5 Ways to Spice Up Your Culinary Game

By: Grace Brogan, Wholesum Food Calculator

With the 2021 summer season just around the corner, now is a great time to step back and consider how you might make some small adjustments to your food planning for this year to really “wow” the next wave of clients.  Whether you’re serving a high-end clientele that expects gourmet food, or a budget operation that focuses on convenience, here are 5 easy ways that you can improve your culinary game.


1. Give your recipe list a makeover

After years of operating, it’s easy to fall into a list of meals that you serve that you, your clients, and your guides or staff all feel comfortable with. Taking the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to your menu is a surefire way to eventually fall flat with the ever-evolving needs and preferences of your clients. Here are a few great resources to get some ideas to add new options or adjust your existing recipes to spice things up:

Wholesum Outfitter RecipesLast year, we worked with several of our top users – outfitters and outdoor programs across the country – to compile a list of over 300 recipes that are actively being used on professionally outfitted trips and experiences. It’s a free resource that you can use anytime, whether you’re a Wholesum user or not.

MontyBocaIf you’re a backcountry outfitter, the list of recipes online, or in their pocket-sized books, is one of the best resources out there. Chef Corso knows his stuff and brings an excellent blend of know-how from the kitchen into the backcountry.

Fresh Off the GridThough it’s geared more toward your everyday car camping audience, the recipes and blog posts at Fresh Off the Grid are treasure troves of great resources for camping food, particularly if your outfitting setup allows for coolers and fresh ingredients.


2. Small Additions for Big Flavor

When we spoke with Chef Corso at MontyBoca last week, his words of wisdom were simple: Remember that a few small additions can make a big difference in a meal - Acid, Spice Mixes, and Sauces.

  • Acid:  I recently browsed through Tim Ferris’ best-selling book “The 4 Hour Chef” and he put it simply, “if something is missing, it’s probably acid.”  Add a squeeze of lemon/lime or a splash of vinegar to make meals pop.

  • Spice Mixes:  In Corso’s words, “Whether premade or home-mixed, Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Cajun spice mixes can really add a great dimension of flavor to the pantry.”

  • Sauces:  I recently came across an article that professed that one simple step could change your meal-prep forever. The thesis:  Don’t forget the sauce (BBQ sauce, Chimichurri, Baba Ganouj, Salsa...etc).  Corso agrees, “Look to sauces and gravies to add a finishing touch to a great meal:  Beef or mushroom gravy, Hollandaise, and Béarnaise are great places to start.”

3. Dutch Oven is King

If you’re outfitting a trip that doesn’t have to be terribly weight conscious (e.g. rafting, car camping, horse packing…etc.), consider adding a few dutch oven recipes to the mix. We’ve pulled together 41 different dutch oven recipes for outfitters from a variety of Wholesum users.


4. Plating & Presentation

This one might strike you as silly. After all, these are camping/rafting/hiking trips, not gourmet restaurants. That said, every good chef knows that the meal is about more than just the flavor. The entire experience – the smells, the texture, the company, the locale (you’ve got a head start here!), and the food’s appearance – is what makes for a truly memorable meal.  It’s OK if you don’t want to make edible origami swans. Consider a few quick meal adjustments to add some texture and color:  A few slices of red pepper, a small garnish of cilantro/parsley, a sprinkle of cotija or sesame/pumpkin seeds. Small tweaks to the presentation can go a long way.


5. Dietary Restrictions Shouldn’t Restrict the Experience

A vegetarian friend of mine recently returned from an outfitted rafting trip (we won’t name names) and while the rest of the group ate steak and roasted veggies, his substitute for steak was less exciting: white rice.We know it can be nearly impossible to satisfy the range of restrictions and preferences out there, but make sure to go out of your way to “wow” even those that can’t partake in the main course.  If you need some inspiration, here are some vegetarian options and gluten free options that we’ve curated from other outfitters Wholesum users.


About the Author

Grace Brogan is cofounder of Wholesum Food Calculator. Wholesum is an online platform designed for outfitters to help streamline their menu planning, recipes, shopping lists and packing lists.

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