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Updated 9:00 AM September 7, 2009

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Spotlight: Chef's special:
Project coordinating with a dash of cooking

Pecan crusted salmon with a maple syrup mustard glaze is not the typical dining hall fare found at camps. But Chris Malvica, the project coordinator at Camp Davis, has tried to make sure the food served at the academic camp for U-M students in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is anything but ordinary.
(Photo by Laurie Dorsten)

Malvica worked as a temporary chef at Camp Davis in the summer of 2000. With his culinary expertise honed at the Ritz-Carlton, he quickly raised the caliber of the Camp Davis dining experience.

He returned to Ann Arbor in the fall to resume his full-time profession of being an electrician. When he was asked to become Camp Davis' project coordinator the next year, he gladly accepted the position and has helped run the camp ever since.

U-M students attend each summer to obtain natural science credits using the Rocky Mountains as an outdoor classroom, and it falls upon Malvica to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

He takes a certain pride in exposing the students to the breathtaking scenery and exciting experiences Camp Davis has to offer.

"It's beautiful — incredibly so — he says. "I love watching kids who have never seen the mountains experience the Rockies. When the students are getting ready to depart they often realize they have not only had fun and learned a lot, but they have also had a life changing experience here"

As his role has progressed and he finds himself spending less time in the kitchen, Malvica still helps out in that domain daily, whether it's covering for a chef on his or her day off or helping to order and inventory food.

"The food here is amazing, but organizing three meals a day for more than a hundred people can be chaotic sometimes," Malvica says. The camp also tries to "never serve the same meal twice," which inevitably adds to the hectic mood in the kitchen.

The camp staff strives to use local ingredients while cooking. Regional treats such as buffalo, huckleberries and sage "picked right from the ground" are incorporated into meals. "It can be a daunting task, good food keeps the students' spirits high," says Malvica of his roles in the kitchen.

Malvica's other duties encompass "anything it takes to run a small camp." Ranging from maintenance, washing dishes, recruiting students and advertising to name a few, work is "never the same from day to day."

Malvica also can be found mending fences and chasing bears and badgers off the camp's secluded property.

While his job features a plethora of nontraditional tasks, he still spends a large part of his day behind a desk.

With such a wide array of duties both in and out of the kitchen, Malvica has picked up more than few new skills during his nine-year stint at camp.

"Although I'm trained as an electrician I've become a decent plumber now and I can fix just about anything," Malvica says.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at

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