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Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.

Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.

These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.

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November 2, 2011

Featuring our Staff

Behind the Scenes Can Really Be Out Front

BenjiLeaning back in his chair in the dining hall, looking not at all unlike the great Buddha himself, Ben Salazar said with a sigh, "Ghost Ranch has been good to me and my family." Ben Salazar, head of the kitchen staff, has been good for Ghost Ranch as well. For the past ten years he has worked his way up from being a part-time kitchen helper which he said is "75% cleaning and 25% food preparation" to supervising twelve people in the summer and eight in the winter.

The Salazar family is rooted in northern New Mexico. Ben was born in Chama and raised in his grandmother's kitchen. Ben's grandmother's kitchen was not just any kitchen. Ben's grandmother is Vera Alcon, who for 44 years owned and operated Viva Vera's Mexican Kitchen in Chama. "Everyone in my family is a cook, "said Ben. "My father was a cook in the US Army."

Making everything we can from scratch, buying fresh ingredients from local growers, changing the menus and learning new recipes --- these are Ben's goals. He specializes in northern New Mexico cuisine, buying locally grown beef, chile, chicos, beans and other vegetables. "We need to be supporting the local economy and, besides, things are fresher that way."  Saturated fats, msg and processed foods are all no-no's in the Ghost Ranch kitchen. You'll find no deep fat fryer there. Ben wants to serve good, wholesome food at every meal and that is the way the food is described by 90% of the guests when they complete their written evaluations of their stays at Ghost Ranch.

Ben is the proud father of three girls whose ages are 9, 5 and 2-months. He's also proud of his staff. They work hard to keep the kitchen and the dining hall spotlessly clean; they recycle plastic, cans and bottles, cardboard boxes and cooking oil. Even the food scraps are donated to local subsistence pig farmers.

"I love my job, "says Ben. And what does he like best? "When I'm feeling hassled all I need to do is step outside and look around. Take a look at that view. Take a deep breath. I love working at Ghost Ranch."

And we love you too, Ben. Thanks for a job well done.

Tags: camp and conference, ghost ranch, hospitality, ministry, pcusa, staff training, support