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Working in the South Pole Kitchen

Alrighty, the south pole kitchen. My official place of employment at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The reason they were paying me to be there. I also did a number of other jobs at the south pole – EMT, Tour Guide, Reporter, Research Assistant – but my main job was as the lone breakfast cook.

I’ve previously posted a bit about my role in the kitchen on my FAQ post, and I’ll re-post it here, in addition to a bunch of new photos of the kitchen.

Since I’m the breakfast cook, I singlehandedly make breakfast for 160+ people, every morning, 6 days a week. My usual breakfast consists of a number of dishes:

  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Scrambled Eggs w/ ingredient
  • Potatoes – hash browns, potato cubes, tater tots, hashbrown patties, etc.
  • Meat – Sausage links, sausage patties, bacon, canadian bacon
  • 2nd Option – Varies, mostly whatever I want. In the past I’ve made huevos rancheros, migas, biscuits n gravy, bread pudding, breakfast bake, baked eggs, quiche, casseroles, etc etc etc – there’s intense pressure from upper management for me to make something new every morning, so I’m always racing to think up something new and tasty.
  • Sweet – french toast, pancakes, waffles, w/ syrup
  • Yogurt – made from scratch
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Granola
  • Cereal – oatmeal, 7-grain, grits
  • Smoothie – fruit smoothie, frappuccino, horchata, chai

And after I’m done making all of this in the 2 hours before breakfast service starts, I stand at the griddle and make eggs to order while breakfast is served. I usually make about 90-100 eggs per morning, usually over easy, over medium, scrambled, sunny, or “in a frame” (name chosen by Liz :) ).

While I’m doing all of this, I also have to be prepping for the next morning’s meal. I get to work at 03:30 and start cooking. Breakfast service is from 06:00-08:00. And then I have to be done with all of my breakfast cleanup, as well as complete prep for the next morning by 09:00. I take my first break from 09:00 – 09:30, and then I come back and work with the lunch lady to make lunch for everybody. I get out of work at 13:30, and then usually try to get to sleep around 20:00, so I can wake up at 03:00 the next morning and do it all over again.

A few photos of the south pole kitchen, and my breakfast setup:

Front of the kitchen. Here you can see my prep counter on the right, and the serving line on the left.

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Back of the kitchen, with ovens, range, fryer, steam kettle, tilt skillet.

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Inside one of the walk in’s, I had my own breakfast rack, where I stored my prepped food.

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The flattop griddle. This is where I made all of the eggs, pancakes, etc. Here in this pic, you can see that I’ve made a “levee” out of chopped peppers, onions, beans, and corn which prevents the eggs from running off the edge while they cook. Eventually I mix it all together. Egg-engineering. I was like and “egg-gineer”. Yeah. Oh, and there’s one twins egg in the second pic. You can also see that this pic was taken fairly early in the season, because there are two bowls of fresh fruit out on the line.

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My breakfast line, a few views with all of my breakfast food setup. I made all of this singlehandedly every morning.

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And we even had a deli slicer. Good for slicing corned beef, evening out shoes and furniture, and feeding noisy cats. And that’s my snazzy Antarctica 59fifty new era hat.

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The entrance to the Galley

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Heather our baker makes all sorts of tasty sweets such as her bark medley

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One of two most hotly debated items – the ice cream freezer. This freezer actually broke early in the season, and so to keep order and peace around the station, we stored the ice cream outside on the deck, and brought it inside for brief periods during meals. The other item that was most likely to cause riots if/when it breaks is the coffee machine.

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6 comments

  1. C. Rod says:

    Wow! I am so happy (and jealous) of you right now! I love Antarctica and I love to cook, so that would be a perfect job for me :) Unfortunately not being a US Citizen or at least resident trims down all the opportunities for me. Glad you were able to do it, what a wonderful experience!

  2. Robert (Bob) Johnson says:

    I have just discovered your material: This is information that has never been available to the general public and it is OUTSTANDING. I am looking forward to reading every line that you wrote and examining every photo and video that you took. The most interesting thing about it is that is from the perspective of a non-scientific person and gives in insight into the ordinary lives, and might I add the happy faces of those who took part in what is probably the greatest experience of their lives.
    Thanks for taking the time for taking the time and having the foresight to gather up the information and make it available to all. I am 74 years old–and have seen a lot of amazing things in my lifetime–but this is right up there on top of most of it.

  3. Zach says:

    What was your culinary experience when you applied to this job? It looks like the breakfast job was a lot of work and responsibility, and they would need someone with somewhat advanced experience with food. Would the food service jobs in McMurdo require less experience per person, since that base is much larger than the South Pole base?

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