Today (Monday) we made pizza dough during the first day of our week long Kid's Baking Camp at Johnson & Wales. I'm jazzed, because tomorrow we're going to actually make the pizzas with my 14 campers, all between 13 and 15 years of age. These are great kids and today, on Day One, we made killer chocolate chip cookies, wonderful soft dinner rolls, and flaky blitz biscuits. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be making apple pie (if pizza isn't "American Pie" then apple pie truly is), French bread with pre-fermented dough, and, of course, individual pizzas. Later this week we'll make pate choux filled with pastry cream, bagels, soft pretzels, focaccia, and banana cream pie and quiche, and who knows what else. In the class room next to mine there is a group of 9 to 11 year old kids baking up a storm -- I saw lots of great looking cup cakes today. Upstairs there is a group of 11-13 year old kids. There is also a hot foods class for another group of kids of various ages -- the school is filled with kids hungry to cook and hungry to feed each other their food.
What I love about this camp is how easily these kids pick up the techniques and how well
positioned they all will be later in life, knowing how to bake and cook for their families. Most of them will not be pursuing culinary careers but will become all sorts of other kinds of adults, but they will all know how to cook and the ones in my class will, as of tomorrow, know about new benchmarks in pizza and the joys of making it yourself. They are the foodie generation of the future and it's exciting how much they already know about local, farm raised food and about street food and farm markets. One of the girls already bakes cupcakes for a farm market food stand. I can't recall any of this kind of food awareness when I was a kid. Of course, other kids are at computer camps, theater camps, sports camps, robotics camps -- there are all sorts of options that didn't exist when I was a kid, but I'm really glad that cooking camps exist because you can never have too many cooks in the world. Every once in a while one of these young cooks could go on to become a professional culinarian and, maybe, even a chef -- you never know who it will be. But when I first started teaching in a culinary school, over 15 years ago, there were only a handful of high school vocational tech cooking programs in the country -- maybe twelve. Now there are hundreds and probably thousands of them. Many of our incoming freshman students know more coming in than my old students knew after their freshman year -- we have to keep upping our game to keep up with them. This is an exciting time to be in the culinary education business because we keep seeing these fabulous, bright-eyed kids coming in and, who knows, maybe we'll get to see them again in a few years as they change the world, whether by feeding it or contributing in some other fashion (a new robot, anyone?). I can't wait to see them in action.
But for now, I have to get ready for class. I will try to post a PS when I get home to tell you about the pizzas they came up with. More soon....
Postscript, Thursday, July 14: So, you can see the photos above are from my "campers." They turned out great and everyone made his or her own pizza, ate some, and then took some home for the families. They formed their doughs so easily and professionally I felt as if they should open their own pizzeria. Well, maybe later....