Season 6 champ Claudia Sandoval looks forward to MasterChef summer camp in Kent
Things have been hot in the kitchen at Kent School and it’s not from the summer sun.
The school in Connecticut is one of two in the nation hosting Camp MasterChef!, a culinary getaway for kids and teens. Based on the TV reality cooking shows “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior” starring chef Gordon Ramsay, youths spend camping time learning their way around the kitchen and up their culinary skills thanks to a kitchen full of well-known guest chefs. Beginning Aug. 5, “MasterChef” Season 6 winner Claudia Sandoval will be the featured cook in the kitchen. Sandoval, the first Latina to ever win the cooking reality show, has since authored a cookbook, Claudia’s Cocina, A Taste of Mexico, launched a culinary consulting and catering company and is a judge on the new Telemundo Mexican television show, “MasterChef Latino.” A California resident and mother of a pre-teen, Sandoval recently took her apron off to chat about the benefits of spending time in the kitchen, the new interest by children to cook, her newfound celebrity and her first trip to Connecticut.
The Camp MasterChef camps are focused on teaching pre-teens and teenagers elementary-level cooking skills as well as some advanced skills. With the growing number of cooking shows on television like “MasterChef Jr.” aimed at youngsters who love to cook, it’s not surprising that more and more young people want to learn more about creating and cooking in the kitchen. We have found that the kids love watching “MasterChef Jr.” and the adults on “MasterChef” as well and are actually some of the biggest fans of that show. Cooking has become kind of cool and the bonus is that kids are authentically creative and they bring it to the kitchen.
It’s not just about making food. At the camp, team building and working as a team are a big part of the camp experience. And that is huge when it comes to developing life skills. They have to learn to work collaboratively at camp where they will do team cooking competitions just like on the show. And when we make big dishes, like paella for instance, it is done restaurant style and that means everyone has a job to do, everyone contributes. And when we finish the dish, it is everyone’s success.
Well, we teach skills that run the gamut, how to use a knife, how to measure ingredients, follow a recipe, cooking terms, skills on the stove and in the oven. Classes bring in elements of the show, mystery boxes, team competition and individual competitions. Kids are very supportive of each other in the contests but they also have a drive to win.
Sometimes they just need some coaxing. And for some I’ve seen, they are more adventurous because they’ve watched the show and see different kinds of foods. As the first and still only Latina to win “MasterChef,” I like to share recipes from my culture. I’ve found a lot of them have never had real Mexican food. So it’s kind of fun to watch them make it and then find out they like it. Again, I think they just need a little coaxing and little peer pressure; when they see everyone else trying it, doesn’t hurt either.
As a mother, I took a page out of my mom’s and grandmother’s books when it came to cooking with my own daughter. I got her in the kitchen early and got her comfortable with failure. I started her with scrambled eggs. I think it is super-important to get back to familial things. Instead of texting and online-games and videos, separate from technology a little bit each day and get together in the kitchen and make something together. It’s not difficult to do and makes good memories.
Every single day I pinch myself. I can’t walk through Target without being recognized and I still can’t believe it. I think I knew I had become a celebrity when I started reading articles critiquing me and that was a learning experience. You can’t be prepared for that aspect of celebrity. You have tolerant to stay on your feet.
Chiles Rellenos. Chiles stuffed with cheese and then coated in an egg batter, fried and then covered with tomato sauce. It’s a homey meal. It takes a little time to make, but for me that’s therapeutic. When I’m making them and close my eyes, I feel like I am in my grandma’s kitchen.
He is a great father and great human being. And as far as “MasterChef,” I made a lot of new friends, I learned to cook some amazing food and walked away with an experience that changed my life.
My degree is actually in political science. And despite my heritage, Mexican food is not my favorite. It is Italian and I love gnocchi.
For more information on Camp MasterChef go to campmasterchef.com