Camp Aranzazu
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Camp Aranzazu

Meet Kitchen Manager: Norma Navarro

Written by: Paige White, Receptionist at Camp Aranzazu

Norma has been part of our Camp Aranzazu family since the very beginning! She started out in 2006 as the second member of our kitchen team. Almost all of our kitchen staff over the years have also been Aransas County ISD kitchen staff. Our schedules have worked well together. When school is out for the summer, those staff can come serve our campers. Norma became the kitchen manager at Camp Aranzazu in 2017, by title, but has always been a leader for our kitchen team, after 21 years of service with the school district!

The Kitchen Team at Camp Aranzazu prepare for special event at camp

You have been with Camp for 15 years now! What’s the biggest change you’ve seen at Camp over the years?

More children. Our number of campers has doubled since I started. And better food. We don’t have to go by a recipe. It’s all up here (pointing to her head). Also, no more peas! We stopped serving peas because, you know, they end up on the floor! We have to be careful with the special diets for kids with diabetes, or kidney disease. We also need to serve food that will appeal to the kids as well as the adult counselors and volunteers. Everything runs smoother now. Amelia (Camp Director) does an amazing job of keeping everything going the way it needs to go.

How did Camp’s kitchen and dining space start out (in the Art Center) and what is it like today (in the new Dining Hall)?

When we first started out, we had a dishwasher, a little walk-in refrigerator, and a little freezer. We didn’t have warmers, so after we plated the food, we would place it in the oven to keep it warm. We only had so much food storage so we had to order smaller amounts. I love the new Whataburger — Dobson Family Kitchen. We have very nice equipment and everything we need to prepare our meals.

Guests enjoy dinner at 2016’s Zazu in the dining hall with the Whataburger Dobson Family Kitchen in the background
Mr. Hugh Dobson is excited to hand Mrs. Norma Navarro a gift at 2018’s ZaZu

What has been the busiest time for the kitchen team?

When we prepared the meal for Zazu 2016 (an annual fundraising event at Camp including meal, auction, and entertainment). We served fajita tacos, carne guisada, shrimp cocktail, beans, rice, and dessert for 350 people!

(If you’re interested in our next ZaZu BBQ, Music, & More!, take a look at our website for more details.)

What is your favorite meal to prepare for our campers?

I don’t really have a favorite. I think one of the kids’ favorites is chicken tenders. But they love it all. They like the little sliders, and they like tacos with tater tots. When we serve the first responders each year, they always want my chicken enchiladas. It’s a recipe I came up with that everybody likes.

Campers from Camp SOAR enjoy lunch in the dining hall at Camp Aranzazu

What is one standout memory, or even some fun or crazy experience, you have had at Camp?

Lots of marriage proposals from the little kids! They all say, “Will you marry me?” They’re funny! I guess they like my food.

What’s your favorite part about being the kitchen manager at Camp?

All my life, I have been an early riser. I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. with my dad when I was a little girl and drink coffee with him. That’s what I have done all these years. I wake up at 3:30 in the morning, every day now, and make tortillas. So I’m used to being up early. I come in to Camp early in the morning and start making pancakes, cooking bacon and eggs and putting it in the warmer. It makes me happy to see the kids eat. If my child needed to eat, I would hope someone would feed him. The kids who come to Camp are special, and they need to feel special and be fed what they ask for. If they ask for something and we have it, then I will make sure it is served to them. That’s why I’m still here.

The kitchen team smile as they make pizzas for camper at Camp Aranzazu

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