Getting Creative at Summer Cooking Camps

Is your kiddo obsessed with “Nailed It” or “Chopped”? This summer, Village at Leesburg is a hub for young foodies with some very cool camps where kids can perfect their cooking, baking and confectionery skills outside of mom and dad’s kitchen.

At the popular chocolate-focused restaurant The Conche, chef and owner Santosh Tiptur, chocolatier Sara Dobson and pastry chef Kathleen Faliskie are working with young people all summer, offering three-day camps full of sweet bliss and plenty of new skills.

For Tiptur, the idea for the camps grew out of his lifelong passion for chocolate.

“The whole thing for me is to inspire the kids and help them understand what chocolate is. You can make anything with chocolate,” Tiptur said. “I was their age when I got into chocolate, and I never had the information in today’s world where everything is at your fingertips. … They use their own imagination. It’s very hands on.”

Camp participants start each session with some chocolate basics, learning how chocolate is grown and doing chocolate tastings, then moving on to skills like enrobing, making truffles and molding. Day two is dedicated to desserts with a focus on pastry skills. On day three, campers take their chocolate basics to the next level, making sculpture creations using molded dark chocolate and modeling chocolate, and the results at last week’s camp were pretty amazing.

Last Thursday, at the end of a fabulous three-day experience, 13-year-old twin brothers Ryan and Warren Johnston of Ashburn were getting creative together with a small group of fellow participants. Both boys had designed their own sculptures based on Dobson’s chocolate octopus model.

“We both like chocolate and we both had a great time cooking in FACS [Family and Consumer Science] class in school,” Ryan said. “I just go where my imagination takes me.”

For 12-year-old Avery Fournier of Leesburg, pastry day was the winner and she’s looking forward to making cream puffs for her mom at home. The kids worked with Faliskie to learn to make the trickypate a chouxpuff pastry and make delicious homemade cream puffs.

“The most important things in pastry are time, temperature and patience. That’s what we’ve all been working on this week,” Faliskie reminded a small group working in the restaurant’s pastry kitchen.

Across the street at ChefScape, chef Heather Adams, owner of Sweet Home Thai, is running a weeklong cooking basics camp for middle schoolers spotlighting a range of cuisines and focused on real-life skills with a fun, competition-style atmosphere. And as an added plus for parents, campers bring home dinner every night.

Heather Adams of Sweet Home Thai at ChefScape is offering a five-day cooking camp for middle schoolers in July.
[Courtesy of Heather Adams]
“I wanted to focus on teaching the kids the basics so they can really cook all year long,” Adams said.

After running a small camp out of her home last summer, Adams has moved the camp to her new digs at ChefScape, the shared commercial kitchen, food business incubator and upscale food court that opened in Village at Leesburg earlier this year.

Adams’ background is in Thai cooking and she does include a few dishes with a Thai flair in camp, but her focus is on getting kids excited about making yummy basics, like chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese, from scratch while teaching everything from knife skills to kitchen safety.

The fun classes often take the format of friendly competitions and team projects that are a hit with young cooking show fans. Adams brings in guest judges and chefs from ChefScape neighbors, including a barbecue 101 class from Johnny Ray of Johnny Ray’s Sultry Soul Food and a cupcake frosting class from Dana’s Cake Shoppe.

“The beauty about being at Chefscape is I can pull in chefs from all over,” Adams said.

Camp participants also come home with dinner for four every night, which is a hit with parents and meaningful for the students, Adams said.

“The pride that the kids had sharing what they’d made with their families every evening was just phenomenal, and it’s kept them cooking all year long,” she said.

Confectionery Camp at The Conche runs in three-day sessions July 1-3, July 16-18, July 30-Aug. 1 and Aug. 13-15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $250 per session. For more information, go to

Sweet Home Thai is accepting waitlist registrations for a five-day middle school cooking camp July 22-26 and has created an interest list for a new session July 8-12. Camps run daily from 1 to 5 p.m. Cost is $495 per week and includes dinner for four each night. For more information, go to Email Adams at  to get on the interest list for the July 8 session.

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