Camp Delicious Teaches Pittsburgh Teens How to Cook and Enjoy Food
In an effort to “broaden minds in the region,” Hilda Fu created the nonprofit Luminari in 2009. “The best way to broaden minds is to enlighten the stomach first,” Fu says with a laugh. So, she launched Camp Delicious in 2014, a program that helps local teens expand their cooking skills and their palates. “We can either be very limited and stick to only the foods we grew up with, or we can start to experiment with new ingredients and be open to new tastes,” Fu says. “Camp Delicious is a very good way, and a very fun way, to broaden minds.”
Under the co-direction of Leslie Bonci, MPH,RDN,CSSD, and chef Lisa Silberg, Camp Delicious became a five-day program, taking place this year July 10-14. Throughout their time at Camp Delicious, participants will learn vital skills, including how to choose and prepare different ingredients while cutting back on food waste and sticking to a reasonable budget. To help teach these important life lessons, Bonci and Silberg ask local chefs, dietetic interns/students, and food cultivators to share their unique insight through demonstrations and educational field trips.
“I want participants to cultivate an interest in the kitchen, as well as a respect for where food comes from,” Bonci says. “I want them to appreciate the taste, texture, and function of food. I want them to celebrate what they learn with their family and friends.”
Fu also hopes the participants learn how to celebrate the food itself. Born in Hong Kong and raised in a culture where days are spent “eating good meals and discussing what meals we were going to eat next,” she wants to incorporate those ideals into Camp Delicious’ mission “Throughout the years, I’ve found that people use eating as a means to an end. It just completely defeats the purpose,” Fu says. “It’s about time we bring back some enjoyment to food. We can’t always be thinking about what we can’t or shouldn’t eat. We need to just enjoy what’s been prepared for us. That’s healthier — for our bodies and our minds.”
In the spirit of no judgement, Bonci also points out that our growing nation of “foodies” is sometimes more appropriately referred to as a nation of “feudies.” “Everyone is more focused on what not to eat rather than what to eat,” she explains. “The idea of nutrient or food elimination without discrimination or food-blaming processed, refined, GMO, etc. has created a culture of exclusionary and elitist eating. Everyone cannot afford to buy organic and should not feel ashamed or nutritionally deficient if they choose not to.”
Instead, we should embrace a wide range of ingredients and flavors, getting back to Fu’s initial goal of broadening minds. At Camp Delicious, no food group is off limits, allowing participants to learn everything from how to bake bread to how to cut and cook a steak. And the effects of the camp are even more satisfying than the dishes its students learn to create.
“My favorite part of the camp is the last day, when our campers showcase their skills by providing culinary thrills for parents and friends. It’s quite rewarding to see them taking pride in their culinary creations,” Bonci says. “I would love for the program to get national attention and create the template so that other cities can create, ideate, and replicate what we have done to take this program to every plate in every state!” For more information on Camp Delicious,visit luminari.org.
+ Sign up for Camp Delicious before May 1 and receive $20 off tuition!