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Saturday, October 21, 2017


My Day at Camp: Sweet Basil Cooking School

Evelyn, Ava and Saraya display the parmesan roasted tomatoes. Photos by Holly Reid.

Writer Evelyn Hendrix, Ava and Saraya display Parmesan roasted tomatoes.
Photos by Holly Reid.

Summer camp often involves roasting marshmallows over an open flame. I vividly recall heavy Dutch ovens, hot coals and brushes with death. But on this summer afternoon, my day at camp leaves those memories in the dust—literally.

At Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale, kids and teenagers learn that an open flame is far more useful for roasting red peppers for an herbed omelet panini with spinach and feta cheese. There is no dust in these tasty dishes and the “campsite” is a modern, fully furnished kitchen with running water and air-conditioning.

For the past 17 years, owner Martie Sullivan has welcomed youngsters into her gourmet store to learn more about delicious ingredients and mouth-watering fare. In weeklong classes, teenagers create cuisine with exotic names. Pork souvlaki, fig crostada and baba ganoush are on the Mediterranean menu. South of the border fare includes pineapple pico de gallo, red chile beef fajitas and sopapillas with strawberry sauce.

Spinach is sauted for roasted sweet potato Panini with cranberry aioli. Students are stationed around the kitchen, preparing their gourmet cuisine.

A culinary student sautes spinach for roasted sweet potato Panini with cranberry aioli.
Thomas (15), center, slices lemons for the nicoise salad while his friends watch.

As a teenager, I entered the kitchen long enough to slap mustard on a sandwich. I had no interest in using baking soda for anything other than exploding volcanoes. But today’s kids are much more kitchen savvy and health conscious than their parents. In fact, it’s actually cool to cook.

Chef Eric Naddy, of Chandler, has spent the last few years teaching kids at Sweet Basil’s summer camps. They truly look up to him. He enjoys it and relates to the younger crowd because “I really am just a big kid.” Seriously. He is six feet, seven inches tall.

Naddy is an award-winning chef and co-owner of a Valley catering company. He is quick to share his culinary wisdom with his young students.

“The more stinky the cheese, the more flavor it has!” he cries. He insists that cooking cannot begin until all the ingredients are prepared and ready. This is a great lesson for me, since I normally retrieve items from the fridge as I cook. Being prepared is not my forte.

Students are stationed around the kitchen, preparing their gourmet cuisine. Jackson (13), separates eggs like a pro.

Left: Students are stationed around the kitchen, preparing their gourmet cuisine.
Right: Jackson (13) separates eggs like a pro.

As I help scoop out a tomato, I see that it is clear these kids enjoy cooking. They list a few of their favorite television shows: “Iron Chef,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Chopped.” Thanks to Food Network, today’s kids are feeding (excuse the pun) their cooking passions. They know how to choose fresh ingredients. They learn the difference between yams and sweet potatoes.

Perhaps if Sweet Basil and Food Network had been around when I was a teen, I would have roasted red peppers instead of marshmallows over an open flame.

Panini, anyone?

Learn more at the Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School website. There are separate classes for ages 8-12 and ages 13-17 through July, as well as adult classes. Children’s classes are also offered periodically throughout the year, including Scary Foods at Halloween, Mom and Me Tea and more.

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Evelyn Hendrix

Evelyn Hendrix is a Gilbert freelance writer and mother of five.

Copyrighted material. All rights reserved. This content may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or redistributed without permission of the publisher.

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