The fragrance of freshly cut vegetables and fruit filled the cafeteria at St. Joseph High School on Wednesday morning. The crisp sound of a bell pepper being sliced could be heard throughout the room as small chefs wearing tall, white paper hats and plastic aprons used cookie cutters on the vegetables.
“You can use cookie cutters on vegetables, instead of just cutting the vegetables with a knife, for a special occasion,” said chef Bodie Moss, 8. “The special occasion could be a birthday party or a holiday party. That way, the veggie tray could look really nice.”
Bodie was one of 32 campers at the St. Joseph High School Cooking Camp last week. The program is offered almost every year, said Shandee Harrell, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph High School. Children entering third grade through eighth grade learn about kitchen and food safety and learn how to cook basic meals.
Linda Balderaz, the high school’s cafeteria manager, said the campers learn through puzzles and worksheets, but most of the lessons are hands-on, kid-friendly cooking and creating meals. The campers used plastic utensils to cut vegetables and fruit. The campers also made a small loaf of bread by mixing the batter in a large plastic bag.
“It smelled really good in here when the bread was baking,” Balderaz said. “The kids are all so focused and willing to learn about being in the kitchen. I think it is important to learn to cook at an early age so that once they go to college, they will know how to cook something.”
Bodie said he joined the camp because he wants to become a baker one day. The lessons he learns at the camp will help him learn more about what he can do creatively with food, he said.
“I tried baking cupcakes one time, but they were too hard,” Bodie said. “So hopefully I can learn more ways to become a better baker here.”
Camper Ariana Salazar said she, too, joined the camp because she wanted to learn more about cooking and baking. Ariana, 9, said she already knows how to cook breakfast items such scrambled eggs and eggs over easy.
“The best part so far was making bread,” Ariana said. “It was messy and fun. The dough felt really rough sometimes, but it was still really fun.”
Balderaz said the students also learn ways to be creative in the kitchen, such as using candies as cupcake toppers.
“They’re learning, but they are also having fun,” Balderaz said.