The third week of July found half a dozen young chefs participating in the Kids Cooking Championships: the second of three summer camps presented this season by Rogue Valley Farm to School and The Ashland Food Co-op. Led by RVF2S educators Elizabeth and Carly, camp participants explored the endless possibilities of soups, salads, and sandwiches through a series of daily challenges inspired by popular cooking shows such as "Top Chef" and "Chopped".
Working in different teams each day, campers approached the daily challenges with enthusiasm and creative courage, utilizing surprise ingredients, following challenge guidelines, practicing teamwork and collaboration, and successfully making lunch for the whole group each day.
For one daily challenge, teams were given three surprise ingredients. They then had fun searching through recipes in cookbooks for inspiration, planning a shopping list, and taking a field trip around the corner to the Co-op to shop for necessary ingredients. Another daily challenge involved making soup from scratch. Drawing inspiration from the classic folk tale, "Stone Soup", campers began the day acting out a hilarious rendition of the story and brainstorming possible soup ingredients.
Through the daily challenges, students gained skills and confidence in basic cooking and kitchen practices such as cleanliness; hand washing; safe stove use; mixing and measuring; and knife safety, including chopping, dicing, and mincing, as well as passing, walking with, and washing knives. Participants also practiced tasting and adjusting flavors while making up recipes.
The camp took place in the kitchen classroom and community garden at the Co-op, as well as at The Farm at SOU, providing campers the opportunity to explore both a small garden and a 5-acres farm. The group was able to harvest fresh herbs, berries, and vegetables to include in the meals each day, and get their hands dirty with farm tasks such as seeding flats of lettuce for a fall planting and pulling weeds. When they weren’t busy in the kitchen, campers played games, read books, and had lively discussions on topics ranging from the food system and the local food movement, to nutrition, preparing a balanced meal, and respecting and accommodating different dietary choices.
At the end of each day, campers' culinary creations were judged on flavor, taste, presentation, creativity, teamwork, kitchen skills, and of course, popular vote; campers racked up points in each of the categories throughout the week. It was incredible to see and taste the different masterpieces!