Typically for my blog experiences I am directly involved in the activity that is the subject of future writings. This time, my girls participated and I was able to stand back and observe. The Kids Cupcake Camp at the Amelia Island Culinary Academy began outdoors with large letters written on the sidewalk that the kids had to unscramble. “What is that word?” asked Chef Bill as he made his entrance from the building. “Buttercream” his wife said. “That is way too long! I never would have guessed that.” responded Bill. Keep in mind that all of the words were cupcake themed in keeping with the theme of the camp. I immediately jot down in my notebook that word scrambles are not Chef Bill’s strong suit.
As the class began it became increasingly clear where his strong suit does lie-food. He walked the children through rules of the kitchen, carefully explaining ingredients and kitchen gadgets. The cupcakes that the kids would prepare for the class are cream cheese with a buttercream frosting. All made from scratch. He formed the kids into two teams and told them that they could name themselves. The children, a brilliantly creative bunch, settled on the Purple and Blue teams. Chef Bill, mishearing the name of the Purple team (probably because 5 children were shouting at once) thought that they had named themselves Team Hairball. The kids had a good laugh.
I watched as the kids took turns adding the various ingredients, lined cupcake pans, and poured the batter into the pans. Chef Bill then took the cupcakes to the oven to bake. During this break the kids moved into the children’s play area and decorated their very own chef hats with glittery letters, stickers, markers, crayons, and various other creative craft items. Now, I am not sure how well these crazy chef hats would go over in a real kitchen, but they looked fabulous and the kids had a blast. Once the hats were finished, everyone lined up for a field trip to The Patio Place to make crepes.
Let me preface this part by saying that Chef Amy, owner of The Patio Place, is easily one of the coolest people that I have met. We arrived just as she was pulling up to the restaurant for the day and she immediately began engaging the group with more energy than I have on my best days. She handed the kids her bags of groceries to carry in and immediately began preparations for the crepe making. She did have one brief stop to pay the beer distributor making his delivery which she turned into a lesson on the importance of paying bills to keep your business open. Good words Chef. The kids were completely silent with stoic faces during this time, giving me a chuckle, because clearly they were mentally filing away the importance of paying bills for future use at their crepe restaurants.
I had no idea that so many steps were involved and how much skill is required to make a proper crepe. As we watched from behind the counter, Chef Amy used her magic salts and oil to prepare the crepe griddle. (Side note: I just had to Google “flat pan thing used to make a proper crepe” in order to find the term crepe griddle.) She then added milk to the prepared batter and poured onto the hot stone, flattening in layers with the trowel spreader (Thanks again, Google). The fillings were added and the crepes were served to the kids who all felt that they were superb. The cinnamon sugar crepe was the favorite amongst the group with Nutella coming in at a close second. As we said our good-byes, Chef Amy noted how lovely life would be if we all had the enthusiasm and energy of children. I believe that she does.
We made our way back to the Academy to make frosting and finish the cupcakes. Food coloring was added to the frosting by each child to make whatever color they felt best suited their cupcakes. Both of my girls opted for shades of pink <insert my complete lack of surprise.> The cupcakes were delicious and the kids were thrilled.
The Amelia Island Culinary Acedemy offers a variety of children’s cooking classes as well as classes for adults. I plan to attend the Farmer’s Market Class, offered on Saturday mornings, and including a trip to our local Farmer’s Market. Chef Bill has an extensive culinary resume that includes Johnson and Whales, The Ritz, and teaching culinary students at the Institute in Jacksonville. His passion is slow food and the farm to table movement which, for those who know me, understand the draw. His personality makes the entire experience as he is down to earth, knowledgeable, patient, and quite witty. With a sprinkling of very bad jokes.
I cannot say enough about how wonderful this experience was. Chef Bill and his family are warm people that you not only want to prepare a meal with, but sit down and enjoy your meal with as well. I look forward to attending many more classes. Get more information and see the class schedule at www.ameliacooking.com