Young chefs give cooking a try at summer Cooking Camp

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

There was a lot of peeling, slicing and stirring going on at the city of Destin’s Cooking Camp led by local Chef Jim Shirah at the Destin Community Center earlier this week.

During a three-day camp, the youth got to plan out a menu and then prepare the meal from scratch. Their menu consisted of shrimp cocktail, tomato bisque, shepherd's pie and pineapple upside-down cake. 

Along the way, Shirah said he taught them about “sanitation, a little bit of nutrition, dining room etiquette, and some kitchen etiquette and team work. And to have a good time. 

Sasa Sellers peels a potato in the kitchen of the Destin Community Center Wednesday as she and others participate in a three-day cooking camp led by Destin Chef Jim Shirah.

“If they learn something, just some little trick that stuck with them … that means a lot,” he said. 

Shirah showed the kids tricks to peeling potatoes, to how to cut up herbs and even how putting onions on ice will cut back on the smell. 

More local news:Destin High School is making preparation for the influx of more students

“I think they learn quick … it depends on how involved they want to be,” he said. 

But the crew of 10 he had in the kitchen at the Destin Community Center on Wednesday were all hands on deck. 

Destin Chef Jim Shirah shows Elle Wolfle, left, and Brianna Wolfle how to cut herbs as they work in the kitchen of the Destin Community Center Wednesday during a three-day cooking camp.

Stetson McDonald, 11, and Silas Matyac, 10, had their hands full skinning and cutting up carrots for the shepherd's pie planned on their menu. 

“It’s pretty fun,” McDonald said. 

New principal at Destin Elementary:From assistant to principal, Amy Meyer feels 'very fortunate' to make move at Destin Elementary

Isabelle Imondi, 12, was on the crew making the upside-down pineapple cupcakes. 

“I bake a lot at my house," Imondi said. "I like baking cakes and cupcakes, but I’ve never tried this before. I like pineapple, it’s one of my favorite fruits.” 

Sisters Elle Wolfle, right, and Brianna Wolfle use a mixer to blend a tomato bisque soup Wednesday during a cooking camp led by Destin Chef Jim Shirah.

For 8-year-old Annabelle Holzapple, who was a little short to reach the counter, she didn’t mind using a stool to reach so she could help stir the batter for the cake. 

“I don’t get to cook much at home,” Holzapple said. “I like the smells … I’m having a good time.”

Emma Smith, 8, who was also cake duty, said she liked “stirring and pouring.” 

With the shepherd’s pie came a lot of potato peeling, 20 pounds in all. 

“I think I’ve peeled about 50 potatoes,” Brianna Wolfe said as she had one in hand. 

Chef Shirah has been doing this type of camp with the kids since 2008. 

“And I learn something new every time too,” he said. 

Shirah said he has a server now at the restaurant, Dewey Destin’s, that actually took his cooking class when she was a kid. 

Silas Matyac, left, and Stetson McDonald crinkle-cut carrots for a shepherd's pie during a cooking camp held this week at the Destin Community Center by longtime Destin Chef Jim Shirah.

“That’s cool … you just never know,” he said.  

This is his second cooking camp this summer as part of the Summer Program at the community center. 

The limit for each camp is 10 young people, because of space. Shirah said he had 15 on the waiting list. 

A menu from one of Destin Chef Jim Shirah's cooking camps shows the food that was prepared by children participating in the summer camp.

The camp was divided into three days. On day one, they talked about sanitation and nutrition and figured out a menu. On day two, they spent their time preparing and cooking the food. On day three they were able to invite a guest and serve them a meal.

“It may not be perfect, but you got to start somewhere,” Shirah said.