Yosemite 2014: No Bad Days (Though They Were Warm and Dry)

Last week Nancy and I made our annual pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park for the celebration of Chef’s Holidays. This year we ate food prepared by Kent Rathbun, Jessie Cool, and Mark Estee; it was moderated by Carolyn Jung. We expect the food to be incredible, and yet again we were right. Never, never pass up an opportunity to eat anything imagined, cooked, or served by any of these talented people.

The weather was a bit disturbing. It was probably the warmest we’ve seen (it got into the 60s during the day, dipping to the 30s at night), but we were disturbed by the drought. All of California is experiencing insufficient rainfall, but we really noticed it there. The falls from the high country to valley floor were practically nonexistent and the level of the Merced River was dramatically lower. We’re praying for rain.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only challenge Yosemite faced. The Rim Fire in August burned over 250,000 acres, mostly north of Yosemite. The valley was untouched but it prevented many tourists from coming to Yosemite.

If that weren’t enough, the government shutdown in October shut down the park. Most of the people who work in the valley aren’t federal workers, but employees of Delaware North. That meant that they weren’t reimbursed for lost wages when the park was closed. They were eligible for unemployment benefits, but many of them rely on tips and that’s hard to compensate.

Given that, we were disturbed by the response of Delaware North. Packages for the Chef’s Holidays include a 5 course dinner on our last night. It doesn’t include other meals and Nancy and I got into the habit of having breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel. They had both a menu and a buffet, but let’s face it: if you’re there for excellent food you’re not going to choose buffet food that’s been baking for 2 hours under a heat lamp.

To our surprise and disappointment we were told that this year we could only choose the buffet in the dining room. If we wanted to order off the menu we’d have to do that through room service. We’re pretty sure that they did this to cut back on the waitstaff and save money. That’s fine for the bottom line of Delaware North, but not fine if you work for them. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the corporation cut their losses by taking money out of the pockets of their employees.

We pray that Chef’s Holidays 2015 is better for those who serve us.

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