Kids cook!: MUW's Culinary Camp gives next generation of cooks the right ingredients

June 19, 2013 8:20:41 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Young cooks had a hard time containing their excited anticipation Friday afternoon while waiting for parents to arrive at Mississippi University for Women's Culinary Arts Institute. It was demo day, the last day of their week-long adventure at culinary camp, and they were eager to show off what they had learned. 


The alluring aroma of chocolate wafted from molten cakes in individual ramekins, hot from the oven. Flaky phyllo cups filled with creamy Boursin cheese and a savory Mediterranean vegetable medley covered a silver serving tray. A colorful assortment of tempting sweets sat ready on a countertop. Parents were in for a treat. 


Each summer, MUW offers youngsters the opportunity to explore the wonderful world of foods. Four separate sessions geared toward second- through 12th-graders employ demonstrations, lectures and hands-on work to train campers in the practical knowledge needed to produce the recipes of the day. From food and kitchen safety and the correct use of appliances, to healthy meal planning, techniques and even etiquette, campers get a good grounding.  


Chef Mary Helen Hawkins is director of this year's camp. She is a chef instructor of the MUW Culinary Arts Institute in Columbus, Viking Cooking School in Greenwood and Thyme in Starkville. She's no stranger to the W's camp, having served as a chef assistant there in 2008. Her chef assistants this summer are Raleigh Poole and Brooke Reece. 


A good start 


One of the most rewarding aspects of culinary camp for Hawkins is watching confidence bloom. 


"They're not even realizing how much they're learning," she remarked. "They're having fun; they're making friends and learning to work well in a team." 


Cecilia Devos was one of the fourth- through sixth-graders attending camp June 10-14. The highlight for her was baking day, she said Friday. 


"I liked using fondant and baking things," said the 10-year-old Caledonia Elementary School student who was making ambitious plans to prepare Father's Day cupcakes, lasagna rolls, hash browns and bacon candy for her dad. Her parents are Joy and John Devos.  


This summer's camp was the first to let campers work with fondant, a thick paste made of sugar and water, popular for cake and cookie decorating. 


"We showed them how to make roses and daisies out of fondant; they absolutely loved it," smiled Hawkins. "Cake decorating is always a big hit."  


Last week's participants also made homemade biscuits and jam, pastas, Italian bread, gelato, pizza, pompadour sauce and grilled romaine salad, to name a few achievements. 


"My favorite was making alfredo sauce," grinned Ainsley Ham, who looks forward to using her new skills at home. The 9-year-old Starkville Academy student is the daughter of Steven and Faithe Ham. 


"The hardest part was trying to make everything we made all perfect," explained Cassidy Stewart, 12, a student at Caledonia Middle School. Her parents are Eddie Stewart and Teresa Stewart. 


They all agreed it was fun working with their cooking teams. Those who were more seasoned were happy to step in and help the less experienced.  


As parents began arriving Friday to watch their children's demonstrations and sample the delicious evidence of progress, campers didn't hold back their enthusiasm.  


Yes, conducting four weeks of culinary camp is a lot of work, Hawkins admitted, but the results -- getting the next generation of motivated young cooks off on the right culinary foot -- are well worth it. 


A few slots are still available for the final session June 24-28, for seventh- through 12th-graders. Cost is $250 per session. For more information about registration, contact the Culinary Arts Institute at 662-241-7472. 


Enjoy the recipes Chef Hawkins shares with our readers today; both are courtesy of the Viking Cooking School.  






Serves 4 




1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), plus extra for buttering ramekins  


Granulated sugar, for coating ramekins 


1 cup confectioners' sugar 


1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour 


4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate 


1⁄2 teaspoon Godiva┬« dark chocolate liqueur  


3 large egg yolks 


2 large whole eggs 


Good quality vanilla ice cream 


Special Equipment: 


4 (8-ounce) ramekins 




  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Liberally coat the inside of each ramekin with butter; sprinkle granulated sugar into each buttered ramekin and tap out the excess; set aside. 


  • Sift together the confectioners' sugar and flour; set aside until needed. 


  • Combine the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler; place over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Stir in the chocolate liqueur, then set aside until needed. 


  • Combine the egg yolks and whole eggs in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly mixed, about 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add the chocolate/butter mixture and mix until completely incorporated. Add the flour mixture; increase the speed and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. 


  • Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly. Bake until the tops are slightly puffed and have begun to crack, the edges are firm and set, and only the very center is still soft, about 22 to 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes. 


  • Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. 


    (Source: Viking Cooking School, adapted from the recipes of Morton's of Chicago steakhouse.) 






    Makes 15 canap├ęs 




    1/2 small red bell pepper, finely diced 


    1/2 small red onion, finelly diced 


    1/2 small eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch cubes 


    1/2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch cubes 


    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 


    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 


    15 frozen miniature phyllo tart shells (1 package) 


    1/2 (5-ounce) package boursin cheese 


    4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade, for garnish 




  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine bell pepper, onion, eggplant and zucchini in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat; season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes. 


  • Place the phyllo cups on a baking sheet. Spoon 1 teaspoon of Boursin into each cup; use your fintertips to press the cheese into the bottoms of the shells. Top with a generous spoonful of roasted vegetables. 


  • Place in the preheated oven, and cook until the tart shells are light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and serve warm or at room temperature. 


    (Source: Viking Cooking School)

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.