That’s a wrap! Six weeks of VeryVera Cooking Camp culminated with our Advanced banquet last Friday, July 22nd. Here’s your inside look at how our final and most challenging week of camp played out.

This week’s overall theme, Master Chef: VeryVera Edition, was a play on the actual Master Chef certification program by the American Culinary Federation. To become a true Master Chef, top tier  culinary professionals face an 8-day gauntlet of culinary tests, including days focusing on healthy food, pastries and baking, freestyle cuisine, and more. The VeryVera Master Chef program is slightly less intense and only lasts for 5 days, but still focuses on a few of the core principles.


We kicked this week of camp up a notch by featuring 3 local Food Network alumni to share their respective expertise. Tuesday, Dianna Tornow (a Food Network Challenge competitor) led our campers through assembling sugarpaste flowers, just like the ones with which she adorns her show-stopping cakes. Havird Usry of Fat Man’s Cafe and Catering joined us on Wednesday to share some behind-the-scenes info on Food Network Star and teach our campers to stuff and cook a pork tenderloin. On Thursday, our very own Vera Stewart demonstrated the art of building and icing a layer cake.

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Friday came and so did our end-of-the-week banquet, which was held in Vera’s TV kitchen, rather than at the Cottage. Guests were invited to enter, have a tea sandwich, get a picture made with their camper, and check out the real-time banquet prep that was happening in Vera’s kitchen. Throughout the course of the day, our campers created their own tablescape, decorated cakes with their own sugarpaste flowers, set the place setting for their guest, exercised a plating technique with sauce for their dessert plate, and served salad, lunch, and dessert to their guest. A week’s worth of knowledge wrapped up into the final exam.

At the banquet, we handed out our certificates of completion, verifying that each student had successfully passed the VeryVera Master Chef Training Program, and we recognized four students that have attended camp for at least five years: Alexis Meadows, Lainey Weinberger, Reece Whatley, and Macie Wier.

As always, we also honored two other students: our Camper of the Week and Culinary Camper of the Week. This year’s Advanced Culinary Camper of the Week was Annalee McGowan. While most of our Advanced campers were shy and quiet on Day 1, Annalee was enthusiastic and raring to go. She asked great questions of our guests and was always excited to be in the kitchen. Annalee is 13 years old and is the daughter of Leanne and Christopher McGowan.

Our Advanced Camper of the Week was Libby Reach. In addition to excellence in the kitchen, Libby was hardworking and enthusiastic in every situation. Each word that came out of her mouth was positive, and she had genuine interest in each activity. Libby is 12 years old and is the daughter of Christy and Dylan Reach.

Congratulations to Annalee and Libby, and thank you to all of our campers for joining us this summer. We hope to see you all again next year!

–The VeryVera Cooking Camp Team