James Perry: Everest Base Camp Chef

Very much the heart and soul of Everest Base Camp is the somewhat unremarkable bright yellow tent that homes our kitchen! Delivering a seemingly endless array of meals, drinks, safe drinking water and even celebratory cakes to hungry climbers and AC Staff, ensuring everyone remains hydrated, energized and healthy. No easy feat on the side of a glacier, at 5,300m!

Our third installment of the Everest Insider Series introduces our talented Chef, James Perry, who has recently returned home after catering to our 2018 Everest Expedition.

AC Everest Base Camp Chef James Perry outside his tent

What was your role at Everest Base Camp?

My role was to be the Expedition Chef, this involved not only cooking but to also help train the local staff working in the kitchen and at Camp 2 on the mountain as well.

How did your background lead you into joining Adventure Consultants in this role?

I have been quite lucky to have had a diversified cooking background. I have worked on ships, and in hotels and restaurants all around the world including expeditions in Antarctica and shorter expeditions in New Zealand. Being able to adapt to different situations and conditions was super important. I very quickly learned that working in a kitchen at 5,300 meters was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The simplest of tasks such as making a cup of tea or cooking pasta becomes a challenge when the boiling temperature of water only reaches 70 degrees celsius! We had to wrap the vegetables and fruit up at night to stop them from freezing!

Bringing his artistic flair to base camp, chef James Perry creates a spectacular celebratory cake for the 2018 Everest team!

What is your personal climbing/outdoor background?

Strangely enough, I was born and grew up on the island of Bermuda, in the Caribbean. I first saw snow when I was 20 years old, but quickly adapted and I have been fortunate to live in some amazing alpine areas since. The Bavarian Alps, Austria, Switzerland and of course New Zealand. I spent any free time I had in the mountains, but as for climbing, I couldn’t even climb a ladder without getting scared! I am in awe of the accomplishments of the entire team going up the mountain.

What are the best parts of your job at Base Camp?

There were a few “best parts”… Being able to follow the whole season of the climbing team stands out. To see how with determination, and guidance from the members of the Adventure Consultants team these “average looking” people were able to accomplish something amazing. I am in awe of all of them. It was really great to work and live with the Nepalese kitchen staff. We spent many long hours together, and the effort they put in was in my opinion no less than the team that actually climbed the mountain!

I also really appreciated the quiet moments as well… my favourite time of day was just before the sun came up over the mountains, before any of the other members got up. For about 15 minutes each day Everest cast a distinct shadow across the sky, just to let us know she was there, waiting…

Always smiling chefs in the Everest Base Camp kitchen tent.

What are the hard bits and how do you cope?

For me the extreme temperatures were the hardest part. In the mornings generally the temperatures would rise, even to the point of being warm, before the early afternoon clouds would roll in bringing snow. The nights were extremely cold, but it is amazing what your body gets used too and being in a team and knowing that everyone was going through the same. The lack of oxygen was also tough for me as well, at least once each day I would find myself gasping for breath.

Tell us how it works having two cultures, East and West, working together to bring successful results?

This for me was one of the most interesting aspects of the expedition. The work ethic of the local staff, whether in the kitchen, or the Sherpa on the mountain was incredible. There was a great deal of respect given to all of the local staff by the climbers, just because of the effort that they put in. The kitchen staff would work incredibly long hours each day. It didn’t matter what was asked of them they were always there, and always smiling. I think it helped to boost everyone’s mood when the Sherpa and kitchen staff always seemed happy, and genuinely caring for each other. The whole team, whether local or westerners worked incredibly hard towards the common goal of helping each of the climbers to achieve their goal.

Tilak Rai and James ready to welcome the Everest climbers back into Base Camp, holding pots to bang together loudly in what is now a traditional welcome back!

What did you miss most about home life?

Not much to be honest. I was amazed as to how many home comforts we had! Organic roast coffee from New Zealand, fruit and vegetables and many more luxuries. Anything that might have been missed arrived quite quickly.

Living on the side of a mountain glacier can have its moments. What stands out to you?

Lying in my tent at night listening to the avalanches as they happened all around. In the beginning they were quite worrying, especially the ones that seemed quite loud and go on for a longer period of time. You realise quite quickly though, that the camp is positioned far enough away that we would not be directly affected, despite this you always worried about those that had climbed up into the mountains, and we always celebrated the team’s safe return.

The bright yellow Adventure Consultants kitchen tent, where magic happens on the side of a mountain!
Inside the immaculate and clean AC Everest Base Camp Kitchen tent.