Cook Academy & Camp Cook at the Essex Resort & Spa


IMG_8038I love cooking from scratch whenever possible but I’ve never tried making lasagna with home-made pasta, ricotta and mozzarella. At Camp Cook in Vermont kids as young as 10 years old make this dish — as well as many others from scratch and on a regular basis. I recently spent a few days at the Essex Resort and Spa in Vermont to learn about Camp Cook and even participated in a class at Cook Academy – a cooking class program for adults. Here’s a re-cap of my experience plus some recipes.

Kids age 10 and up spend Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm at Camp Cook. They participate in hands-on cooking and also learn about nutrition, food safety, knife skills and more. Campers also pick seasonal herbs and vegetables from the gardens on the premises of the Essex Resort & Spa. They also spend some time in the pool and even gather eggs from the chickens on-site. Camp Cook concludes with a party where campers showcase their dishes and each camper receives his or her own cookbook with all of the recipes. Click here for the Family Camp Cook Package.

Parents of kids participating in Camp Cook get a 50% discount on classes at Cook Academy, which are typically 3-hour classes for adults. Sample classes are: “Farmers Market Feast”, where participants make dishes such as Beef Tenderloin with Gremolata, Panzanella (bread salad) and Summer Berry Trifle and “Summer Good Eats”, with dishes such as White Gazpacho, Garden Vegetable Ragu and White Chocolate Pistachio Sundaes. There’s also sushi classes, Asian BBQ and Summer Seafood classes. My class was called “NOLA” – New Orleans Cuisine, with Shrimp and Grits, Jambalaya, Collard Greens and Bananas Foster.

As soon as I walked in I was greeted by Chef Anthony Spine who had set up everything for us (he also does the clean-up later). Chef Anthony discussed his background working at various restaurants and living in Italy for a while. The participants started trickling in and introduced themselves. Other than one local couple everyone seemed to be coming from afar: from Ottawa to Boston and everywhere in between. There is a total of 8 participants per class, although some classes have 12 participants and take place in a larger room.

This is the kitchen where we cooked the food, before everyone arrived:

Chef Anthony prepared all of the ingredients for each dish separately and included the recipes beforehand so we had everything we needed:
food prepCollage

After a short introduction and a demonstration of cutting some of the food, we got to work. Everyone had fun cooking together. The beauty of the class is that you can participate as much or as little as you want. Everyone works as a team and makes all of the dishes together. During the class people were chatting and laughing, while chopping and stirring. Initially I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to mess anything up but Chef Anthony was super-calm and made the atmosphere relaxing and stress-free.

Chef Anthony shared lots of tips, from how to chop parsley and onions to various cooking methods. He even gave specific tips about making dishes that weren’t related to the cooking class, which was very generous of him. It’s not every day that you get to speak to a real chef and learn insider tricks of the trade.

Making Bananas Foster with rum and banana liqueur:
bananas Collage

Chef Anthony gave us a crash course in plating:

Here are the finished dishes. Left to right: Shrimp and Grits, Jambalaya topped with Collard Greens, Bananas Fosterfood CollageThis is where we ate the delicious food we cooked. Each participant gets a glass of wine with his meal and gets to take home the brand-new apron he or she used, as well as a printout of all of the recipes.


From NOLA class at Cook Academy:

Brennan’s Bananas Foster
Serves 4


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
4 bananas cut in half lengthwise, then halved
1/4 cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream


1. Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a skillet. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
2. Stir in the banana liqueur,  and then place the bananas in the pan.
3. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, and then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum.
4. When flames subside lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe is courtesy of Chefs Christine Frost, Brandy Allan and Anthony Spine

From Camp Cook:

White Bean Dip
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer


1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of smoked paprika
Zest of 1 lemon


1. Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, cayenne, cumin and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, stopping and scraping down the bowl if necessary to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with the 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with the paprika. Use as a sandwich spread or dip.

Chess Pie
Makes one 9″ pie


4 ounces butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 and a half teaspoons vanilla
1 unbaked pie shell


1. Preheat over to 360 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixed fitted with a paddle, combine butter, sugar and cornmeal.
3. Add the beaten eggs and milk and stir well. Stir in vinegar and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
4. Pour into the unbaked pie crustand bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 and bake for additional 40 to 45 minutes or until center of pie is set.

Recipes are courtesy of Chefs Brandy Allan, Brandy Lamore and Christine Frost

Click here to learn more about Cook Academy and Camp Cook and here to see the calender.

I was not compensated for this post. I received a complimentary cooking class at the Essex Resort & Spa.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s