Does your kid go on and on about uni the way others talk about Pokémon? Does his or her obsession with cooking shows rival your love of Game of Thrones? Is your little one begging to help out in the kitchen?
If you've answered yes to any of the above, well, congrats: You've got a tot-size foodie on your hands. And with camp season almost upon us, there's ample opportunity to cultivate the passions of even the littlest chefs. Bonus: Finally, someone else can handle dinner.
① Y.U.M. Chefs (San Francisco, CA)
At Y.U.M. Chefs camp, kids not only cook, but they spend time in the on-site garden, learning about farming and harvesting their ingredients. "We appreciate the inherent value in a child getting dirt under their nails in the service of growing their own food," summer camp director Katy Jane Tull says.
Daily recipes span the globe and include pizza with roasted bell peppers, fresh herbs and seared mushrooms, plus rainbow sushi, lentil burgers, Chinese dumplings and naan with dal and chutney. Y.U.M. Chefs also encourages campers (from kindergarten through ninth grade) to make better choices about food, starting with the value of eating fruits, grains and vegetables. "Something you'll hear often in our kitchen is 'Don't yuck my yum,'" Tull says, "which is our way of encouraging children to feel confident in expressing their likes and dislikes in the company of their peers."
② Create a Cook (Newton Highlands, MA)
Create a Cook is the closest thing to culinary school you'll find for your school-age child. That's probably because Joan "Jo" Horner, a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, runs her camp with a wealth of love and a serious dedication to technique, teaching everything from knife skills to how to sauté a chicken breast to how to properly season food. Horner takes kids all summer long in two age brackets (seven to 10 and 11+); each group makes a total of six recipes a day in a variety of themes (including The Bake Off, The Science of Cooking, Celebrity Chefs and Passport Kitchen). The best part? Kids are sent home with leftovers. "That may be why we have so many repeat campers," Horner says. "Because dinner is taken care of!"
③ Flour Power Studios (Various locations, NC)
Flour Power founder Susan Caldwell founded her school out of her house in 2008 and has since grown it to five locations in North Carolina, with two more opening this year. The weekly camps engage kids in a variety of fun daily cooking activities, including Cupcake Wars, Mystery Basket and a Make My Restaurant challenge that’s akin to Top Chef’s regular Restaurant Wars. Instruction is robust, ranging from basic culinary skills to nutrition, farming and food science. Parents, you'll also like this: Kids are given an etiquette manual and are taught how to pass food, how to set a table and all sorts of other mealtime manners.
④ Butter Beans (New York City and Brooklyn, NY)
Now in its seventh year, Butter Beans teaches kids ages six and up not only to cook, but also to truly engage in the local food landscape. The day begins by gathering ingredients from the camp's rooftop garden; from there, campers shop at farmers' markets (on a budget) and cook lunch together, collaborating on dishes like root vegetable sushi, spaghetti squash with carrot pesto and beet "red velvet" brownies.
There are also field trips to beekeepers and rooftop farms, as well as hands-on cooking expeditions where kids learn to make gelato, bread and chocolate from experts across the city. "Many parents are shocked when kids want to start going to the grocery and farmers' market, and their list includes brown rice and broccoli!" director of food education Kelly McGlinchey says.
Andrea Strong has been writing about food for the past 15 years. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two kids and big appetite. Find her on Twitter at @strongbuzz.