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MUW Culinary Camp for Kids’ demos let young chefs shine

 

After a week at the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Camp, budding chefs performed cooking demonstrations Friday for their parents. Their steps are reflected in a mirror over the work station. Meredith Woolbright, left, and her cooking partner, Sarah Katherine Sykes, both 10, show how to make peanut butter dream bars. In the foreground, Cindy Watson and her 4-year-old daughter, Kendyl, watch. Meredith is the daughter of Alice and Kenneth Woolbright; Sarah Katherine is the daughter of Pam and Gregg Sykes, all of Columbus.

After a week at the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Camp, budding chefs performed cooking demonstrations Friday for their parents. Their steps are reflected in a mirror over the work station. Meredith Woolbright, left, and her cooking partner, Sarah Katherine Sykes, both 10, show how to make peanut butter dream bars. In the foreground, Cindy Watson and her 4-year-old daughter, Kendyl, watch. Meredith is the daughter of Alice and Kenneth Woolbright; Sarah Katherine is the daughter of Pam and Gregg Sykes, all of Columbus. Photo by: Luisa Porter

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

 

MUW Culinary Camp director Vicki Leach is pictured working with 2008 campers.

 

Westley Fikes serves potato salad to Renee Gummill, left, and her mother, Johnny Gummill, of Starkville. Westley, 11, is the son of Jill and Billy Fikes, of Hamilton.

 

Twelve-year-old Carrie Gayle, of Columbus, peels potatoes for potato soup during a demonstration Friday. Carrie is the daughter of Marnie Gayle and Kirk and Stephanie Gayle. Her cooking partner was Makenzie Coggins, of Alabaster, Ala.

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Two pretty, young ladies wait in a hushed hallway in the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute Friday afternoon. Nervous energy bubbles beneath the surface. They carefully look over their cart one more time to be sure nothing essential has been forgotten. Egg whites, sugar, half-and-half, mixing bowls -- all there. 

 

Their anxious preparation is understandable. On the other side of the thick door facing them are about 30 parents, grandparents and friends gathered to watch cooking demonstrations from all the fourth- through sixth-graders who have spent the week at culinary camp. It''s "graduation" day, and they are up next.  

 

 

 

Creating cooks 

 

MUW''s annual Culinary Camp for Kids is once again a tasty success. During four week-long sessions June 1-26, the university''s kitchens bustle with campers ages 2 through seniors in high school. 

 

After a week of learning practical cooking techniques and experimenting with an array of recipes, each session''s grand finale has the campers, in teams of two, demonstrating a recipe in condensed form.  

 

"It''s fun for them to get to be Emeril for a day," smiles camp director Vicki Leach, adding that many of the youngsters are fans of the food network. Leach is an adjunct faculty member at MUW and also teaches for the Viking Cooking School.  

 

"We try to teach them to be comfortable enough in the kitchen through the week that on Friday, when they''re preparing for their demos, they''re doing the work themselves -- from mise en place to presentation." (Mise en place, pronounced meez ahn plahs, refers to having all ingredients and implements prepared and ready to go before you begin cooking.) 

 

The strategy must work because, as Leach testifies, "they come in on Friday busting at the seams to get started." 

 

 

 

Getting ready 

 

Twelve-year-old Carrie Gayle, of Columbus, is attending camp for the first time this year.  

 

"I get nervous," she admits before her demonstration on making potato soup with partner Makenzie Coggins. But her grin implies benevolent butterflies.  

 

"We have to tell our ingredients and what we did," says Carrie, who has "cooked at home a lot." She enjoys the new things she''s learned at camp, like how to work with different appliances. But laughs over one other revelation: "By the end of the day, your feet really hurt!" 

 

As Leach reminds the campers to "get with your buddy" and be sure they have at least three things ready to tell about their recipes, the two girls huddle over their game plan.  

 

 

 

Building on basics  

 

Leach, dressed in a crisp, white chef''s jacket and fun leopard-print slacks and apron, talks about camp. 

 

"We spend the week covering kitchen basics with basic techniques, and I choose recipes based on what we try to teach them that day," she explains. "We start with baking and boiling techniques, then cover frying, stir-frying, sautéing and steaming, plus basic knife skills." 

 

The students also do a few international foods, like Thai spring rolls, Italian minestrone, Mexican tamales. And then, their favorite, "sweet stuff."  

 

"They also set tables every day, and we try really hard to instill the concept of dining, not just eating -- tasting everything to build their palate and memory bank, eating things fresh and minimally processed," the director pointed out.  

 

With the assistance of culinary arts senior An Howard Schubert and other culinary students, Leach and the team also concentrate on teaching time management in the kitchen.  

 

 

 

Like magic  

 

Back in the demonstration kitchen, the appreciative audience is enjoying samples from each team of their selected recipe, from potato salad to crème brulée. Some of the young cooks are even using a little kitchen "magic." 

 

Rising sixth-grader Sara Dawson, the daughter of Terry and Dale Brewer, and her partner, Caitlin Crimm, of Starkville, laughingly exclaim, "Voila!" as they pull a pan of fully-cooked hot fudge pudding from an oven, only seconds after putting a pan of uncooked ingredients in another, "just like on TV." 

 

"We don''t just cook in the kitchen," smiles Leach, "we have a fun time."  

 

As the afternoon comes to a close, camp participants are presented a chef''s hat and cookbook to take home. They leave with new friendships, emerging palates and skills to build on for a lifetime.  

 

But, of course, kids will be kids: the most fun part of all, they seem to agree, has been -- what else? -- "eating all the food!"  

 

 

 

Hot fudge pudding  

 

Serves 6-9 

 

 

 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

 

3/4 cup sugar 

 

2 tablespoons cocoa 

 

1/2 cup milk 

 

2 tablespoons melted butter 

 

1 cup chopped pecans/nuts 

 

 

 

For topping: 

 

1 cup brown sugar 

 

1/4 cup cocoa 

 

     

     

  • Sift together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa. 

     

  • Stir in milk and melted butter and then blend in nuts. 

     

  • Spread the mixture in a 9-inch square baking pan and top with a mixture made with the brown sugar and 1/4 cup of cocoa.  

     

  • Pour 1 3/4 cups hot water over the entire mixture and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. 

     

  • Turn upside down and serve out of the pan with vanilla ice cream. The top will be a brownie-like cake; the bottom will be a bubbly pudding.  

     

 

 

 

 

Peanut butter dream bars 

 

Serves 24  

 

 

 

2 cups quick-cooking oats 

 

1 1/2 cups flour 

 

1 cup peanuts, chopped 

 

1 cup brown sugar 

 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

 

3/4 teaspoon salt 

 

1 cup butter 

 

One can sweetened condensed milk 

 

1/3 cup peanut butter 

 

1 cup M&M''s 

 

     

     

  • Combine oats, flour, peanuts, sugar, soda and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.  

     

  • Add and cut in butter until the dry mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of crumbs, and press the remainder into a 9-by-13-inch to 10-by-15-inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.  

     

  • Combine condensed milk and peanut butter in a small bowl, whisking until well-blended. Spread over the partially baked crust to within 1/4 inch from the edges.  

     

  • Combine the reserved crumbs and M&M''s and sprinkle evenly over the milk mixture, pressing in lightly.  

     

  • Continue baking for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars. 

     

 

 

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment Melissa Conquest commented at 6/21/2009 6:59:00 PM:

Culinary Camp is great experience for children, no matter how much they already know about cooking. My daughter Pam, who just finished 2nd grade, loved every minute of her week at camp. The instuctors are not only knowedgeable, but kind and compassionate as well. Kudos to Camp!

 

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