Culinary campers celebrate the South


Culinary campers had the chance to experience four days of Celebrating the South: A Taste of the Season during the Sixth Annual Expect Excellence Culinary Camp last week.

The Expect Excellence program is run by a team of volunteers led by Jonathan and Jessica Langston and chef Krista Williams. Students are led through culinary adventures with the help of local guest chefs and purveyors. Students learned cleanliness, food handling, knife safety and skills and teamwork.

Each year, campers come from all over to participate in Culinary Camp and each year it is sold out early. Langston said some families plan their trips to the area based on camp. Eight-year-old culinary camper Colton enjoyed the week of camp while in Orange Beach visiting his grandparents. The Tennessee native said he had a lot of fun and the watermelon granita was his favorite dish.

On day one of camp Lillian Cattle Company came to explain the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef and made sliders. Chef Jordan Scott from Perdido Key Breakfast Club helped campers make fresh pasta and cut Lillian Cattle Company sirloin into tips which they sautéed with mushrooms and served over the fresh pasta. This hearty dish celebrated the flavors of winter in the South.

Day two brought Bayou Cora Farms who taught campers about heirloom corn and brought corn flour for campers to bake with. Chef Kimberly Asbury from BuzzCatz Coffee & Sweets made her sixth appearance at Culinary Camp. Campers celebrated southern cooking and explored the spring season fruits by baking strawberry and blackberry streusel pies, blueberry cornbread and focaccia bread with tomatoes and herbs.

The bounty of summer was brought by Local Appetite Growers. Campers cooked with the fresh squash, okra and lettuces making salads, squash casserole and okra poppers. All the campers enjoyed ending the day on a sweet note with the watermelon granita chef Krista made.

Vegetable day wasn’t a favorite with most campers which was evident by the full to-go boxes. Jessica Langston joked that the parents probably didn’t get any of the delicious treats from day two but would have plenty of summer vegetables to try. All campers were encouraged to try one bite of each dish and each year Langston is surprised at the number of campers that discover a new food they like.

On the final day, campers enjoyed a field trip to Fresh Off the Boat OBA where they toured the restaurant. Executive chef Haikel Harris then led campers through the preparation of venison rack with wild rice, root vegetables and cherry clove demi-glace in celebration of the fall season.