Participants in Ashland Food Co-op’s summer camp for young chefs shop at the Co-op for ingredients. - Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune

Kids in the Kitchen

Braiding a lanyard or perfecting his backstroke aren't Frank Bungay's idea of summer camp.

At his day camp, Bungay and other "young chefs" mince, measure and even adapt recipes to their own tastes.

No experience in the kitchen was required to participate in the weeklong camp at Ashland Food Co-op. But the first day saw Bungay offering fellow campers the use of Japanese- or French-style chef's knives and suggesting the addition of lemon zest to the group's fruit sorbet.

"It's going to make it more tart probably instead of just really sweet," Bungay said, adding that he's used a lemon zester "a lot" cooking Thai soups with his dad.

"Their families like to cook, so they have some experience in the kitchen," said Mary Shaw, the Co-op's culinary educator.

The brainchild of Shaw, a former special education teacher, the camp assembled seven boys and six girls to learn the fundamentals of cooking. This week's camp takes kids — ages 8 to 12 — on a culinary tour of the world with recipes from Mexico, France, Asia and Greece.

Cost is $125 for kids whose parents are Co-op members, $150 for others. Because the camps proved so popular, the Co-op will plan more kid-friendly cooking classes throughout the upcoming school year, Shaw said.

A student of The Culinary Institute of America and a natural-foods school in Boulder, Colo., Shaw planned a curriculum that included much more than cooking. Campers learned to identify seasonal produce before taking the lesson across the street and onto the Co-op's aisles. There, they smelled lemons and squeezed tomatoes for freshness. A sweet onion was mentally dissected to determine if the whole bulb would yield 11/2 cups when chopped.

Back at the Co-op's classroom, Shaw helped the kids shave corn kernels from the cob for muffins. To chop celery, carrots and bell peppers for their vegetarian chili, campers learn to hold their fingers vertical and to grip the sharp knife's handle firmly. It was all a warm-up for the camp's final day when kids created their own three-course menus — limited, Shaw added, to just one dessert.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail

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