On Friday, sixth through eighth-grade students spent their last day of camp cooking by serving a meal to their families. Working in the space normally used by culinary arts students at Cleveland High School, they spent the week learning a variety of food preparation skills under CHS Chef Clyde Rush.
The menu for lunch was chicken Marsala with mushrooms, rice, honey glazed carrots, salad and chocolate cream pie for dessert.
Students prepared every aspect of the meal, including deboning the chicken and making ingredients like a vinaigrette salad dressing and whipped cream.
During the week, they had prepared breakfast and lunch, learning everything from how to julienne a carrot to how to debone a chicken.
“They’ve learned a lot in a very short period of time,” Tyler Lamb, a workforce development project coordinator at Cleveland State, said.
Lamb said the 10 students had picked up the cooking skills quicker than he thought they might. Rush echoed that sentiment.
Rush said he first found out about the possibility of the camp after Renny Whittenbarger, the Cleveland school system’s career and technical education director, approached him with the idea of hosting a camp.
Since he is an 11-month employee of the school system, Rush said he welcomed the idea of continuing to teach culinary arts in a kitchen that would otherwise be vacant all summer.
Students were taught how to prepare full meals and behind-the-scenes kitchen concerns like maintaining a sanitary workspace and a professional appearance.
“The kids are actually learning,” Rush said. “They have done a fabulous job.”
While he said some might be hesitant to teach culinary skills to middle school-aged students, there had been “minimal” mishaps.
Many of the campers said they enjoyed learning cooking skills.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” 13-year-old Nathaniel DeLisse said. “It’s been very fun.”
Nearly every student mentioned something different when sharing their favorites of the dishes they learned to cook.
Calling the experience a “cool” one, 12-year-old Carmen McGee said she enjoyed making fried mushrooms.
Fellow chef Briar Strickland, 11, said she enjoyed learning how to make the five “mother sauces” that are most commonly used in cooking.
Alyssa Douglass, workforce development project coordinator at Cleveland State, said the goal of the camp was to get middle school students involved in culinary arts before high school.
“We wanted to provide the exposure early on,” she said.
Rush said some of the students will enroll as freshmen at Cleveland High School this fall and may choose to take culinary arts classes there, so the camp has allowed them to get a head start. Those students have already gotten the chance to get to know one of their high school teachers.
On the college level, Douglass said Cleveland State’s workforce development department has been looking into the possibility of offering training in culinary arts by looking into whether or not there is a need for such training there.
“We’re in the beginning stages of exploring the possibility,” Douglass said.
If the college decides to offer culinary arts training, she said it would likely start with noncredit classes before expanding to for-credit offerings.
The culinary arts camp was one of several STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] camps Cleveland State has been offering this summer.
Upcoming camps, including one centered around baking, include:
- Advanced LEGO Robotics Camp — June 16 through 20 for ninth through 12th-graders;
- Multimedia Camp — July 7 through 11 for sixth through eighth-graders;
- LEGO Robotics Camp — July 7 through 11 for fourth and fifth-graders
- Bio-Chemistry Camp — July 14 through18 for ninth through 12th-graders; and
- Baking Bonanza Culinary Arts Camp — July 21 through 25 for sixth through eighth-graders.
For more information, visit www.clevelandstatecc.edu/onesource/stem/camps.