Jenna Barnes, Camp Chef Extraordinaire

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Jenna Barnes, Backroads Camp ChefDear Jenna,

I was looking forward to working with you all summer and this trip did not disappoint. It was sheer joy sweating it out in the sun with you, bracing in high winds with you and cooking in the dust with you…while cooking up a dust storm with you! My absolute favorite part was being in the presence of someone with such a passion for going above and beyond to make guests feel at home. Your cooking was amazing (as expected) but your attitude and lightheartedness went a long way in my book too. I really enjoyed learning how to be more creative in the kitchen from watching you make magic out of food. Thanks for the great experience.


This past summer, Jenna Barnes left her mark on all the hearts and stomachs of guests on Backroads Family Deluxe Camping trips. To her, serving meals to guests isn’t just another part of a daily routine on a trip; it’s something that has a much deeper meaning to her. Jenna shares a “deep connection with food” and uses her passion to “inspire people to eat better by showing them that you can get creative with food” as fuel for their active adventures or in their daily lives back at home.

Playing kitchen with Jenna Barnes is just another way to be inspired by someone’s passion for doing something that they love. But her skill as a Camp Chef with Backroads isn’t the only wonderful thing about her – she radiates with happiness and always wears a smile, and that translates directly to the food she makes.

Jenna Barnes and Hendrick Broekelschen Backroads Camp ChefsIn camp, Jenna’s specialty was improvising. On a daily basis she would make incredible meals from self-inspired ideas, things that the typical Camp Chef might be reluctant to pursue on a hectic camping trip. She would serve themed meals to guests and paid particular attention to dishes that complimented the current region that they were traveling in. In Yellowstone & the Tetons she’s served dishes like bison stew and vegetable shepherd’s pie to everyone’s delight. Jenna’s mouthwatering off-menu creations added to the authenticity of the trip and were as much of a treat for guests as they were for the leaders of the trip!

Jenna’s passion and talents didn’t just develop overnight. It took much longer than a summer working for Backroads to hone her skills in the kitchen – it has been years in the making. Before Backroads, Jenna spent three years with her “hands in the dirt,” planting and harvesting produce on a farm and then selling it at a local market in San Diego. She soon discovered her love for food and her drive to share it with people. While working at the farm during the day, she took on a night job at a local pub cooking simple meals for visitors. About 75 percent of the restaurant’s ingredients were purchased fresh from the same farm that Jenna worked at during the day – she called it Farm-to-Table Fridays and everything was made from scratch.

“I got to make meals with the food that I was growing and that made me so happy,” Jenna remembers.

From working with her, I know for a fact that she spends her entire pre-trip prep day searching out the freshest local ingredients at farmers markets. She meticulously seeks out local producers to find the best meats and vegetables in the region.

It’s special to know that the products you’re eating on your trip come from the same region that you’re touring!

Backroads Camp Chef, Jenna Barnes, serving guests on our Yellowstone and Tetons Family Multisport TourI was fortunate enough to work with her on a camping trip in Yellowstone & the Tetons – a trip where we spent less time taking breaks and more time thinking of wonderful ways to charm our guests with unique themed dishes. Everything was created from scratch and EVERYTHING was inspired by her abundance of creativity in the kitchen.

Jenna Barnes is no ordinary Camp Chef at Backroads, but then again, she’s no ordinary individual. She stands apart as someone who believes strongly in the power of food as a means to fuel and heal your body. She inspires people to eat well and inspires people like me to experiment with new dishes when working as a Camp Chef. To Jenna, food is life and she has an incredible gift showcasing absolutely all of its wondrous potential.

Backroads camp chef, Jenna Barnes cooking in dutch ovens on a Backroads Camping trip. Photo by Richard Wong.

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Dirk Badenhorst

Dirk Badenhorst

Trip Leader at Backroads
After earning his bachelors in marketing, Dirk moved out west on a whim and has since enjoyed living a “simple life”—which he defines as a life free from clutter but rich with exciting new experiences. Everything he owns fits in his car, but everything he needs fits in his memory, he says. In 2010, after spending three months hitching and cycling across America on a shoestring budget, he discovered his love for the “charming nature” of adventure travel. He hasn’t stopped traveling since, and has even spent a summer as a writer/photographer in Africa. Dirk spent his first season with Backroads working on the Camp Crew in Alaska, the Tetons and the Canyons. He now works as Trip Leader and blogs for the Back Beat.
Dirk Badenhorst

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