By Victoria Rabiner, Epicurator
If you listen carefully for the inspiration behind almost every “grown-up” chef, home cook or foodie, you’ll hear a kids voice and a story about childhood connection to food – either in the kitchen with mom, grandma, on the family farm or in a family-owned restaurant. Like sponges, kids soak up their surroundings, learning through doing and developing a life long respect and joy for food — whether it be cooking, eating, growing or creating – it sticks. And it all starts with a little exposure.
Here’s a roundup of our favorite culinary “summer camps” for youth. A place to start — get them engaged, connected and excited about food in all its forms, from source to table, and everything in between. In truth, it just makes us wanna be kids all over again.
Cooking/Gardening Youth Day Camp | 18 Reasons | San Francisco | July 11- 15 | Ages 8 – 10 | $375 +
18 Reasons, a non-profit whose mission is to engage community through food and art, has teamed up with the urban farm of Children’s Day School, to offer one cool kids camp — this one organized and taught by our longtime friend and colleague Meesha Halm! Centered around the theme of a pizza party, campers learn to grind the grains into flour, make dough, cook and can fresh tomato sauce, pull fresh mozzarella, and hand-crank ice cream. Days begin with morning chores and harvesting at the school’s urban farm and garden where they tend the vegetable garden and look after the farm’s six chickens, collecting eggs to make into healthy snacks and Friday’s ice cream treat. Come Friday afternoon, they celebrate their bounty with a pizza party, replete with just-picked salad greens, freshly-squeezed lemonade and hand-cranked ice cream. We want in on this one.
Pine Point Cooking School | Sausalito | Ages 10 – 16
Who can argue with serious fun? Pine Point embodies this as they teach kids to cook, eat and share with love and passion. Think adventures to local farmer’s markets, fun “blind” tastings, and pizza challenges a la “Top Chef”, all with an emphasis on local, organic produce, dairy, poultry and sustainable seafood. The result is they learn to eat wisely and in season — as in don’t eat anything “your grandmother wouldn’t recognize”. And no one we know, would argue with that.
Operation C.H.E.F | Tiburon | July 11 – 15 | Ages 9-14 | $495
Based in Marin and locally owned, Operation C.H.E.F has three one-week programs of hands-on activities, demos and adventures in the culinary arts. Most of us are limited to what we see on the menu (or served to us) in restaurants, so we’re loving the fact that kids get a behind the scenes look at a restaurant, in addition to local farms and markets. Campers learn about a healthy diet, how to decode food labels, and better understand the mysteries of nutrition. In they end, they are groomed to be valuable future leaders and inspired advocates for healthier food options. Amen.
Sprouts Cooking Club for Kids | Bay Area | July 10-Aug 5 |$450 wk
Sprouts is a non-profit which strives to teach Bay-Area children of all socio-economic backgrounds how to cook , hands-on, with real chefs, using real ingredients, in real restaurants whenever possible. The camps are weeklong from July to August with kids cooking with real chefs from real restaurants. Amazing. Wish I was young sprout (again).
Devil’s Gulch Kids Camp in Leadership Training | Nicasio | June 11 – 12 | Ages 12+ | $465
Devil’s Gulch Ranch Summer Camp is all about being outdoors where they learn first hand from a working ranch in the midst of West Marin’s natural beauty. Campers participate in everyday ranch chores — tending to the livestock, helping to maintain equipment and caring for the ranch’s garden. They experience the work that goes into producing the food they see in super markets and on their dinner tables, and develop an appreciation for the delicate balance needed to produce food in a sustainable and responsible manner. This particular camp does not offer any hands-on cooking (but they do get to milk goats and feed pigs!).
ITK (In the Kitchen) Culinary | Summer Camp with The Culinary Dude | Sausalito | June 27 – 30 | Ages 4 – 14 | $200+
The Culinary Dude, AKA Chef Scott Davis, created the Kids Cooking program for Whole Foods and now brings the same approach to ITK, a hands-on cooking camp that helps kids find their “inner chef”. With a background in culinary arts and early childhood development, Scott engages and educates at the same time. Budding chefs prepare lunch from scratch daily as they learn kitchen and food safety, professional kitchen behavior, measuring, prep skills and table etiquette. The emphasis is on the process not the product which gives kids a great opportunity to put their own spin on dishes.
Kids & Parents Day on the Farm | Institute of Urban Homesteading | Oakland | Ages 4 – 8
We’re fans of the Institute of Urban Homesteading and this Day on the Farm is for kids and family to explore and observe the growing world through the eyes of an urban farmer. Learn about honey bees and native pollinators and how flowers and bees interact. Kids can hold a baby bunny, taste quail eggs and honey and peek at a natural bee comb. This is a class for kids (ages 4-8) and their parents.
C’mon You’re a Wok Star | Kids Culinary Adventures | Redwood City | June 13 – 17 | $325
Kids Culinary Adventures offers this great specialty class that explores food and recipes from across the Pacific Rim. Without a doubt, regional cuisines from China and other Asian countries vary widely in flavor and ingredients, yet the common denominator between them is the beautiful, utilitarian cooking vessel commonly known as the Wok. During this week, campers learn how to choose a wok, select the proper utensils, and how to care for them. And you thought woks were just for stir-fry — here they learn how to deep fry, braise, roast, steam and simmer.
What’s Cooking with Kids | Marin JCC | San Rafael | July 25 – 29 | Grades 3 -6
Taking taste buds on a journey around the world is a pretty cool concept. What’s Cooking with Kids helps mini chefs-in-training learn how to help their families prepare healthy meals and practice their culinary skills, while making homemade meals from Africa all the way to Asia. Add a field trip to the Civic Center farmer’s market that introduces them to locally grown, seasonal food and the folks that grow them (via a scavenger hunt!), and you’ve got kid culinary heaven. The grand finale will include a friendly Iron Chef competition, complete with guest judges.
Thanks to our good friend Tanya Henry for pointing us toward a host of these fabulous camps. Most offer a variety of programs/day sessions from June-August. Advance registration is always a good idea, so check Epicuring’s Kids & Teen Programs for a comprehensive list of what’s out there including cost, ages, dates/times, class size, planning and registration…and go have fun!!
The Edible Community embodies what we love about living, learning, exploring and eating in California. For more great kid/teen camps, one-day classes and everything in between, check out Edible Marin & Wine Country camper calendar.
We want to hear from you! If you have feedback on any of the camps we’ve listed, we’re all ears. Likewise, if we are missing out on any of your favorites, please tell us more by adding your comments below. /Epicuring