A Cut Above: Meet AMC’s Lodge and Camp Chefs

June 27, 2017
lodge and camp chefs
From left: Aloe Lee, Anthony Celli, Scott PrestonAMC lodge and camp chefs Josh Harris, AJ Kaufman, and Tina Lunt combine their passions for food and the outdoors.

Spend a night at one of AMC’s lodges, huts, or full-service camps and you’ll quickly discover a common theme: delicious, homemade food. AMC chefs bring their passion for the outdoors to the kitchen every day, creating wholesome meals that keep hikers, paddlers, cyclists, and climbers fueled up for adventure. Cooking for hundreds of people can be daunting, but these folks have the experience to pull it off; plus, by living in the mountains or along the coast, they’re pros at balancing work with play. AMC Outdoors donned an apron to chat with three of AMC’s top chefs.

How long have you worked for AMC?
Harris: Two years.
Kaufman: I worked at the Highland Center from 2003 to 2005. I returned to AMC in 2014 and have been here ever since.
Lunt: Ten seasons.

What do you like to do outside of the kitchen?
Harris: I spend most of my free time oil painting. I like to think I am in very good company when I hike into the mountains with a French easel on my back.
Kaufman: I enjoy spray paint art. While I’m still a novice, I learn new techniques every time I paint.
Lunt: I love to quilt, sew, and spend time with my family.

What attracted you to this job?
Harris: I like the freedom AMC provides for my creativity. Because of the different regions AMC spans, there’s a lot of diversity. AMC also allows me to design and tailor my menus to the needs of our guests, so it feels really personal.
Kaufman: What brought me back was the diversity at the Highland Center. It’s fun to talk to guests about where they are from, their culture, and their local food styles. I also enjoy meeting students on work visas from all around the world.
Lunt: Living on a lake in a rustic cabin for the summer, coupled with my passion for cooking, made for a perfect change in my life. Cooking is also good for the soul. Every June, my boyfriend, who also is my assistant chef, and I pack our belongings and embark on a summer of cooking, enjoying the guests and croo, swimming, and boating.

How has AMC’s approach to food changed over the years?
Harris: Our guests’ palates seem to be broadening with their ecological awareness. I love that people are getting to know who is growing their food. Vegan and vegetarian food is causing a shift in the way cuisine takes shape. AMC is tackling these growing interests with a creative and down-to-earth approach. We now have hearty vegan entrées alongside traditional meat dishes.
Kaufman: New and better equipment is always coming out. [But] the thing that has stood out the most is the number of people with food allergies. Even on a slow night, it’s rare not to have any guests with any food allergies.
Lunt: Guests love seeing fresh and local food. My menus in the last several years have included more kale and quinoa.

What do you like best about cooking?
Harris: Cooking for large groups of people takes a lot of physicality. An hour before food service, I am dancing around the kitchen like a ballerina with the intensity of a football player. It’s a real rush.
Kaufman: Seeing the pleasure on people’s faces when they’re enjoying the food you’ve prepared for them. Food can bring people together.
Lunt: Hearing the wonderful compliments on a daily basis. It makes me feel appreciated to know guests are happy and I am doing something right.

What’s your favorite AMC summer dish to cook and to eat?
Harris: I prefer lighter grilled meats and veggies, usually on greens with fresh-made citrus vinaigrettes.
Kaufman: Barbecue. Your options are unlimited. It brings family and friends together.
Lunt: The Tuesday picnic on Thompson Island. We serve Maine lobster; clam chowder; and fresh, colorful salads.


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Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith is a former managing editor of AMC Outdoors.