Eating and exercising |

Eating and exercising

Nicole Frey
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyLauren Siegel, 10 and her sister, Margot, 7, peal tomatos to make tomato and mozzarella sandwiches during a kids cooking camp at the Vail Racquet Club in East Vail.

VAIL – The dainty, triangular sandwiches held together by bamboo-tipped toothpicks looked like the product of a gourmet restaurant, not the creation of a bunch of kids under the age of 11.

But under the instruction of five renowned Vail Valley chefs, the children were able to whip up a feast fit for a fine dining room.

Three days of the Kids’ Summer Cooking Camp in Vail taught youngsters how to whip up healthy and tasty dishes, and also offered lessons in physical fitness as they played in the pool and hiked after the cooking was done.

Van Putman, 11, diligently sliced strawberries for a fruit parfait. The young Memphis native’s greatest goal in life is to be a starter on his football team, the Saints.

“My coach told me if I want to start, I need to exercise a lot and eat healthy,” he said. “I saw this camp in the paper, and I thought it would be a good way to learn more about that.”

Van already has some basics down. He avoids soda like the plague, and sticks to water, juice and Gatorade “when I’m biking.” He indulges in vegetables and fruits and eats meat sparingly, but the camp gave him even more to go on, he said.

Like quinoa ” a whole grain from South and Central America that packs almost as much protein as meat with none of the bad stuff.

“I never heard of it before, but it seems like good stuff,” he said. “I don’t know if I can get it in Memphis.”

Quinoa may be nature’s super food, but it doesn’t taste like much.

“Who wants to eat health food if it doesn’t taste good?” chef Kelly Liken, of her self-titled Vail restaurant, asked the eight kids at her station.

But with the additions of carrots, cherries, orange juice, mint, pecans and other flavorful ingredients the simple grain turns into a savory quinoa salad.

A few tables down a group was assembling some gooey sandwiches out of almond butter, apple butter and bananas.

“Have you ever done painting before?” chef Stephen Porter of Terra Bistro asked Nicki Sam, 9.

She nodded, and Porter handed her a wide brush. It looked like something used to whitewash fences, but Porter instructed Nicki to dip the brush into the almond butter and gently spread it on a slice of bread.

“The chefs loved that they got to contribute,” said Rutherford Maule, a local private chef and owner of Chef de Maison Catering Co., who thought up and hosted the camp. “Some of them who have never worked with kids were surprised to find so much joy and smiles.”

Larkspur chef Brian Shaner, who teaches a culinary class at Colorado Mountain College for adults, said the transition to kids was easy.

“They’re smarter,” Shaner joked. “They’ve got no preconceptions about food. They’re fresh, so if we get them eating right from the get go, hopefully, they’ll do it for the rest of their lives.”

Some chefs didn’t know how to react to the kids. When 7-year-old Jessie Simmon spit out her overly peppered quinoa salad and looked like she might vomit, Zach Thompson of Kelly Liken stared at the girl while others rushed to get her water.

But at the end of the day, as the kids showed off their handiwork to their parents and shared a meal, the children were all smiles.

“The kids were so excited, and we got so much positive feedback,” Maule said. “When we had our meal at the end, the kids were pointing at the buffet and telling their parents why this and that was good for you.

“It was great. The kids were happy because they had fun, and the parents were happy because they’d learned something as well.”

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or

Vail, Colorado

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