Let’s Get Cookin’

Bosque Arts Center’s Culinary Club hosts successful first Young Chefs Cooking Camp to an enthusiastic & aspiring group of young cooks

CLIFTON -- The proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” also applies to cooking. Give someone good food, they will be fed. Teach them how to make the good food themselves, they will eat healthier, and always be a valued friend – because who doesn’t like someone to cook for them.

And in the long run, cooking at home is a lot cheaper than always eating out or grabbing some fast food.

The Bosque Arts Center kitchen last week was filled with dedicated volunteers and nine eager youth wanting to learn everything and anything culinary. It was the BAC Culinary Club’s first Young Chefs Cooking Camp, and it was a huge success.

In the age of YouTube videos teaching you everything, including cooking, it proved that nothing beats cooking together, and learning from each other.

On a scholarly level, learning to cook also helps with other skills, like learning to budget, learning about food-borne illnesses and sanitation, understanding nutrition, organizing and multitasking, and improving fine motor coordination.

But what the majority of the youthful cooks at the BAC enjoyed most was the making of new friends as they cooked together. They always just wanted to get cooking.

For Abby making new friends, and making the fruit skewers were her favorite thing. Peyton just loved working in the big commercial kitchen with her new friends.

Each day the BAC atrium filled with the most delicious aromas. Using the America’s Test Kitchen for Kids cookbook as a guideline, the participants – five girls and three boys – made two to three dishes each day, themed around a day’s meals.

Breakfast on Monday featured a lesson on kitchen and food hygiene from AgriLife Extension Office’s Chris Coons, and a demonstration by Culinary Club member Bryan Davis on Brenda Gantt’s fool proof delicious buttermilk no-measure biscuits. All the easy, three-ingredient recipe called for was a soft hand and a hot oven.

“They don’t have to be pretty,” Davis said. “As long as they just taste good, right?”

In between, there was time for a snack and some games, and some additional teaching moments on table manners and table settings.

Lunch on Tuesday started with the engaging Chef Oz – former TSTC culinary arts teacher Michael Osbourne – showing some knife skills and throwing around some French “cheffy” cooking terms like mirepoix, rondelle, pison, brunnoise, chiffonade and concassé. While the kids just wanted to see Chef demonstrate super-quick cutting like celebrity chefs often show off.

Instead, he urged the youth to use a monkey claw to protect their fingers, and to take their time – because he faints at the sight of children’s blood. The knife skills class was Nellie’s favorite thing.

Besides all the knife techniques, there was time for some riddles, information about the different onions and a joke, which was perfect for the aspiring young chefs.

“Do you know why cannibals don’t eat clowns?” Chef Oz asked. “Because they taste funny.”

On the menu Tuesday were Caprese Panini and Pesto Flat Bread Pizza, which inspired the kids to request an impromptu competition, like Chopped on television, or Master Chef. Volunteer Blake did the honors of judging the offerings, praising one for the preparation and the other for presentation.

The participants enjoy watching cooking shows. Whereas Reed enjoys watching “Worst Cooks of America,” Abby prefers the “The Great British Baking Show,” and “Top Chef.”

Dinner on Wednesday was the classic – pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs from scratch, with a spinach side salad.  

Favorites on Thursday were cheese quesadillas, guacamole and marinades for chicken. During a learning moment on nutrition by Coons and the summer intern Christie Keay, the kids showed their knowledge about My Plate for a balanced diet and the food pyramid. Keay, a senior at Tarleton State University, majoring in Nutrition, used some of the recipes the kids made to highlight their nutritional content.

And finally, it was fun party food to serve family and friends at the grand finale on Friday afternoon when the kids transformed from chefs to hosts. The snacks included cinnamon and ranch tortilla chips, fruit kebabs, tomato mozzarella sticks and peanut butter cookies with M&Ms. The marinated chicken, guacamole and other goodies adorned the delicious, and impressive buffet.

Hunter has always been interested in cooking, and enjoyed spending time with this grandmother Paula Roaten, who volunteered during the camp. His favorite thing was the Friday afternoon, “because it’s like a party.” McKenna loved making the tortilla chips for that day. She hopes her mother will allow her to cook more at home, now she’s got some new skills.

Culinary Club President Virginia Richards said that thanks to generous donors, new pans and ingredients were bought, the participant received aprons and a paring knife, their own copy of the cookbook, so they can try out new recipes in the family home setting. And they got to take home all the yummy leftovers.

For Richards and her army of volunteers, the camp was as fun as it was tiring. But their satisfaction came out of watching the kids engage with the speakers, with each other, and how enthusiastic they were about cooking in general. And that the youth went home every day without cuts or burns.

“They really took the cooking to heart and were really into it,” volunteer all five afternoons Nancy Bratcher said. By the looks of it, next year’s camp will be booked from the day it is announced, because all of this year’s participants all want to come back again. Reed, for example, wants to learn about deep-frying, Abby wants to make her own French Fries, and they all want to do some more baking.


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