But 'He's Been Making Omelets Since He Was 3 . . .'

Ali Dawson, 15, left, and Meredith Allen, 14, at the C'est Si Bon Cooking School's Kid Chefs Summer Camp in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ali Dawson, 15, left, and Meredith Allen, 14, at the C'est Si Bon Cooking School's Kid Chefs Summer Camp in Chapel Hill, N.C. (By Juli Leonard -- The News & Observer)
By Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's not enough to go to cooking camp just to have fun. Heaven forbid.

No, camp these days needs to be one more opportunity to polish up that college résumé with further proof of a kid's breathtaking talent.

Or at least that seems to be one of the motives behind the growing demand for teen cooking camps that offer intense, sophisticated lessons -- even travel to Europe.

At C'est Si Bon Cooking School in Chapel Hill, N.C., some parents become irate when their children -- all far above-average, of course -- aren't immediately placed in the advanced teen cooking camp.

"The parents have become much more competitive. They call and ask if there's a test their child could take [to get into the advanced course]. Or they fib and tell me, 'He's been making omelets since he was 3,' " says Dorette Snover, co-owner of the nine-year-old school that offers teen cooking camps in Chapel Hill, as well as in Tuscany and Provence.

Culinary camp sessions at Pali Overnight Adventures Camp near Lake Arrowhead in Southern California are taught by a chef and fill up quickly, says director Barry Vigon. "Parents not only want to flesh out their kids' résumés, they want to make them more well-rounded. College is so competitive, it can't hurt."

Whether it's to score points with college administrators, or just because parents are desperate to keep their kids occupied during the summer, many cooking schools say demand has jumped for pre-teen and teen classes.

C'est Si Bon began with six students in 1997 in Snover's home kitchen. This year, 150 students will learn to cook over the summer in the 1,800-square-foot school Snover and her husband recently built next to their house.

At L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, summer camp coordinator Clarice Dionot says the weeklong kids' cooking camp sessions (for ages 9-12 and 13-17) have been filled for months.

"We began advertising in March, and the Teen Globe Trotters and Teen Baking classes [ages 13-17] sold out almost immediately," she says. "The demand for kids' classes just keeps growing. The only reason we don't do more is lack of space."

Kids' cooking classes at the elegant Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., are so popular that some parents have tried lying about their children's ages to get them enrolled. "The classes almost always have a waiting list," says chef-instructor Sue Moats.

And what are kids learning to make at camp? Everything from toffee chocolate chip bars to Tuscan ravioli with a sage ricotta filling to crab cakes with ginger cream and mango salsa. Here's a sampling from around the country (prices do not include airfare):

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