Culinary Cuisine

Youngsters learn cooking basics at camp

Bryson Richards, 13, left, watches Jason Andary, 14, chop an onion to make whitefish cakes Thursday at the Jacobetti Complex at Northern Michigan University. Culinary Cuisine camp was one of this year’s Career Exploration Camps for students in seventh through 12th grades. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Most people won’t become professional chefs, but they still need to eat, and unless they have the means to eat out all the time, that means learning to cook.

Discovering the basics of cooking was the goal of Thursday’s Culinary Cuisine camp, one of several Career Exploration Summer Camps for seventh- through 12th-graders held at the Jacobetti Complex at Northern Michigan University.

The teacher was Andrew Sear, a local professional chef.

Before they tried out the recipes, he gave them a quick tour of the Jacobetti kitchen, showing them the range, broiler, freezer, pantry and other areas.

“They’ve probably barely used their kitchen at home, let alone a professional kitchen,” Sear said.

There are, obviously, differences between the two settings.

“There’s not just two bowls like at your house, there’s a hundred bowls, and they’re usually organized by size and shape,” Sear said.

He also showed them the pantry.

“This is like your parents’ pantry, if they have one, but a lot bigger,” Sear said.

What the campers learned Thursday, however, likely can be used in a home setting.

“Everyone needs to know how to cook for themselves, even more so today than when I was growing up,” he said. “People like my parents, who are in their 80s, were able to help their children out a little bit more, and you’re starting to see that less and less as we progress.”

For most people, it’s also not feasible to dine out every day.

“Wages aren’t where they need to be, so this is an essential thing in how to live,” Sear said. “It’s not just how to cook food. It’s ‘How do I sustain as a human being?’ as opposed to ‘Let’s go have some fun and cut some things.'”

He’s also into local food and proper nourishment, as evidenced by the dishes the youngsters made Thursday, which included whitefish cakes, vinegar cole slaw, baked French onion soup, a house salad with fruit, and quiche with Swiss chard from the NMU Hoop House.

“I’m passionate about healthy eating,” Sear said.

However, he acknowledged the importance of balance, enjoying at least one supposedly decadent food: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you you shouldn’t eat donuts.”

Sear also is passionate about cleaning up, stressing to the youngsters the importance of taking care of kitchen messes following food preparation.

“Every one of you here doesn’t get to leave until the kitchen’s completely clean,” Sear told the youngsters.

He also shared kitchen tips, such as putting out fires with baking soda, not water, and marking items that will be stored in a freezer with the current date.

Culinary experiences varied among the youngsters, with some having limited time in the kitchen.

“I cooked a lot of grilled cheese,” said Landon Fee, an eighth-grader at Gladstone Middle School. “I can make canned soup.”

The class split into groups of three to make their assigned dishes after being told to read through their recipes before they began preparing them.

Since the cuisine was more complicated than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Sear stayed active in the kitchen, moving from group to group to lend them advice.

One piece of advice he gave to Bradley Miller, 13, a student at Marquette Alternative High School, was how to cut a pepper, which involved slicing off the ends, making a slit and then removing the white part.

“Oh, that’s genius,” Miller said. “How’d you come up with that?”

The youngsters worked with each other, coming up with ideas on how to make their dishes while performing tasks like grating cheese and finding the correct spices for their recipes.

Jason Andary, 14, a student at Marquette Senior High School, looked fairly at home doing his part to make whitefish cakes.

“I don’t understand how people are thinking cooking is hard,” Andary said. “It’s just — experiment.”

During several weeks this month, students were to have the opportunity to explore various careers in skilled trades and engineering through these camps, in addition to Culinary Cuisine: Auto & Small Engine Repair, Cosmetology, Industrial Maintenance, Crime Scene Investigation, Welding, Bicycle Repair & Maintenance, and Exploring Forestry.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is