ASU cooking camp emphasizes importance of healthy living — from sustainability to fine dining
It’s 10 a.m., and 14 campers ranging from 8 to 12 years old are noisily beginning their second activity of the day in their weeklong camp. But instead of learning how to pitch a tent or shoot a bow, these camp-goers are seated underneath the air-conditioned vents of ASU’s Health building, and their camp activity is to discover the solution to one of life’s biggest mysteries: Which one’s the salad fork?
The noise stops as the campers crowd around the demo table and learn about the minutiae of fine dining — like the difference between a bread plate and a dinner plate, the importance of passing salt and pepper in pairs, soup-eating techniques and how to cut meat into bite-size pieces. While it’s not your typical outdoor, build-a-fire type camp, Camp Crave is teaching these kids skills over an open flame that may be just as important in the modern age.
Camp Crave, hosted by the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions, emphasizes the importance of healthy living, including everything from sustainability to fine dining. Participants engage in 45 minutes of physical activity before heading to a classroom setting to learn about topics such as clean energy, solar cooking, table settings and nutrition.
“We partnered with the exercise and wellness program here in designing the curriculum,” said camp director Michelle Miller, a registered dietitian and coordinator of ASU’s Applied Practice in Nutrition program. “Recent studies have shown that exercise before class activity helps the campers stay focused during lessons.”
After a 45-minute classroom lesson on a chosen cooking or nutrition topic, each day ends in the more-than-5,000-square-foot ASU test kitchen in the Health South building, where the campers will create and eat meals including chicken picatta, rice pilaf and caprese salad.
“The children here are eating things they’ve never tried before,” said Gregory Nairn, a Camp Crave counselor and ASU senior majoring in health education. “They can serve meals that I didn’t know at their age. They’re eating chicken picatta. They’re eating caprese salad. I didn’t know what caprese salad was until I was stationed in Italy, 10 years ago.”
The camp is now 4 years old and hosts four one-week sessions for campers in grades 4-6 during June, with topics and featured cuisine rotating each year. Camp counselors are ASU nutrition students interning for course credit. But the biggest impact is seen on campers, who take the recipes they’ve learned back home to their families.
“[The dishes] are new to me,” said 12-year-old Jake Hirsch, a first-time Camp Crave participant. “In my family we don’t really go far out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we do Asian nights and sometimes we do different things, but we don’t venture off very far. So this was nice.”
ASU kitchen coordinator Kent Moody gets a little help squeezing a lemon from Gretchen Rostad during Camp Crave. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now