By Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From hosting local children in the kitchen for cooking lessons to switching up menus at lunch time and making cameo appearances, the new team of chefs at the Peterson Club are intent on making the new operation a success.
To ensure success, they are focused on reaching out to the community, diversifying menu selections and maintaining the high-quality in the food they serve.
The new executive chef, Joe Zamora, and his sous-chef, Kirkland Dunning, have worked together for several years at other venues in the region, to include The Pinery north of Colorado Springs in Black Forest. Zamora graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in culinary arts and has been a chef for more than 20 years. Zamora said he wanted to bring his team here because cooking is their passion.
“From the time I was a teenager, I have always had a passion for cooking and cooking for other people,” said Zamora. “I love it; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. This job has opened up a new path for me and my career; it provides a lot of great opportunities.”
The Peterson Club gets its food service revenue from a few different locations that can present opportunities for the new team. The chefs prepare meals for special functions, lunch service and Stripes. Ultimately, the new team’s goal is to increase its customer base for these services so it can eventually expand operations.
Special function food preparation includes meals for people ranging from dignitaries of foreign allied countries to dinner for Airman Leadership School graduation. Sometimes the chefs are cooking for five members, and sometimes they are cooking for hundreds.
The menu will vary depending on the amount of people, but the meals are always gourmet, typically featuring meals that involve a lot of prep work and fresh ingredients.
The Club provides a full service sit-down lunch from Tuesday through Friday, where Zamora said he tries to create menus based upon what the customer wants. Ultimately, he wants to exceed expectations.
Zamora said he admits that cooking at an Air Force venue on base presents challenges — his customer base is limited, there are more requirements and less freedom — but at the same time, he gets to work with who he wants and provide great food for a deserving customer base.
“I want input from our customers. I try to get out in the room and see what people want,” said Zamora. “Our lunch is typically slowest on Tuesday and Friday, but I think those two days give us an opportunity to get some of our younger members in here and let them be a part of giving us new ideas.”
Zamora and Curtis Clayton, 21st FSS Peterson Club manager, said they are open to new opportunities for The Club chefs. For example, a plan is in the works to deliver pizza on base during lunch and evening hours. The idea is for homemade quality pizza to be delivered quickly.
Other examples of unique opportunities are the Celebrity Chef Dinners and the Kids Cooking Camp all hosted at the Peterson Club. Previously, The Club has brought local famous chefs from around the area to prepare a five-course meal paired with beer or wine. However, the next chef’s night will be hosted by Zamora, as a formal introduction to the base. Also, an already sold out Kids Cooking Camp is expected to launch a whole new opportunity to reach out to the base community.
“A lot of people haven’t experienced what we have to offer,” said Clayton. “Most of my club members have been members for a long time; more than 60 percent are retirees. While our current customer base is amazing and they come all the time, we really need to reach new members. I think once people experience our new menu and our new team, we can build those bonds with the base community.”