Finishing Up at The Oakwood Inn

The Oakwood Inn, Spirit Lake, Iowa

Catherine and I will soon finish three weeks at The Oakwood Inn. Owners Bill and Bridget Johnson have been taking a well deserved vacation after running their inn (eleven rooms) at near full capacity for the entire summer. Time away is very important to Bed and Breakfast owners because burn-out is an occupational hazard. We try to call Bill and Bridget as little as possible, but I did have to call Bridget this afternoon because we lost internet access and I didn’t know where to find the modem.

Catherine first talked to Bill and Bridget Johnson at a Bed and Breakfast convention in 2016. They were two of many people we talked to, but they called us up in the fall, 2017 to work at their new property. Like most everybody, we skipped 2020 and then this summer they called us about working for them this fall. I might add, they started with a very nice place in 2017 and have transformed the inn and the surrounding property into a spectacular bed and breakfast inn.

Catherine does all the important stuff and I fill in where she tells me, but I do prepare the main dish which is the star of the breakfast, and despite all the other important stuff, breakfast is one of the things our guests seem to remember. They often ask for our recipes which we are happy to share.

We rely heavily on inn staff to make us look good and Catherine takes charge of employees. While Catherine insists on the highest level of service from the staff, she has a gift for coaxing and finessing it out of them. They work hard for her and like her for it.

I always panic my first few days at a new job. The situation is always the same, I cannot find the pots and pans. I cannot find the ingredients. I cannot find the cooking utensils. I obsess over the oven. At one place we worked, the actual oven temperature was about twenty degrees less than the thermostat indicated. Our guests were seated and my quiche wasn’t ready. The Oakwood Inn has a huge commercial stove and grill with two convection ovens. I had to call my sister to find out that I should reduce the recipe temperature by about twenty five degrees and shorten the cook time in a convection oven. Her advice saved me from serving “Burnt Offering” for breakfast the first day.

John Lang

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