New ‘Let Them Cook’ camp for kids debuts this summer

Cecilia Tran (center, in green), with the UGA Extension service, teaches campers how to make tacos at a 2023 summer camp. This year Tran, a registered dietitian, is running Let Them Cook, a new summer camp on teaching cooking skills.

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

Cecilia Tran (center, in green), with the UGA Extension service, teaches campers how to make tacos at a 2023 summer camp. This year Tran, a registered dietitian, is running Let Them Cook, a new summer camp on teaching cooking skills.

Is a kid in your household curious about the kitchen, or maybe reluctant to try new foods?

Registration is open for Let Them Cook, a two-week summer camp where participants will learn to cook simple recipes, use fresh produce, budget for groceries, and use kitchen knives under adult supervision.

The first-time camp is offered through Fulton County UGA Cooperative Extension, but only has room for 10 students — and it’s almost full, said Cecilia Tran of the cooperative extension service.

Let Them Cook was her idea. For the last two years Tran, a certified dietitian, hosted a five-week summer camp at which the kids were fed meals and snacks. She noticed many campers would eat the meat, and maybe fruit, but would throw away the rest — mostly vegetables.

“Some kids would take a bite of their food, not like it, and starve themselves until snack time,” Tran said.

She hates to see food wasted, and wanted to make everything palatable even for picky eaters.

So Tran started cooking for the campers, adding vegetables from home to dishes she knew they already liked. She added finely-chopped zucchini and other squash to spaghetti sauce. The kids didn’t know until she told them.

After that, they got interested — and involved.

“There would be some days where I would let kids do most of the prep and then sit down at the table with their friends,” Tran said. When the kids had a hand in making the food they were more likely to eat it and encourage others to do the same, she said.

Last year Marcus Harris of Atlanta, now about to turn 11, came to the second week of summer camp, Tran said. Most kids were in and out of the kitchen, but Marcus stayed, she said.

“He already grew up cooking with his grandmother,” Tran said. “Every single chance to help me, he was in there.”

Marcus was always eager to try anything Tran cooked, and was sad when camp ended, she said. So Tran wasn’t surprised to see him already signed up for Let Them Cook this year.

Marcus said he’s usually shy but really enjoyed cooking with Tran.

“It was just really fun to learn some new recipes,” he said. His favorite was an all-vegetable spaghetti.

At Let Them Cook he hopes to learn some dishes from other countries.

“I’m looking forward to making desserts, and making recipes that nobody has ever thought about,” Marcus said.

He cooks a little at home and particularly enjoys making desserts. Marcus thanked his mother Jennifer Harris for letting him go to last year’s camp and now Let Them Cook.

Let Them Cook is open to rising 5th through 7th graders. It will take place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, through Friday, July 12, and Tuesday, July 16, through Friday, July 19, at the UGA Extension Office, 1757 E. Washington Road in East Point.

Registration is $250. Tran said that’s “on the low end” for a supervised camp that lasts eight days, providing lunch and snacks. Part of that fee will pay for the food campers cook.

“We don’t make any money off of this,” she said.

Campers must attend both weeks. Enrollment must be done online at

Payment can be made in weekly installments but must be complete before June 30. Payment can be accepted by phone at 404-613-4920, or in person at the East Point UGA Extension Office; but people are asked to call the same number before coming by.

For questions contact Yvette Davis at or 404-613-4920.

The camp has to stay small because only Tran and another adult are supervising everyone. Each camper will be assigned one task per day in the kitchen, she said.

They’ll be asked to find recipes they’re interested in on social media, and the group will figure out which ones are feasible to make, Tran said.

Campers will travel to Buford Highway Farmers Market to see the variety of fruits and vegetables, then do their own shopping to see the actual cost. Afterward they’ll do a “vegetable crawl” down Buford Highway’s many international restaurants to sample fried eggplant, stir-fried garlic green beans, a tomato and egg dish, and more, Tran said.

Then they’ll return to camp and start cooking up the recipes they brought.

Tran said she will put together a recipe book of all the dishes campers created. When the camp ends the young cooks will take home their own “mini kitchen set” including measuring cups, a cutting board, food thermometer, water bottle and an apron, she said.

If Let Them Cook fills up there are still plenty of other summer youth programs available through 4-H and the extension service in almost every county, Tran said. The 4-H programs can be found at and local extension offices at