By NEIL ZAWICKI
Eleven-year-old Michael Chouinard will be new to Milton Elementary School this year. He’s a little nervous about that, but on Aug. 2 the incoming sixth grader was enjoying his final day at culinary camp, sponsored by the Milton Recreation department and held at the Milton Middle School cafeteria.
And he’s quite excited about cooking.
“I’m the basil king!” he shouts, holding a sprig of the herb up above his head like a beacon of light. He’s using the basil to make his signature pizza, which includes a peach-infused pizza sauce.
His is one offering of a collection of pizzas on this last day of the camp, called From Garden to Kitchen Cooking, which ran from July 30 through Aug. 2, where kids in grades 5 through 8 learned how to prepare meals using locally grown ingredients.
At the end of the camp, Chouinard received the Mini Steve Marinelli award, an honor he earned through working closely with Marinelli, the Milton Town School District’s food service director.
“Michael is an adventurous chef, and always wanted to challenge himself to make the most unique and delicious dishes,” said district Farm-to-School coordinator Keely Agan.
“Michael was always asking Steve and I to help create recipes for the dishes he thought up, and Steve really took him under his wing and worked with him on awesome foods.”
Agan referenced Chouinard’s peach and pineapple salsa and his peach pizza sauce as examples of his culinary innovation.
For Chouinard, the camp was a good way to meet people ahead of his debut as a new student. He clowns with newfound friends, and leafs through the camp’s recipe book, which contains some of his creations.
“Hey, there’s my peach pineapple salsa!” he shouts, holding up the book to display the page. He said he’s excited to cook for his family using the recipes.
Thinking of his first day at a new school, and about sixth grade, Chouinard changes his mood and admits he’s nervous. Looking down, he says he thinks sixth grade will be easy, but hard, “because there’s a lot of people.”
Still, he has a strategy for that, at least on one front: He’d like to get an outside locker, meaning one on the outer edge of the wall of lockers, so he won’t have to push his way through all the other kids between classes. Asked how he could make that happen, he shrugs, smiles, and replies, “Talk the principal?”
While he prepares to go back to school, Chouinard shares the biggest takeaway from cooking camp:
“Getting jalapeño in your eyes hurts,” he says, explaining how he had to flush his eyes with water after the mishap, and even that didn’t work so well.
“I couldn’t open my eyes,” he said. “Jalapeños are evil.”
Chouinard joined 19 other kids at the cooking camp.