Camping and aspiring chefs, together at last

We’ve found the perfect way to add a little flavor to the traditional kids summer camp, literally. Ever heard of cooking camp? If you haven’t, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Indeed, this is a new spin on an old favorite. But as cooking camp registration soars, it appears this is just the ticket for many kids (and parents) seeking to mix it up this summer! Below is an exposé on the summer cooking camps we’ve found (so far!) in BC, and a whole new way to bring together kids, food and fun.

Summer Cooking Camps via cooking schools

Where are they? Summer cooking camps are offered through many cooking schools like the Northwest Culinary Academy, the Dirty Apron Cooking Schools, the Art Institute of Vancouver, The Dizzy Whisk, and Vistad’oro Farms in Langley.  Check out a location near you to find out what’s on the horizon.

(If you know of other camps around BC, please let us know here so we can share this info with our community!)

What are they? These are typically day camps running M-F, 10am-2pm, offered in two age groups (7-11; 12-17). Many kids are registered for several weeks at a time. Throughout the day, kids learn to prepare all of the components and courses of meals and acquire valuable cooking skills. At the end of the day, everyone comes together to enjoy the meal.

We got a hold of Barbara Finley, Founder of Project Chef, who has founded and/or heavily influenced many of the cooking camp programs for kids in BC, to find out more about these camps.

Says Barb, “Over the course of the week, kids learn all of the aspects of cookery typically seen in a professional program. Each day covers a different meal and theme. Some days are focused on breakfast, others lunch or dinner. The kids learn different ethnic foods like French and Italian, and cover the basics of bread work, meat and fish cookery, making home made pasta, etc. An emphasis on healthy, seasonal, and local food weaves through all the classes. The recipes reflect this and include items like fresh corn chowder, apple sage biscuits, and summer salads, along with special occasion treats like chocolate cake.”

What inspired Barbara to develop these cooking programs for kids?

“I grew up with a mom who taught me to have a wonderful relationship with food and to love healthy food, and I wanted to teach this to kids. We get all kinds of kids coming to these camps. Some are passionate about cooking and come wearing their own chef jackets. Some are just there for the fun of it and the social element. There are so many benefits to teaching kids about food and preparing food. Many will try foods they would never have tried before. And of course, one of the key benefits to parents is that the kids want to go home and cook!!”

Sounds great!

Healthy Eaters and Leaders Camp

Where is this camp? Maple Grove, 49 & Cypress, Vancouver.

What does this camp offer? Healthy Eaters and Leaders is a bit more like a traditional summer camp than a cooking school, with a strong focus on teaching about food and sustainability.  This camp runs for one-week periods, M-F, 9am-3pm. Some kids register for the whole summer.  Learn more about this camp online here.

We tracked down Marisol Petersen, Community Schools Coordinator, for details about her camp.

She tells us, “This is a summer camp but the theme is food! The kids love it and the parents are excited to see their kids trying new things—like veggies they’ve harvested themselves. Here, kids are encouraged to handle foods, use all of their senses to prepare and eat foods, and to discover new foods. We also put a big emphasis on teaching kids to buy local and think global. We have a zero waste policy that teaches stewardship. For example, the kids learn how to compost and they bring their own utensils and Tupperware every day (no disposables allowed). We also host a community garden that the kids tend to every day. They watch their herbs and veggies grow over the course of the summer and harvest them for the lunches they help to prepare every day.”

Working together, cooking and preparing food makes up a big part of the daily activities at this camp. Groups of kids are brought in to prepare different aspects of the meal each day, and by lunchtime every child has had an important role to play. The kids also go on out trips to places like Cobs Bread to make buns, UBC farms, and to other fun non-food places like the PNE.

(Side note: Marisol Petersen welcomes anyone interested in starting a camp like this in to contact her for some helpful advice.)

And of course, let us know, too! Cooking camp really does sound amazing. If you have already registered your child in one of these camps, please share your experiences with us here. This week, we’re giving away the wonderful Kids' Fun & Healthy Cookbook by Nicola Graimes. 

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