Kitchen Pod

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In the past, AutoSub has provided food for hot dinners each night and self-serve breakfast, lunch, and snacks. A well-appointed kitchen is open for camper access during the day and staffed by a team of volunteers each night for dinner prep. 

2014 Autosub Kitchen

The kitchen information has been merged into the 2014 Survival Guide. AutoSub 2014 Survival Guide

2013 Autosub Kitchen

Kitchen Pod Lead : Tish

2013 Autosub Kichen Survival Guide (PDF)

2013 Autosub Kitchen Shift Signup Sheet (XLS)

Automatic Subconscious - Playa Cookbook

Playa Cookbook

Kitchen organizer

The kitchen organizer generally does (or delegates!) the following: 

  1. Develops menus for some of the dinners to be served during the week of Burning Man (usually the first, the last, and a fancy one in between).
  2. Recruits "chefs" to run dinners on the other nights. Helps chefs develop menus so that campers will have a good variety of healthy dinner options throughout the week
  3. Circulates SignUp and sees that the Kitchen and Ice Shifts are filled.
  4. Compiles the shopping list for camp dinner ingredients
  5. Compiles the shopping list for breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the 8 Camper days plus Early Crew.
  6. Organizes and executes optional shopping trip in Boston, loads these items on the Burning Truck
  7. Retrieves and cleans coolers and food storage bins stored in the locker in Reno
  8. Shops for Early Crew in Reno
  9. Organizes and Executes shopping trip for the full 8 days of camp provisions.
  10. Safely packs and transports camp food to the playa Friday night/Saturday morning
  11. Stocks the kitchen structure with food and sets up the kitchen for communal use
  12. Makes sure kitchen equipment such as grills and burners are in good working order
  13. Usually runs the first meal. 
  14. Sees that the coolers stay sufficiently iced throughout the week.
  15. Monitors camp ice and gas usage.
  16. Familiarize the chefs with the kitchen and show them where ingredients can be found
  17. See that the kitchen runs smoothly throughout the week
  18. Packs the kitchen as the event ends and sees that equipment gets loaded back onto truck for Reno.
  19. Loads surplus non-perishables onto the Burningtruck headed for boston
  20. Assists Late Crew in unloading the flatbed and returning camp stuff to Reno storage locker.
  21. Distributes Surplus to AutoSub members after truck unload in Boston

Debrief Notes from 2007

AutoSub 2007 Debrief
Food Pod

What worked:

  1. Having money in advance for shopping was very helpful!!
  2. Weighing stuff directly into Ziplock bags at WinCo worked well. Bags were easier to label, more accessible and more sturdy than those thin poly bags.
  3. Transferring purchases from Winco directly into the totes was more efficient and reduced the number of moop-o-genic poyethlene bags we had to deal with.
  4. The Dodge Grand Caravan is a great, efficient shopping vehicle. Unfortunately, the person renting the van always gets stuck with the bill because it's the food that gets transported to the playa rather than the shoppers.
  5. The procedure of bringing up all perishables plus a couple of days' worth of non- perishables in the minivan and leaving the rest for the Penske truck worked well.
  6. Having Pretzel's vehicle (which was a full-size pickup truck) was a huge help with the excess.
  7. The infusion of relatively fresh shoppers early Friday evening made the final CostCo run easy.

What didn't work:

  1. We needed more shoppers earlier on Friday for the perishables run.
  2. We needed more coolers for shopping/transport. The dry ice coolers were on the container rather than in storage in Reno. Not having the dry ice coolers with us in Reno made us have dangerously low ice capacity Saturday and Sunday before Camp Arctica opened. There should be at least one regular cooler filled with ice on the trip up. We had extra ice but were forced to put it in the totes, where it rapidly melted.

What was lacking in Reno:

  1. It was difficult to find large cans of beans, etc. in Reno. It'd reduce waste and simplify the shopping list to do a restaurant depot run before Truck load.
  2. Difficult/impossible to find Parmalat milk in Reno, while it can be found almost anywhere in Boston. We used fresh milk this year. It is better, but it took up a lot of precious cooler space. More reason to put a load of parmalat on the container.

Recommendations for next year:

  1. The clear plastic totes we bought at Costco (~$7 apiece) with the metal hinges were pretty durable. Many were used to ship unused food back on the Burning Truck, so we'll need to buy more.
  2. We can reduce the number of items purchased from the bulk foods section of WinCo, like cereal and flour. The man power it takes to bag and label items adds up.
  3. Don't buy bulk pancake mix again unless someone volunteers and commits to making pancakes on a specific day.
  4. Keep the diversity but buy a little less of each trail mix item in the bulk-foods section.
  5. If Rob does ice cream again next year, with or without Carl, he should get SOMEONE ELSE to worry about buying, chilling, and transporting cream to the playa.

Meal times:

What worked:

  1. The chefs who volunteered did a bang up job!
  2. Food was generally well-received. There seemed to be enough variety and heartiness that people ate well.
  3. I found “cut lists”, a piece of paper with what needs to be chopped, how much, and to what dimension to be very helpful in delegating prep tasks.
  4. It was nice to having everyone's menu and recipes in a convenient binder as a reference for quantities, etc.
  5. The sun goes down ~7:15 pm. We shoot to serve dinner at 8pm to allow people a chance to enjoy the early evening and change into warmer attire.

What didn't work:

  1. Dinner was served late (after 9) on some nights. Why?
  2. Major dust impeded prep on the first Saturday and Wednesday. Minor dust delayed start of prep pre-burn Monday.
  3. Full on storms prevented dinner from being made at all on Thursday and post-burn Monday nights.
  4. Dinner prep takes longer because of the sheer amount of stuff that must be prepped and because even if there is no storm, dust issues require defensive measures which take time themselves.
  5. Dinner prep usually starts between 3 and 4 when the sun is still very hot and beating on the sides of the kitchen. I think people work slower than they would in a normal kitchen.
  6. Sometimes prep volunteers run late.
  7. Sometimes the cooking just ran late, plain and simple.
  8. Some meals were too spicy or the non-spicy portions weren't labeled well.

Recommendations for next year:

  1. Grilling meat takes more than 1 hr for 40 people. Remind chefs to start their grilling at least 90 minutes before targeted meal time. It would be nice to have some sort of chafer to put grilled meat in so it stays warm.
  2. Have chefs touch base with their prep workers earlier in the day.
  3. Start prep earlier!
  4. Have chefs work a prep shift before leading a meal so they are familiar with kitchen layout
  5. Insist chefs volunteer to lead a meal at least one day after they're scheduled to arrive!

Notes on Menus

  1. Mixed Grill (Sat) Went OK. A little late because of dust storm in the afternoon
  2. Stir Fry (Sun): Went well, despite the fact that chef Mike arrived at about 5pm and we didn't have all the ingredients he had requested.
  3. Pasta (Mon): Went smoothly, prep delayed by dust. Bolognaise recipe not great. IMHO it had that weird barfy taste (I can say thi 'cause I was the chef!).
  4. Risotto and pork loin. (Tues): The roast pork loin took 2 hr on the grill and required frequent attention. Rachel forgot about the steak so didn't start grilling it until dinner had already started (it was supposed to go on as soon as the pork came off the grill. Risotto by the constant stir method is difficult to make on the playa with the burners we have. And because there were people who couldn't eat mushrooms in one case or cheese in the other, it was required to be plain.
  5. Chili and Pizza night (Wed). The chili was great and done on time! But the pizza took too long to grill, making dinner late for people who couldn't eat the chili. There should have been better signage of less-spicy chili
  6. Greek Salad (Burn Sat.) Good, but needed more meat.
  7. Rich's Dal meal (moved from Thurs to post-burn Sun)was quick and easy!


  1. Ice: Having a dedicated ice person was great! Thank you Jim Leonard!! Having lots of camper ice was great! Spending twice as much on ice was not so great. Not sure if excess went to camper ice or not. In years past, individual campers would donate bags of ice when they had gone to get ice for their own coolers or if they volunteered at Arctica.
  2. Need more coolers! Especially for staging. This year was particularly bead because we didn't have the dry-ice collers until we were on-playa.
  3. Refrigerator. Was great, once it was working.
  4. Do Signage in Boston!!! Signage attempt worked, but labels got messed up during daily ice maintenance. Next time make laminated cards to slide into page protector sleeves. Make these up in advance. Doing paper work or signage on playa out of plain paper sucks with wind, etc. Can't put anything down without having it blow away, tape snarls or gets dust on it.
  5. Make Keep Out signs for non-camper coolers.
  6. Dry ice is good for chicken and meat to be used at the end of the week. If there is enough dry ice, fresh meat will freeze. 100Lb dry ice kept chicken frozen 'til Wednesday night.

Buy Less Next time:

  1. General Excess Food:We had more excess food this time because we skipped formal meals on Thursday and on post-burn Monday night. In past years, we've fed extra people Monday night and gotten rid of excess food. Note: all meat was consumed by this time.
  2. Coffee. My estimate for coffee consumption as being 9 lb for the week I think is right on. I greatly overestimated the amount of coffee the cafe would demand. 11 lbs would have been plenty for both camp and cafe.
  3. Lettuce (they accidentally gave us 18 heads of Romaine instead of 10 but they were packed so we didn't notice). We use ~ 1.5 large heads per salad since other stuff is included.
  4. Cheese. Having a variety of cheese is good, but this year people ate more cold cuts and bacon than cheese.
  5. Peanut butter: I think people ate cold cut sandwiches rather than peanut butter and jelly.
  6. Oatmeal and hot cereal. There is little demand. One box would be plenty.
  7. The AutoSub food pantry at the end of the Truck load rewarded those auto subbers who could stay to clean up.

Buy More Next time:

  1. A little more bacon (we went through 16+ pounds this year!) and cold cuts.
  2. Liquid refreshment for campers. Powdered gatorade is not enough. Once people saw the bar pod mixers, they wanted juice and soda.
  3. Allocate a cooler for camper drinks only. A small number of aluminum soda cans would be fine. Juice bottles would be fine.
  4. Having someone fill small drink-dispensing coolers with ice and juice and water like Q did this year for Bar Pod would be great.
  5. Equipment Issues:
  6. Grills: both grills need replacement of manifolds. They are unsafe to operate as is.
  7. Large ring burners are great for dinner prep, but difficult to cook small portions on. Campers would often burn the bottoms of non-stick pans making their breakfasts.
  8. Have campers volunteer to bring smaller burners and pans of their choice on the truck. Many people don't like non-stick. The people who don't know how to keep stainless from sticking may make for a lot of dirty dishes.
  9. Knife rack: We had both block and magnetic knife racks, I just never got around to setting them up.


  1. Water: It is way to easy to use too much water when washing dishes. Especially during meal prep, because cooks are usually in a hurry. Is there a way to set the water at a slow trickle for dish washing? Signage doesn't work.


  1. Trash worked the best that it has in the last three years!!
  2. Having small trash and recycling capacity under the counter was great.
  3. Thank you MRI for taking on Trash Pod
  4. Thank you Alec/Alex from Kamp Kaos for carting away our recyclables at the end.
  5. Yay for Vince and the Compost Heapsters!!! Being able to cart away compost was a GREAT help
  6. Large open trash bags are messy, take up precious space, flap in the wind, and are difficult to label so campers will know what to put where.
  7. We should buy a couple of bigger barrels, or at least make sure the ones we have are usuable EARLY in the week (this year some of the trash cans sent out on the boston truck were used for packing the chromodome)!!!! We should have at least one large barrel for each recycling classification. Once the bags are full they can be easily tagged.

Chef and Prep Help Recruitment:

  1. I should bust out the sign up earlier, then email people to confirm their signups a few days before they leave for the playa.
  2. I was usually too busy Tuesday nights in July to go to meet and greets, but that was probably the ideal place to recruit chefs and shoppers. Email appeal never seems to work and the people who attend all but the very final autosub meetings are usually spread too thin.
  3. 3 of the 6 chefs slots were filled only a week before truck load, so developing menus and getting ingredients lists in time for early crew was difficult.
  4. Insist that chefs sign up for meals at least one day after they've arrived on playa.

More to come, I promise! Dozer

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