What’s Cookin’? Kids Learn Life Skills in the Camp Tuku Kitchen


When your kid writes home from Camp Tuku, you will hear all about what’s cookin’ in the Camp Tuku kitchen and around the campfire. Chef Mark teaches life skills alongside cooking skills as he guides kids of all ages through the steps involved with cooking a variety of amazing entrees and desserts. 

From the famous (or is it infamous) TikTok upside down pastry to octopus pizza to campfire quesadillas and the “best ever” open-flame popcorn…campers become chef-scientists when they enter the Camp Tuku kitchen. (Check-out all the camp activities and how we mindfully integrate science, creativity, and fun into all that we do!)


Campers become Chef-Scientists at Camp Tuku

Chef Mark approaches cooking with the campers with a flair for creativity, abundant enthusiasm, and the goal to teach kids self-sufficiency, kitchen safety and etiquette, and a touch of science. After all, cooking a great-tasting dish is all about the source of the ingredients, reactions between mixed ingredients, and kitchen “conditions”. And while we consider the Camp Tuku kitchen to be a “teaching kitchen”, equipped with just about everything a young chef’s heart could desire, the kids are having SO much fun, they don’t even realize they are in a hands-on science lab.

camp tuku campers make macarons in cooking class.For instance, the preparation of one of the camper’s favorite desserts to make: macarons. In the days before campers arrived at Camp Tuku in Arizona, Mark was testing his recipe to account for the level of humidity in the kitchen along with the conditions outside the kitchen (which seeped in every time the door opened to let the next class in). 

Six batches later, he had figured out how to get those cookies to rise properly…and how to teach the lesson and show the campers what happens when kitchen conditions aren’t right for a given recipe. You’ll be glad to know that every class of campers did make their own batch of colorful, delicious macarons!

For the youngest campers, aged six to ten years old, one of their recipes was the “tik tok puff pastry” that went viral for its ease of creating a delicious treat. They filled their pastries with local honey and fruit. That is something Mark always encourages kids to think about:  Where do your ingredients come from? Are they locally sourced? Organic or processed? What are the best possible ingredients for your recipe, without breaking the piggy bank?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the campers start prepping ingredients, they learn age-appropriate kitchen safety rules such as removal of objects that could be a fire hazard (loose, long sleeves) or that could get mixed-in with ingredients (long hair!). Next, they  learn about the equipment and ingredients that will be used. They get to ask questions, observe a demonstration, and then follow instructions to create their own delicious masterpiece. 

What Happens If I Don’t Do that Step in the Recipe?

Often, young campers will want to go “off recipe”. In one class, a young cook didn’t want to aid fruit to his pastry–just honey. Chef Mark described that without fruit the sugar fromThe honey would burn and turn the pastry dark. He asked if the camper was ok with that outcome–and potentially poor flavor. In this way, the camper gets to understand the natural consequences of changing the recipe. They are given the opportunity to decide if they want to proceed without following directions as given. This camper found a middle ground – he added two small pieces of peaches to the honey. “Just so it won’t be burnt.”

When working with older campers, Chef Mark spends additional time to allow a camper to ponder the effects of variable kitchen conditions, ingredient changes, and cooking process.. This provides the campers with an opportunity be inquisitive and to think critically about how different ingredients interact, how the environment affects the cooking process, and, as they move onto mixing the ingredients, understand the chemistry of cooking.

Cooking at Camp Tuku doesn’t just happen in the kitchen. In the class, Campfire Cooking, Chef Mark supervises campers over the fire-pit where they whip up campfire quesadillas, open-flame popcorn (sooo good you’ll never want boxed or bagged ever again!), and s’mores galore!


Camp Tuku’s cooking classes are available at both locations–Arizona and New York. We’d love for you to get in touch with us to learn more about our upcoming session or to get on our mailing list for camp information.