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Aromas of sharp onion and chives, sweet sesame and tangy ginger pervade a medium-sized cafeteria at Stone Canyon Outdoor EdVentures, an outdoor education center in Larkspur. About 30 students from middle and elementary schools from across Douglas County chop vegetables, crack eggs and beat dough at small tables. They read directions from a sheet of paper. The end product will be fried rice and pork dumplings.
“I just like cooking,” said Maddy Klein, a spunky 11-year-old who goes to Eagle Ridge Elementary in Lone Tree. “I really want to be a chef.”
Stone Canyon Outdoor EdVentures hosted its second fall break culinary camp for students in sixth through eighth grades from Oct. 9-13. Campers — the first two days were for beginners and the last three were for advanced — spent the morning learning basic knife skills, how to read recipes and how to cook a meal from start to finish. They spent the afternoon outdoors on a ropes course or zip line, or at an archery range.
Advanced campers had less assistance in the kitchen. Danielle Barron, a 12-year-old from Clear Sky Elementary School in Castle Rock, gripped the soft side of a chef's knife as she methodically chopped rows of green chives.
“I learned to cook when I was 2,” she said. “My parents taught me.”
The creator of the culinary fall camp is Bonnie Diamond, who trained to be a chef in Italy and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in Littleton and Safeway in Boulder. She used to teach afterschool enrichment at Larkspur Elementary School. She loves kids, she said.
“I love food — it's my passion,” said Diamond, standing in a kitchen open to the cafeteria, wearing an apron. “What I really enjoy is working with instructors that want to learn, and making memories with kids.”
Along with cooking skills, students learn the importance of etiquette in Diamond's classes. She teaches campers 10 skills: how to set a table, how to engage in small talk, how to talk to a hostess, how to not blow your nose at the table, among others.
“I think the parents really appreciate it,” Diamond said. “It's important — it's a lost art.”
The culinary camp brings life to Stone Canyon Outdoor EdVentures, director Jolee Jones said. The facility is typically busy during its summer camps or outdoor education trips for schools in the spring.
“This is what we love to do,“ Jones said, “to work with the community.”
Campers left with an apron and menu of their creations from the week. Alec Sammes, a student from Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch, plans on using the recipes he learned to help cook dinner for his family.
“That way,” the 14-year-old said, “my mom doesn't have to do so much when she gets off of work.”
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