Our 2014 Trip Daily Recaps

Below is the day-to-day summary of our magical week at Camp Sunshine during the camp’s oncology/hematology week from July 5-11, 2014. Many thanks to our leadership team and chef-volunteers for taking the time to capture such a wonderful whirlwind of a trip.

(And for those of you who would also like a visual tour of the week, hop on over to our photo gallery to view the fun!)

Day 1: Test Your Taste Buds

It felt great to be back in our lemon-yellow Camp Sunshine volunteer shirts! After a series of orientation lectures and tours, the CulinaryCorps crew inventoried all the equipment stored on site since our last trip. Bowls, bamboo steamers and flag banners all found their way back to our outdoor pop-up culinary classroom, aka: kitchen stadium.

As evening rolled around, the entire team trotted out on stage to introduce this year’s World of Flavors program to the campers. Then we were off to the races as the families joined us for our new and approved Test Your Taste Buds challenge. This event helps campers identify some of the key ingredients would be used throughout our World of Flavors curriculum. For our ingredient line-up this year, we threw in a few surprises including multi-colored quinoa and dark brown buckwheat honey which many people guessed was molasses. One camper even wrote in Pine Sol after smelling freshly grated ginger.


The best part about having the entire camp participate in this event was that it was fun to see new and old campers alike. And what a camper crowd it was! There were over 122 kids and 40 adults in attendance this year, a definite increase in number from last year.

We are SO excited you are here. I was praying for CulinaryCorps to come back to our session!

One teen in the group talked to us excitedly about his new culinary high school. Another mentioned that he would never forget ginger after taking a big bite (accidentally) out of a knob of it during last year’s Test Your Taste Buds event. And another told us that her favorite food is sushi. We definitely are in the right crowd! But perhaps the proudest moment of our first day was when we saw last year’s Golden Rolling Pin mounted in a place of honor on the wall of the newly refurbished cafeteria. It was a sight to behold. We were definitely motivated to get the week started.

Day 2: A Dinner in Rome

This year we returned to the “boot” and once again made homemade, whole-wheat pizzas and our now infamous Panzanella salad. Campers got to watch the whole-wheat dough being made from scratch and were able to both roll and top a pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Once assembled, the plate-sized beauties were put in the camp’s outdoor wood-burning oven to get golden brown and crisp.

Italy Dressing Group

The second station was all about arcobaleni, or rainbows in Italian, but not in the sky, on the plate! Fresh veggies of all shapes, colors and sizes were chopped to include a beautiful Italian salad called panzanella. The central ingredient, day-old whole wheat bread, was diced and sautéed in olive oil. While the sautéing was left to the chefs, the campers got to practice their very own chef wrist flip using a sauté pan and rice, a great way to practice with less pressure since a missed flip won’t ruin your meal.

Italy Flip Pan

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce in, we’re freezing!

After shaking their dressing to a tune made popular last trip, campers finally got to use their knife skills to chop the lettuce that would finish the dish.

Bear claw

We were also able to talk to several returning families from last year. They were thrilled to have their children (and themselves) re-engage with our programming. When queried about repeating the recipes and if this would negatively impact they fun they said

I’ll put it like this. They would be excited if it was all new recipe. They would be equally excited if it was the same recipes. Either way, they can’t wait to cook!

In fact, they told us that rumors of the fantastic “CulinaryCorps week” were spreading throughout the Camp Sunshine community and many families were requesting to come to the session we were assigned to. What a wonderful compliment!

That night, while prep for the next day was happening in the kitchen, our chefs got to show off their dance moves at the camp’s masquerade. Was there some salad dressing shaking happening that evening? You bet! Many thanks Ellen, a 2013 chef-volunteer, for instituting the tradition. While the dance was in full swing, CulinaryCorps was working behind the scenes.  In order to ensure our classes are “camper ready” (read: easy to do and teach in only 45-minutes) our chefs use the cafeteria after hours to prep for the following day. While the rest of the volunteers are headed off to bed, CulinaryCorps may be making a big batch of homemade tomato sauce, cutting square dumpling wrapper into rounds or grating mounds of carrots.  We’ve learned that an ounce of prevention prep is worth its weight in gold.

Day 3:  A Lunch in Tokyo

Day three started bright and early with the team getting our kitchen classroom ready for five classes to travel to Japan.  Starting with the 6-8 year olds, our first team made edamame gyoza – teaching the four simple steps of dumpling making via rap:

Step 1:  Can I get a scoop scoop?

Step 2:  Can I get a dip dip?

Step 3:  Can I get a fold fold?

Step 4:  Can I get a pinch pinch?

Japan Sushi Fingers

The next group continued our rainbow theme with veggie sushi rolls – spinach, green beans, avocado, grated carrots, red peppers, purple cabbage – and even the option to include smoked salmon.  Even the counselors were able to share the camper’s sushi rolls – with one even admitting that she and a few other counselors grabbed some of the uneaten pieces and saved them in their room to snack on later in the week.

Japan Goofy

Anyone know what tofu is? –I know, meat!

After breaking down our last class, our team immediately started prepping for our first ever evening class for the volunteers.  This additional class event was our way of saying “thank you” to all of the volunteers who help us run our classes as smoothly as possible – making sure that the campers hands are washed, aprons on, keeping all of the campers hydrated in the  eighty-degree sunshine, cleaning up after our family meal and in general, making our lives easier.

The volunteer class was to start in the dining room after the talent show. While we expected to start at 9pm, the talent show went a little long with “Let It Go” renditions so we didn’t get started until 9:30pm.  The delay didn’t deter our team of chefs or the 45 volunteers eager to roll their own sushi.  In addition to the veggie sushi rolls, Chef Shin taught the volunteers something entirely new to our programming– Korean rice balls. And thanks to a generous donation from HMart, the campers were able to sample some tasty Korean snacks including assorted banchan – kimchee, sesame greens and lotus root in soy sauce – as well as crispy treats like Korean popcorn, sweet potato crisps, and finally, sesame cookies. Once all of the sushi rolls were cut and the rice balls finished, all of the volunteers got a great late night snack – family style – but not without helping us clean up the dining room afterwards (after all, we are all volunteers).

Volunteer Class 3

While Chefs Shin, Celia, Dantee, Margot and Christine were teaching the volunteers, the rest of the team was on dishwashing and prep duty. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t have some fun of their own! Our Three Tenor Chefs – Chefs Thomas, Rusty and Mat–accompanied their hard work with (very) tuneful renditions of Billy Joel and Bon Jovi’s greatest hits as well as half of the soundtrack from Grease.

After our team of chefs finished up in the kitchen, including making 4 gallons of Jell-O, we immediately got into some arts and crafts, making signs for the following day’s Family Foodie Olympics. After we were done with our arts and crafts project, everyone just kept on hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, despite being bone tired.

Day 4:  A Breakfast in Mexico and 2nd Annual Family Foodie Olympics

Once again, Day 4 started off bright and early with a three consecutive classes after breakfast.  As arguably the most popular dish from last year, the repeat campers were looking most forward to our trip to Mexico. Old and new campers alike were eager to get their hands on the tortilla presses.

Mexico Meal Time

After splitting the campers into two teams, one side made our patented “guac in a bag” and cheesy scrambled eggs with chorizo while team two made black bean and corn salsa and of course, pressed fresh corn tortillas. We also introduced a new exercise, the “Tortilla Press”, by emphasizing that physical activity is just as important as a healthy diet. You hold a tortilla press over your head and squat (until we tell you to stop!)

You guys are THE BEST cooks.

After lunch, while the campers had their family time, our team got ready for the Second Annual Family Foodie Olympics.  This was a chance for families to get messy, get shaking, and go fishing, donut fishing that is.

  • Butter Up was a tasty game that got families shaking heavy cream until butter was made.  We offered bread on the spot so people could slather and try their creation and after one taste, many families took their butter back to their room to enjoy later.
  • Hello Jell-O was a rousing success once again. All the kids were excited to throw the neon jiggly stuff at their parents’ heads (with the goal of getting it into the container, of course).

Foodie Jello3

  • Donut Fishing was a new game this year and got campers trying eat a hanging donut without their hands while blindfolded. They (usually) got the sweet treat at the end.

Foodie Donuts Hanging

  • Chef Egg was the most photographed event of the afternoon with parents taking pictures of their kids in chef whites, aprons and hats.  Even the chefs got into the action, with a special round of Chef Egg using plastic teaspoons.

Foodie Chef Egg2

  • Finally, everyone got to Count the Carrots, a healthier alternative to last year’s “gumball guess”  that had campers guessing how many baby carrots could cram into a giant jar.

Everyone had a blast! And after wrapping up another successful Family Foodie Olympics, our Korean rice ball makers – Chefs Shin, Celia and Margot – made another hundred rice balls as a special appetizers for the special Parents’ Dinner.  Our team was invited to mingle with the parents during their social hour which was a nice way to reconnect with families from last year as well as meet the new ones.

Day 5:  Top Chef Sunshine

The morning certainly started off right with Rusty, of Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee, leading a special parents-only coffee tasting class. A few lucky parents got to take home coffee samples but the entire camp also made out that morning since Rusty was brewing up enough joe for all. Hooray for caffeine!

But now on to the most anticipated event of the week. With the secret ingredient in place, whole wheat orzo, each age-group was split into four teams to design and create a unique dish. The dishes were judged by an esteemed panel of individuals (including a special guest from the Institute of Culinary Education, the event’s sponsor) on Taste, Presentation, Creative, and most importantly, Teamwork. The judges tasted salads and soups, even orzo dumplings, and were impressed with the array of dishes the campers concocted in a little over 20 minutes.

Top Chef Stadium

Each age-group had an overall winner for the coveted “Treat Trophy” with the overall winning team being announced at the final “Golden Rolling Pin” ceremony later that night. After the cuisines reigned supreme, the chefs quickly cleared away the Top Chef set up to get ready for our final parent’s class, a relaunch of yesterday’s Mexico breakfast.  With over 40 adults, they were as eager as the kids to get their hands on the homemade tortillas.

Top Chef Judgin

As a final note, we take the “One Bite Club” very seriously here at CulinaryCorps but we are pleased to announce that every camper who came through our class is now a bona fide member. We were also pleased to see that no one “yucked a yum” throughout the entire five classes, including the adults who are sometimes our biggest offenders.

But who won this year’s Top Chef Sunshine competition? Who are now the proud (honorary) owners of the coveted Golden Rolling Pin? We’re pleased to announce that The Terrific Twos, an all-girl team made up of 6-8 year olds, took home the top prize with their creative take on orzo salad. And to wrap the week up, we had a few special guests take the stage to recap the week for the campers. See below for a trio of very good sports.



Day 6:  Ask a Chef

On the final morning of camp, several CulinaryCorps chefs set up a booth where campers and parents (and volunteers too) could come and ask any last-minute cooking questions, pick up any recipes they may be missing, or just say goodbye. We were thrilled so many people decided to stop by to say thank you so that in turn we could thank them! Anyone who was not manning the table was cleaning, sorting, organizing, cataloging and storing our kitchen items for next year. It was bittersweet to see it all go back into storage knowing that another amazing week had come to a close but that our next one was lying in patiently in wait until we return next year.

You have put together an exceptional team of professionals that are engaging, personable and fun!!  Their desire to share their craft with our camp families and their sincere concern for others shines through.  We are deeply appreciative of all your efforts and the teams efforts and embrace our partnership.

Chefs Fierce


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