During the past eight summers, the instructional kitchen at the Thompson School of Applied Science has been overtaken by a roving band of middle school kids. They peel potatoes and carrots; measure out sugar, flour, and oil; crack eggs and grill chicken; stir in spices; and eat their meals together. They even clean up their stations when they’re done.
These children are the participants of the Thompson School’s Adventure Camp that began with seed money from the National Science Foundation’s Agrow Knowledge in 2005. Since that time, Director of the Thompson School, Regina Smick-Attisano; Assistant Director of Admissions, Deb Pack; and Administrative Manager, Lisa Buchalski, have grown the program into a weeklong, full-day camp replete with a few field trips a week and pool time each afternoon offered twice a summer.
Chef, author, and lecturer in the Thompson School’s Culinary Arts and Nutrition program, Julienne Guyette, joyfully imparts her knowledge of culinary skills and techniques, how to use math in scaling up or down recipes, and developing a refined palate that goes far beyond the typical children’s menu at any restaurant. The campers learn how to stay safe in the kitchen while experiencing the use of cooktops for grilling meats and proofing ovens for cinnamon rolls. They also gain knowledge of the basic operation of commercial-grade electrical appliances like the stand mixer for a variety of baked goods and a robot coupe for slicing up a quick and colorful coleslaw salad.
Each week is centered around a theme: this summer, campers enjoyed a foray into both American regional cooking and international fare. Some highlights of their activities were a sampling of fourteen different cheeses – including fontina, gorgonzola, brie, goat cheese, and port salut – in order to choose the flavors from which they created their signature homemade mac and cheese; a trip to the Lee Farmer’s Market to gather farm-to-table fresh vegetables; and an opportunity to visit with Thompson School alumna Elizabeth Kramlinger ’82, ‘12AS – the Bakery Supervisor at Philbrook Dining Hall – for a demonstration on baking and decorating cupcakes.
Many of the campers are from the local area, but some come from Maine, Massachusetts, and as far away as Alaska to attend the Adventure Camp at the Thompson School. For these youth, culinary arts and nutrition is a budding passion and the fun-filled training they get with a professional chef in a commercial kitchen is just the right ingredient for a lifetime of confidence and enjoyment in the kitchen.