Park Chef Continues Meal Service for Remaining Residents, Adds Delivery
by Rocio Villalobos
When Kathy Tyler began wintering at Palmview’s Bentsen Grove Resort, she never expected she would eventually become its cook.
“I started in the kitchen the first year I was here, and I worked part time in the office. Then the lady who was a cook got sick, so that’s how I got the kitchen,” she said.
While not professionally trained, Tyler simply enjoys cooking and used to run a bar back in her home state of Missouri.
Bentsen Grove has more than 800 sites, and at the height of a typical year, Tyler would serve about 250 people each night.
This year is different, with fewer people at the park due to the pandemic. Tyler usually visits home during the summers but stayed behind this season because her husband was ill.
With that trip canceled, she could not stay away from the kitchen and wanted to continue providing meals for the full-time residents and the few Winter Texans who were able to venture down to the Valley. Not only does she cook, but she also has the meals delivered straight to the residents’ doors to keep them safe.
“Most are very appreciative and send cards to thank me and say they are really glad I’m doing it because at least one day a week, they know they’re going to have a home-cooked meal,” Tyler said. “So I feel good.”
One benefit of the circumstances is that the Resort has moved to a reservation system.
“It is kind of to my advantage this way because I know how many people to cook for,” Tyler said. “Before I would say, ‘Everyone really likes meatloaf, so I had better make enough for 250 people.’ You’re just guessing.”
Still, she looks forward to the day when everyone can return and enjoy fellowship among hundreds of their neighbors in the Dining Hall and the kitchen will be bustling with helpers; the kitchen currently allows only a limited number of volunteers.
“We have our peeling crew that comes Sunday mornings, so if we’re going to have mashed potatoes, they peel the potatoes or carrots,” Tyler said. “We try to get as much stuff done ahead as we can.”
On top of the current scaled-down twice-a-week meals, Tyler is also cooking for the holidays. For Thanksgiving, she prepared eight turkeys and is planning for a feast just as large for Christmas.
“It’s a different world we’re living in right now, so we’re just trying to adapt and be helpful,” she said. “We just have to depend on our little family.”