Most people bring their appetite when they visit a Kentucky State Park, and the resort parks provide an excellent opportunity for guests to sample some of the food at their restaurants. Each of the Commonwealth's parks has a chef and food service crew dedicated to making visitors' stay enjoyable.
Here’s a look at three chefs at Kentucky State Parks, including why they enjoy cooking for park guests.
Angela Peck, the chef at Carter Caves State Resort Park for about 18 months, has spent more than 20 years preparing food.
“Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed cooking,” Angela says. “It brings me satisfaction to see the enjoyment that people get from a dish I have prepared. I also love trying new flavors and textures in a dish.”
Angela’s favorite dishes to prepare are a dessert such as macaroons, trifles and cakes for a special park event or private party. Her special entrée for the vegan or vegetarian traveler is spinach quiche or ratatouille.
Carter Caves in eastern Kentucky is the perfect place for her because of the many outdoor activities offered there.
“I like when we cater an outdoor event, so not only are we getting to be out on the park, but we also get to be more in contact with the people and really get to see their reactions to the food,” says Angela, who grew up around Lake Cumberland and received a culinary arts degree from Sullivan University.
At Lake Barkley State Resort Park in western Kentucky, Stephen Connell has been working as the chef for the past 2½ years. The Louisville native is a state park veteran, having spent the last 19 years working in food service for parks.
One of his favorite dishes is what he calls “Kentucky Chicken Cordon Blue.” The dish incorporates fresh chicken breast, cooked deli-style Kentucky country ham and a Swiss mornay sauce. “The saltiness of the ham and the creamy texture of the sauce go great together. Nice presentation as well,” Stephen says.
For a vegetarian meal, he combines pasta and fresh vegetables. He likes to sauté tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, squash, zucchini and black olives. He adds olive oil and vegetable stock, and then seasons with a fresh basil and garlic.
“The guests are truly the best part of my park,” says Stephen, who attended Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina. “I enjoy interacting with them in the dining room, out on the lake, or on one of our many trails. Cooking is so enjoyable because I get a great deal of satisfaction in a job well done.”
Chris Fugate, the chef at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park near Corbin, feels the same way about his guests.
“I enjoy cooking because I like to give our guests good homemade food and love for them to have a great experience at our park and see them come back,” says Chris, a Bell County native who has worked for Parks more than 15 years in food service positions.
His favorite dishes include lasagna, meatloaf, barbecued ribs and chili. “If you visit our park, you must try the catfish and homemade banana pudding,” Chris adds. For guests who want vegetarian or vegan meals, he usually speaks with them to see what they like and develops a dish specially for them.
His park offers homemade food, a salad bar with fresh vegetables, and scenery that can’t be matched.
“It’s a great place to eat, relax and enjoy nature away from it all,” Chris says.