Kids Cooking Summer Camp – Pop-Up Restaurant
by Monica Wong
On Friday, August 23rd, I dined at Rooks to Cooks’ pop-up restaurant, the Chef’s Platter. When kids culinary school Rooks to Cooks invited me here, I was intrigued. Kids cooking summer camp is somewhat of a novelty. Some parents take their kids to piano lessons or soccer practice but culinary school not so much. I felt like I walked into an episode of MasterChef and it was glorious!
These campers ages 8-12 showed real talent in the kitchen and picked up important life skills like teamwork and communication – in just one week! In fact, all the food and beverages served at the restaurant were made by the campers. This pop-up restaurant on Friday was a chance for the campers to apply what they learned at the kids cooking summer camp in a real-life setting; it was like a final exam and these kids passed with flying colours in front of their proud parents. I loved the sophistication of the dishes and the exceptional service. A+ for effort, execution and teamwork!
The service was excellent. The host easily found my name on the reservations list and I was led to my table by two servers, Sarah and Zara. Both were very friendly, professional and attentive. They followed up with me to see if I needed anything and ensured I didn’t have to wait too long for my entree. Moreover, I liked the relaxed and casual ambiance. Everything was made from scratch. As I looked around the restaurant, I could see the joy on the campers’ faces. They all looked like they were having a good time when I walked into the kitchen to see what was going on behind the scenes.
The Three-Course Menu
Bread of the Day: Artichoke and Olive Foccaccia with Olive Oil, Balsamic and Caramelized Onion Bread Dip
As I was waiting for my sparkling water, I tried the bread of the day. I must say it was the best I’ve ever tasted at any restaurant. Never did I think the bread would be so fresh, soft and fluffy. At other restaurants, the bread always came out hard and difficult to chew. Furthermore, I found the combination of artichoke and olives really interesting. I’ve always loved the saltiness of the olives and found that they added another layer of complex flavour combined with the nutty flavour of the artichokes.
Tomato Salad with Charred Red Pepper Pesto and Balsamic Glaze and Micro Arugula
I couldn’t get enough of the tomato salad with charred red pepper pesto and balsamic glaze and micro arugula. I found the whole dish very interesting since I’ve never had charred red pepper pesto in a salad before. Furthermore, I felt that the red pepper pesto really added a sweet and tangy taste to the salad. But the best part of the dish was the arugula. If I had a choice, I would put arugula on everything. The peppery and spicy flavour of the arugula really elevated the dish.
Braised Short Rib Gnocchi with Horseradish Aioli and Crispy Fried Onions
I was seriously impressed by the overall presentation of the braised short rib gnocchi with horseradish aioli and crispy fried onions. It’s a very restaurant quality dish and is on par with other Italian restaurants. The kids made the gnocchi the day before and the short rib was slowly braised to tender perfection. I found the creamy horseradish aioli a nice balance to the richness of the braised short rib. The fried onions added crispy texture and crunch to the dish.
Chocolate Mousse with Orange Chantilly Cream
The best part of this meal was definitely the luxurious chocolate mousse with orange chantilly cream. I have a weakness for chocolate and I just LOVED the richness and the decadence of this chocolate mousse. The taste was incredible! The intense flavour of the chocolate was nicely balanced by the citrusy and zesty flavour of the orange chantilly cream. Oh, and one last thing: did I mention the portion size? Very generous!
After the meal, parents and friends were treated to the graduation ceremony. The campers proudly collected their certificates and monetary tip one by one. These cooking camps really created true friendships, along with a sense of accomplishment and a newfound sense of confidence. I wish more parents knew about this kids cooking summer camp. I was completely inspired and awed by this talented group of young chefs. For these campers, the sky is the limit and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
For more information on the summer camps, check out https://www.rookstocooks.ca/summer-camp/. Rooks to Cooks has 12 locations across the GTA and has unique programs tailored to kids as young as six.
Be sure to read my interview with the mastermind behind Rooks to Cooks, Chef Shai Mandel.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.