• Pamela Froman

Talking with Chef Chris of Summer Cooking Camp

If you're trying to decide what your kids will be doing in their time off, try the Art Academy's savory summer program for kids and teens called, Cooking Camp!

Cooking Camp is a wonderful opportunity to expose your child to new foods that encourage them to expand their culinary palates and can serve as an ideal entree to culinary pursuits! Cooking lessons are lessons for life.

We sat down with Executive Chef and owner of the Cooking Camp Chris Allen to find out what makes his culinary-themed camp so special.

Why is cooking camp a great place for kids?

We never dumb down our curriculum. We teach from ages 7 to 17. Kids respond well to that because they don’t like being talked down to.

What will they be cooking?

We do anything and everything. Our Route 66 diner food week showcases food from along the midwest, east and west coast. Kids travel (figuratively) across the menu tasting the different kinds of food. Chocolate week is always fun and we also do a global gourmet week where we do a world tour through Italy, France, the Mediterranean and Asia.

My competition will give kids some oven fresh dough and tomato sauce and call it pizza. We take kids through the yeast process, kneading the dough and we explain everything as the dough rises. They learn it by doing.

Sometimes we make fresh pasta. Kids love that at the end of the day they have great food to take home and share with family and friends. There is nothing better for a child than positive reinforcement and that is what we are all about. Empowering children through cooking.

What skills will kids take away from the experience?

We teach them cooking techniques. I like teaching them how to taste and look at their food. They learn to use the recipe as a guideline but not a rule. We adjust the flavor and they taste as they go. Kids love it. I get parents saying my child has never eaten tomatoes and now they love them. Our rule is that you have to try it at least once. We turn kids onto new horizons.

We always focus on safety and sanitation. It’s still a kitchen and there is danger so we keep kids safe.

What ages are appropriate?

Typically we see ages 7 – 14. But we would love to see teens get involved with the program to get them ready for college.

How did the camp get started?

I started working with Summer Art Academy while studying at Le Cordon Bleu. In 2005 I had a catering company. and I thought “Lets have a cooking camp in my kitchen.” We expanded to the Woodland Hills academy in 2007.

What is the mission behind the camp? Why did it get started?

Empowering kids through cooking. We want kids to realize they can do anything in the kitchen.

What cooking programs do you offer/ages for each program?

Young kids cook in the morning from 9 to noon. Teens are in the afternoon. The only limitation for the kids in the kitchen is their imagination.

What is your background? Are you a chef?

I am Le Cordon Bleu trained. I made a career change at 36 to go to culinary school. I found I had a knack to educate – I come from a long line of educators and it seems to be in my DNA to teach.

What are the backgrounds of the camp chefs on staff?

All of chefs are Le Cordon Bleu trained.

How is your camp different and better?

I've never dumbed down my curriculum so I succeed. People don’t think kids can cook and they talk down to kids. We don't – and that is the reason for our success.

Why would you send your child to a cooking camp?

The enriching environment it provides. It's really teaching kids a life skill that they will be able to carry on.

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