Keely Churchill was no stranger to the classroom when she decided to become the studio manager of Flour Power at Falls River. She had a twenty-year career as a preschool and elementary school teacher, most recently in kindergarten. She did not, however, have culinary training; she was just a casual home chef with two boys who loved BBQ and competition cooking shows.
When the first Flour Power studio opened near Keely’s neighborhood, she started working there during the summers. She picked up a lot of ideas from the camps and expanded her family’s tastes. For example, she finally found a scone that wasn’t too dry - the ginger apple cream scone (part of the Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice camp).
One of Keely’s favorite things about cooking class is watching the kids try new foods they would never eat at home. During the Sugar and Spice week, they make bacon and pear mac n’ cheese, harvest pear stuffing, and ginger peach ice cream (made with cream cheese!). There’s apparently something about making the dish yourself that increases your desire to eat it.
Fellow instructor Deborah Goldstein is also a “retired” teacher; she taught preschool for 25 years and still teaches elementary school children at her synagogue. One of her favorite things to do with kids was always cooking, as it incorporates so many learning aspects and the importance of teamwork.
Deborah gets a kick out of watching the campers, and feels she has learned more from them than she has taught. She loves their enthusiasm and willingness to try new things, even though they don’t think they’ll like it. “Am I going to have to eat this?” is a common refrain. They enjoy making something that people will eat, even though it may not be themselves.
Even the older kids get excited about the process, and although they know what’s supposed to happen with a dish, they are totally joyful when it turns out correctly.
Flour Power is a franchise, so the company’s business manager designs the weekly themes and recipes; the studio managers have flexibility in scheduling. If Deborah were to design her own theme, it would be Holidays Around the World. One of her favorites from the current program is the molten lava cake that has oozing chocolate in the middle – it’s one of the kids’ favorites, too. They also love spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and surprisingly, mini quiches.
A Typical Day
Each morning the group talks about the day’s agenda and washes their hands. Hand washing is heavily emphasized.
The first project is a morning snack. After it is prepared and consumed, they clean up and spend time on a craft or food science demonstration. These may include making flubber/slime, lava lamps, or playdough. Then it’s time for lunch. There is also an afternoon art or science activity, and a bit of free time during which they may read books or play games like charades.
Campers work in small groups of up to six. Depending on the age distribution in each session, kids often work in mixed age groups. This provides leadership opportunities for the older kids. Children under nine do not use real knives and instead have a hard plastic one with jagged edges. Therefore, they often do the peeling while the older kids do the chopping.
Group work also helps teach negotiating skills. They have to figure out who is going to do each step. Stirring and grating are the most popular tasks. Sometimes the groups will decide that each person gets to stir X number of times before passing the bowl to the next person.
In addition to basic cooking techniques, campers learn how to read and follow a recipe, including the importance of reading it all the way through before starting to cook. They also find out how to correct mistakes and make adjustments, and discuss why baking is a more of an exact science.
Deborah feels this is a good life lesson. When we are asked to follow a certain prescription or path, things rarely go exactly as planned. We have to learn to adjust and make corrections along the way. Things may not turn out perfectly, but they usually turn out OK.
And before you get excited about free samples - unfortunately, campers are not allowed to take food home because the space is not licensed as a commercial kitchen.
Who comes to camp?
Flour Power camps are open to ages 5-12. Some campers have cooking experience, but some don’t. Families who are interested in cooking like to send their kids. There are also those just looking to try something different, and they are often surprised at how much their kids enjoy the camp.
The gender ratio skews towards girls, but there are always boys in each session. Hopefully, Food Network has shown boys that men cook just as much as women (at least professionally).
Why you should send your children to culinary camp
They will try new foods and perhaps like them.
They will learn to collaborate in a multi-aged group.
It’s a safe environment, and you don’t have to worry about making a mess.
It’s a great option for shyer kids, as the small groups and structured activities make it easy to meet people and start conversations.
An air-conditioned environment is a nice respite from outdoor sports camps.
It’s one week when you don’t have to pack a lunch and snacks.
How to Register
Visit the website, choose your week, and complete the online registration form.
Flour Power has studios in Charlotte, Raleigh, Cary and Holly Springs. To find one near you, check out the list here. Besides track-out and summer camps, they offer kids nights out, weekly classes, birthday parties, and teambuilding events.