Amtrak cook

Thomas Disselkamp has enjoyed over 30 years working with the 3M Company, based in St. Paul Minnesota. He has been a contributing team member for improvement of numerous manufacturing processes and hard goods consumer products. Tom Disselkamp put himself through college at the University of Minnesota, and completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering in the early 80’s.

One of the summer jobs he held to pay for college was as a cook on the Amtrak rail line, on the Empire Builder route. Thomas Allen Disselkamp boarded the train at the Minneapolis station and worked for 6 days as the passenger service ran to Chicago, then returned to Minneapolis. From there it proceeded on to Seattle, Washington and finally returned to Minneapolis. He worked 6 days and had 4 days off, with a hotel over night stay in both Chicago and Seattle during the trip. Each dining car had 4 cooks and 5 waiters to serve passengers 3 meals per day. The menu was quite impressive: breakfast choices included all the typical egg and meat servings, fresh fruit, pancakes and French toast; while dinner options ranged from shrimp cocktail appetizers to rib eye, baked chicken, baked breaded fish and ham.

Tom had some rather unique experiences in this position. Hot water came from the engine cooling system, and actually first came out of the faucet as steam – causing an occasional burn. The dining car was rather cramped, yet efficient, and was very warm from the heat of ovens and grills. When the train would tilt due to the tracks banking, pancake batter would run across the grill resulting in rather oblong shaped cakes.

Most of all he remembers all of the unique people he had the pleasure of working with, both cooks and waiters. Each brought their own set of talents and humor to work, and pulled together as a team to ensure each passenger’s meal was a truly great experience on the Empire Builder.


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