Right after taking a large bite from a grilled beef tenderloin sandwich with vegetables that he had sauteed himself, 12-year-old Evan Jurgensen said: “This feels like paradise instead of camp.”
Jurgensen, of Fort Dodge, attended the Creative Culinary summer camp at Iowa Central Community College that ended Thursday.
He and the other kids who attended made hamburgers, pizza, ice cream, candy, crepes and desserts – all from scratch.
When he was making a homemade fruit crumble, Jurgensen enjoyed playing with the dough.
“It feels like Play-Doh when you squish it together,” he said.
A goal of the camp was to make kids aware of where food comes from, Geoffrey Phillipson, a culinary instructor at Iowa Central, said.
“The main idea is to expose kids to food, instead of just buying a box,” he said.
Many kids aren’t aware that pizza sauce is made from tomatoes or that french fries are made with potatoes, he said.
“We’re not giving them recipes, we’re teaching techniques,” Phillipson said.
The camp’s techniques included things like making a meatball, cutting vegetables, sauteeing vegetables and making dough.
The pizza dough they made on Monday could also be used to make flatbread or calzones.
Making the different foods from scratch exposed the kids to foods they normally wouldn’t eat, Teresa DeCoursey, a Fort Dodge parent who attended, said.
“It’s such a good learning experience and it’s a ton of fun,” she said. “It’s actually making my daughter try foods she wouldn’t normally try.”
Her 12-year-old daughter, Karlee DeCoursey, said the camp was amazing.
They baked potato wedges on Monday as a side instead of french fries, which was something kids normally wouldn’t eat, Phillipson said.
He also had a solution for kids who don’t normally eat vegetables.
“You smuggle them in,” he said.
When everyone made meatballs, Phillipson added vegetables to the mix.
“I like cooking,” Karlee DeCoursey, said. She’s not always allowed to cook at home.
The kids who attended the camp liked cooking so much that it took Phillipson by surprise.
The camp was split into two sections. In the morning, Phillipson taught a group of only children. In the afternoon, there were lessons for children and parents.
“We learned that when you have 20 kids, you gotta keep them busy,” Phillipson said.
They always wanted to know the next step in the recipe before they finished the step they were already on.
“The kids worked a lot faster than we thought they would,” Phillipson said. ” They surprised us by whizzing through it all.”
They worked so fast that they had to add extra dishes to every day of camp.
Originally, they were only going to work on savory dishes, but because of the extra time left over, they added sweets, like ice cream and chocolate, to the menu.
They made a candy similar to a Butterfinger candy bar too.
What Phillipson wanted the families to take away was that all of this can be made from fresh ingredients and that it can be fun and easy.
“Now they can go home and cook together,” he said. “It’s really easy to make a burger.”
Phillipson said that many people underestimate kids.
“They just put something in front of them,” Phillipson said. “The kids get limited options.”
He said that a lot of times kids are given chicken nuggets, pizza, fish sticks or other frozen food, instead of a homemade meal.
“That’s training them to have a certain palate,” he said. “Parents need to learn to cook.”
This was the first Creative Culinary camp, but Phillipson said it is likely there will be more. There were so many people who wanted to participate that they had to turn some people down.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I can foresee us doing this anytime there’s a school break.”