Farm to kitchen

Carol Roehm|Commercial-NewsDanville Area Community College culinary arts instructor Dana Wheeler cuts into a pan of eggplant parmigiana as young chefs, from left, My'Lashara Williams, Oliva Williams, Malorie Fagett, Leah Reagan, Kaylie Williams, Cole Crawley, Weston Baird and Silas Shirley watch.

DANVILLE – Fifteen youngsters learned skills they can use for a lifetime during a weeklong junior culinary camp at Danville Area Community College.

This week’s camp, which was designed for children between the ages of 12 and 15, featured fresh cooking and sustainable farming, according to culinary arts instructor Dana Wheeler.

The young chefs learned how to follow recipes and cook with fresh foods, most of which were harvested from DACC’s farm on Daisy Lane.

The first day of camp mainly focused on sanitation and safe food handling, but the young chefs had the opportunity to get in the kitchen and try their hand at cooking veggie burgers, Wheeler said.

The next day, the youngsters visited the DACC farm where they learned about growing their own food and about beekeeping. They also learned how to scrape honey from honeycombs harvested from the beehives at the farm. The youngsters used the organic honey to make granola-like monster energy cookies and the beeswax to make lip balm.

Young chef Silas Shirley said the monster energy cookies were his favorite of all the food prepared during the camp.

The young chefs learned how to make a cauliflower crust pizza on Wednesday and topped their pizzas with fresh marinara sauce, cheese and mushrooms.

“We made our own fresh marinara, but it was a little different,” Wheeler said. “It had onions and peppers in it, too.”

“I liked the pizza,” young chef Weston Baird said. “We made cauliflower pizza and normal pizza, but I liked the normal pizza better.

“Oh yeah, and I liked those monster cookies,” he added.

On Thursday, youngsters took turns grilling marinated pork loin and tortillas, which were the main ingredients for street-style tacos.

Young chef Kaylie Williams said her favorite part of camp was “being able to cook on the grill.”

“I’ve never done that before,” she said.

Back in the Bremer’s state-of-the-art kitchen, the young grill masters tasted the results of labor over the hot grill by piling shredded red cabbage and watermelon salsa on top of their grilled pork tacos.

Nearby, Laura Hensgen, director of community education, and Leslie Sconce, community education administrative assistant, served up eggplant parmigiana and chocolate zucchini bread also made by campers.

The cooking techniques learned up until this point during the camp will be put to the test today when the 15 youngsters will be divided into three teams for a cooking challenge, similar to Gordon Ramsay’s "Master Chef Junior" TV program.

One team will prepare the entrée, another team will make salad and desserts, and the third team will be in charge of appetizers.

Celebrity judges will evaluate the food the three teams create by following recipes and using fresh ingredients.

The menu includes Italian mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella, vegetable lasagna in Alfredo sauce, lemon sorbet and lemon crème puffs.

Regardless of which team wins today’s competition, Silas — whose cooking knowledge before the camp consisted of being able to make Ramen noodles and eggs — said he has enjoyed the camp.

“We get to make delicious foods,” he said.


Plans are under way for Danville Area Community College’s second annual Farm-to-Fork dinner from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. This year’s meal will feature barbecue with all the fixings. Tickets are $50 and are available by calling culinary arts instructor Dana Wheeler at 918-0573. The dinner raises funds to help sustain the college’s farm on Daisy Lane. The funds are used to purchase seed, bee suits, equipment and gas to be used at the land lab.

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