Kids' Culinary Camps Train Chefs of Tomorrow

Kids' Culinary Camps Train Chefs of Tomorrow

Food & Drink

Kids' Culinary Camps Train Chefs of Tomorrow


By Cari Martens

Remember that silly song about summer camp that starts out ‘Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, here I am at Camp Granada…’? In those days kid campers learned things like how to pitch a tent or protect yourself against poison ivy (poor Joe Spivey). There was baseball, hiking and splashing in the swimmin’ hole.

Today, more and more kids are coming back from summer camp with dreams of becoming celebrity chefs or starring in cooking competitions on a reality TV show.

As described in a story by Alina Dizik, writing for Wall Street Journal online, campers at the Kids Culinary Academy of Vermont want to go way beyond s’mores and hot dogs roasted over an open fire. She quotes Chef Kelly Dietrich, who runs several summer camps for kids 10 to 17. He says kids are more sophisticated now. ‘They come in knowing what a hollandaise sauce is.’

The youngsters have grown up watching celeb chefs on cable TV. ‘I’ll hear them arguing over who’s better—Emeril or Bobby Flay,’ Dietrich says. The kids today see cooking as a way to become a star, rather than achieving that status by becoming an actor or rock singer. In fact, it seems chefs are becoming the new rock stars.

Ultra-specialized camps, including culinary retreats, are one of the summer camp industry’s fastest-growing segments. And they can be quite exotic and expensive. One North Carolina chef, Dorette Snover, takes kids to Provence and Paris on a 12-day culinary field trip for $4,750 per child.

Mr. Dietrich also offers young campers a chance to develop their kitchen skills at Highgate Center, the chef’s rural farmhouse located near the Canadian border. One-week ($2,695) and two-week ($4,900) courses draw kids from around the world. Dietrich, chef-owner of a Brazilian steakhouse in the area, tutors some 80 kids, aged 10-16, in his home here every summer.

With the help of his brother and six other counselors, Dietrich helps kids learn advanced cooking techniques such as braising, simmering and sautéing. The children tend to a greenhouse, raise tilapia in an aquaponic pond, and harvest honey from a beehive.

On the lower end of the spectrum, price-wise, a Baltimore camp, For the Love of Food, will soon offer a 20-hour course called ‘Chopped!’ based on the Food Network show of the same name. Teams of kids will compete to create three-course meals from everyday ingredients just like the chefs do on TV. Tuition for this camp is a mere $395.

At some of these camps there are a few more traditional activities like swimming and boating and, yes, marshmallow roasts. But for the most part it’s KP from dawn to dusk, and that’s just the way the kids want it.

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