KOKOMO, Ind. – There’s nothing like throwing a round of pizza dough into the air — and successfully catching it — to make you feel like a real chef.
That was the highlight of the day for Dakota Tobin, as he attended Indiana University Kokomo’s first teen culinary camp. Six area teens chopped mango for salsa, kneaded bread dough, simmered sauces, and baked gourmet pizzas, learned cooking skills, as well as how to make small changes to recipes to add healthier ingredients.
“My goal was to introduce the younger generation to basic cooking skills and healthful habits, in combination with whole foods,” said Kim Mossburg, lecturer in nutritional science, who led the classes in the campus food and nutrition lab. “When they learn it while they are young, these skills and habits are more likely to stick, and they are sharing what they’ve learned with their families.”
The students gathered around Mossburg’s teaching station, watching as she works whole wheat pizza dough, and explains why it has to be kneaded, to strengthen the gluten in it. Next to her, a pan of sauce simmered, emitting a tangy sweet aroma, as the peach barbecue sauce neared readiness to be ladled onto the fresh dough.
Dakota Tobin, 13, and sister Desi Tobin, worked with IU Kokomo student Tasha Lane to shape their whole wheat pizza dough into a pan, with Lane demonstrating how to stretch it by giving it a gentle toss.
“My mom sent me here because I love cooking,” he said, laughing as he caught his dough. “It’s fun here. I’ve learned how to use a knife properly, and to cut things better.”
Alistar Knutson, 16, cooks for her family regularly, especially when her mother works on weekends. She was excited to try new recipes, and had already made an avocado mousse at home that Mossburg showed them in class.
“I’m learning a lot about nutrition and flavor profiles,” she said. “You can learn how to make good food for yourself, from real ingredients, rather than just opening up a box and eating something unhealthy.”
She also learned to consider ingredients she never thought of adding to some recipes, she said.
“You can add unexpected things to food, and it will turn out really well,” she said. “You can add strawberries and apples to salad, and it will taste good. There are some weird combinations that taste surprisingly good, and they add another dimension of flavor.”
Taylor McKillip, 13, enjoyed making cinnamon rolls and homemade bread, because it tasted better than store bought. He was pleased to gain new skills he didn’t have before the camp.
“It’s good for a boy to know how to cook, and know his way around a kitchen, and what to do in one,” he said. “You don’t want to have to ask someone else to do things for you all the time.”
He looks forward to putting what he learned to work at home.
“I will probably be cooking a lot more at home now,” he said.
The culinary camp received grant funding from Women of the Well House, IU Kokomo’s women’s philanthropy circle, and from the Office of Sustainability.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.