals in a fun, fancy animation.
  • Junior Stoke in The Pale Beyond is the Temperence's cook, and is thus responsible for food preparation aboard the ship (and at camp, once the crew is forced to move onto the ice). Cooking ingredients are given to him to feed the crew during any given week.
  • 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 he 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.
  • 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.
  • Minor Warframe NPC Horrek is the camp cook for Kahl's Garrison after the latter frees him from Narmer imprisonment. True to form, he is an older Ostron man and the comic relief of the group, as his recruitment involved getting blackout drunk and doing something so stupid his wife locked him out of the house and left him to wander the Plains of Eidolon where he was captured. Horrek comes to from his bender three days later in a Narmer cage with nothing but a bucket (but no veil—apparently he was too drunk to brainwash). Kahl incidentally frees him during an expedition and he returns to Cetus to discover his wife still hasn't forgiven him even after his capture and imprisonment in a Narmer drunk tank. Lacking any better options, he becomes the Garrison's cook and spends most of his time making mystery meat stew and sampling various psychedelics.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This gets Played for Drama later on, when Ch'vorthq points out that he would have laid off the whisk if someone had just bothered to tell him that his overuse of the whisk was making the food inedible. He also, rightly, points ut that he is a diplomat, not a chef, by training, that he needs criticism to improve, and that the Toughs have been eating food they didn't like for as long as they have is their fault, not his.

    Western Animation 
  • Camp Lakebottom has Rosebud, a surly old lunch lady who uses all manner of revolting ingredients when cooking up meals for the campers at the eponymous summer camp.
  • Chef McMuscli from Camp Lazlo is Camp Kidney's New-Age Retro Hippie cook who makes horrendous vegetarian dishes for the Bean Scouts.
  • 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.
  • 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 Life with Louie, Louie's father Andy would loudly and frequently remind everyone he served in World War II, but his story changed every time (If all of his stories were true, it would mean he was at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima simultaneously.) When the actual truth comes out...turns out this was his job.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • During the Ottoman Empire, the rank Chorbaji in the Ottoman Army during the time of the Janissaries was the equivalent of an army colonel. It literally meant soup-giver in Turkish and originally served as the head chef of the unit.