Chef’s Camp Reaching New Audiences

In March the Delaware and Union county Extension offices partnered to put on a Chef’s Camp for 5th through 7th grade students. One of the goals of this program was to draw an audience not previously reached by Extension. It was open to both 4-H and non-4-H members and was advertised through schools, social media and local businesses. The camp was open to a maximum of sixteen participants based on available space, volunteers and equipment.  The camp was 4 days and lasted from 12:30- 4:30 p.m. and was held during the county schools spring break. The cost of the program for the participants was $75 which covered ingredients, an apron, measuring cups and spoons, cutting mats and a recipe book to take home at the end of the program.

A group showing off their pumpkin waffles with Brutus.

A group showing off their pumpkin waffles with Brutus.

The students not only learned cooking skills but there was also a focus on nutrition, sensory food science, food safety and new ingredient exploration. Recipes included chicken curry, marinated salmon, ratatouille, cassava cupcakes and many more. Each recipe was chosen to teach students a new skill and reinforce food safety practices. Groups learned about protein denaturation as they cooked eggs and a variety of meat dishes. A tasting session was held after all the foods were prepared allowing groups to try each other’s dishes and comment on them. Groups created poster presentations on food safety and MyPlate based on that day’s cooking assignment. In down time the participants had the opportunity to do a variety of activities including using the state 4-H smoothie bike to learn about energy output and blend a smoothie while riding a stationary bike. A sensory game helped teach students how much smell factors in to their ability to taste and identify different flavors. Other activities included equipment and ingredient identification and food safety standards.

Taste testing Ratatouille, Chicken Curry, Manicotti and Salmon.

Taste testing Ratatouille, Chicken Curry, Manicotti and Salmon.

This pilot program was a huge success and feedback from participants and parents helped confirm that there is a need and want for Food and Nutrition based programing. The future goals of this program are to develop a state curriculum that can be used in other counties.  Additional topic areas for future lesson plan development include: Cultural foods, meat science, food science and sensory science. Getting youth excited about preparing food and the science and nutrition behind cooking has health and wellness benefits as well as foster an interest in career opportunities.

Students preparing toppings for Pulled Pork Burritos.

Students preparing toppings for Pulled Pork Burritos.

This short program was ideal for busy families that cannot commit to a traditional 4-H year timeline while providing a fun educational experience for the youth. Most participants wanted to know when they could sign up for the next program and others wanted to know if it would be available for older youth. Several parents indicated that they would be interested in the camp being offered over winter, spring and summer breaks. The next Chef’s camp opportunity will likely take place over winter break in Delaware County and will be offering a similar curriculum to the pilot camp with some new materials.

The concept of this program originated with Christy Leeds –Union County 4-H and Youth Development Educator and County Director reading about cooking classes for youth in Columbus. Carmen Irving- Union County Family and Consumer Science Educator and Carol Keck- Delaware County Program Coordinator for Extension in the City began working on Christy’s concept. The Chef’s camp was developed by working across program areas and reaching outside the traditional structure of 4-H youth development.

Reviewed By: Carmen Irving- Union County Family and Consumer Science Educator

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