Culinary Camp gets cooking at Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach
Pleasure Island restaurants will give back, inspire young chefs during July 25-29 day camp
The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach offered an inaugural culinary arts camp to children last summer; the event was met with positive feedback from the students, parents, community, restauranteurs, mayor and city leadership. Ideas that culinary arts deserve a place of honor, right next to other art mediums, has caught on like wildfire — so take a peek into the kitchen this year, if you can stand the heat!
Chef Jonathan Langston, of Insatiable Flavor, has teamed up with the art center’s children’s programs coordinator, Jessica Jones, again this year to bring an exciting curriculum to campers. Jones explained some key nuances set for this year’s camp, taking place July 25-29.
“We got an overwhelming response from local restaurant owners after last year’s camp,” Jones said. “So many people and businesses wanted to be a part of this.”
“We thought that we should take this opportunity to showcase the culinary talent that we have right here in our community,” Langston said. “Considering that the chefs and business owners in Orange Beach are always eager to come alongside the city to contribute to the excellence of our community, it was really an obvious and easy direction to go.”
Students will take part in grinding meat and stuffing hot dogs with The Meat Mart and pickling with Luna’s Eat and Drink. An entire day of camp will be dedicated to farm-to-table talk and making fresh pasta with The Anchor; the day will culminate in touring The Anchor restaurant where students get to visit a fully-functioning restaurant kitchen…on a ship.
Children also get to make baklava with Pappadakis, homemade Pop-Tarts with BuzzCatz Coffee and Sweets, bread and cookies with Rum Sisters, tastings and bruschetta with Two Sisters Olive and Grape and learn about local produce with Burris Farm Market; the camp will end with a visit from Bleus Burger food truck where students will learn about this avant-garde trend that’s sweeping the nation…and enjoy Buckhead beef burgers, too.
“We are so thankful that businesses in the community have reached out to us,” Jones explained. “So many have embraced this project and the children benefit from the knowledge and passion passed on by these chefs, bakers, butchers and restaurateurs.”
BuzzCatz’s Kimberly Asbury imparted some of her excitement about getting kids cooking at an early age.
“Our son is 4, so Bart (her husband and Luna’s Eat and Drink chef) and I talk to him about making food and making good choices and not eating junk food,” she said. “We talk to him about what healthy food choices are, so that when he gets older and we aren’t there, I hope that I’ve given him the knowledge to make those decisions for himself. Talking to him about the foods that we cook, and cooking from scratch, helps him recognize what he’s putting in his body; it helps him want to eat the things that we’re making more than just opening a bag and putting it in the oven. ‘I don’t like it,’ doesn’t happen because he can say, ‘I pulled that corn and I cooked that corn and I cracked that egg and I stirred that pot.’”
Susan Ellis, owner of Bleus Burger food truck, weighed in on some of the ways cooking with kids can offer many rewards.
“Cooking and serving food is a passion — it’s scientific, it’s creative, and it leaves the cook with a sense of pride and accomplishment,” she explained. “Others are able to relish in what you’ve created after many hours of careful thought, planning and work go into the end product. It’s uniquely satisfying.”
Elizabeth Jones, of Rum Sisters, agreed. “Cooking uses so many skills all children need to develop,” she said. “Cooking allows children to use math, reading, reasoning and fine-motor skills to name a few. Cooking also allows children to build self-confidence and use their creativity on many levels. These are valuable lessons children will use throughout their lives.”
Looking toward the future is an important part of the camp, Jones said. “We hope that this camp will offer a fun, summer experience,” Jones divulged, “but also teach youngsters about our island’s hospitality industry and how they might have a future in it.”
Elizabeth talked about one of the lessons she’s like to pass on. “We are passionate about the creativity we can have at Rum Sisters,” she said. Coming up with new ideas and exploring options is so much fun. We get to see people’s faces light up with joy when they taste our cakes. Sometimes our ideas don’t turn out the way we’ve planned. In working with the students during the Culinary Arts Camp we’d like them to take away the important message that they can always try again. We all learn from our mistakes, and sometimes our mistakes become or lead us to our greatest successes.”
Ellis offered some insights she hopes to teach students about business ownership. “In our entrepreneurship, we have been diligent; a grand business plan can encounter roadblock after roadblock until it becomes non-existent,” she divulged. “Instead of roadblocks, entrepreneurs must view these challenges as opportunities for improvement and change. We were unable to secure the capital needed for our grand brick and mortar establishment. We changed the game and placed our idea on wheels, literally. We reversed our plan and started with a mobile eatery first…a food truck. We did so in an area where food trucks don’t exist. Because of our diligence, we have been able to secure partnerships that have largely made us successful in cities where food trucks aren’t allowed. The brick and mortar is next. Entrepreneurship is hard work, make no mistake. Yet the rewards far outweigh the daily challenges we face.”
“We love that this camp produces immediate creativity and fruits of the student’s labor. Chefs and restauranteurs can testify that skilled labor in our field is in short supply and is one of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry in our community right now,’’ Langston said. “Our vision is that we show students how this can be an opportunity to develop passion for an art that can evolve in to a career, for some, and will serve our island community in the future.”
Pictured: 2015 culinary camp graduates; Coastal Arts Center intern Katie Davis (right) helps Mary Elizabeth make honey butter.