If there's one thing I've learned from judging junior chef competitions, it's that kids are crazy about cooking. And with summer right around the corner, some forward-thinking local culinary businesses have an idea for how those kids could be spending their time: in cooking camps.

Cooking camps can help them hone their skills and create some good eating habits. Several are planned this summer, geared to various ages and teaching about a wide variety of foods. Here's what we found:

Colorado Springs Culinary Enthusiasts

This is a newly opened cooking school, owned by Chuck Frazier and Jodi Woodruff, that offers a wide variety of classes - taught by either them or guest chefs - for kids on up to adults. The home-based business is offering two cooking camps for kids ages 8 to 10, 11 to 13, and 14 to 16. One starts on June 5, and the other on July 10, and each runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays for three weeks.

Campers will plan a menu for a four-course meal, learn techniques for preparing each course and, on the final day of camp, prepare a meal to enjoy with their parents. Cost is $225 per child.

For details, call 569-5707 or visit coloradospringsculinary enthusiasts.com.

The French Kitchen

Three-, four- and five-day camps are offered from June through August for ages 9 to 16 in the store's kitchen at 4771 N. Academy Blvd. Following are the classes planned; for details, call 528-6295 or visit tfkcc.com.

- "Taste the World" is five three-hour classes covering these foods: homemade naan, chicken curry, vegetable fritters, salsa, guacamole, quiches, cream puffs, tortillas, chicken enchiladas, chicken fried rice, Mongolian beef, egg rolls and pot stickers. Cost is $314 per child.

- "Veggie Madness" is four two-hour classes for ages 9 to 12. Topics covered: stuffed tomatoes, bell pepper "canoes," asparagus "twigs," baked salmon and veggies, carrot puree, cucumber salad, spinach-stuffed chicken breast, "veggie-licious" burger skewers and a variety of sauces and dressings. Cost is $169 per child.

- "Cupcake Battles" is three three-hour classes for children and teens that cover: classic and filled cupcakes, lasagna and bacon cupcakes, classic buttercream and frostings. Children get a full meal, too. Cost is $189 per child.

- "X-Treme Chef" is five three-hour classes for children and teens covering: "Mother sauces," three-course meals, plating, eggs, potatoes, proteins and knife skills. Cost is $314 per child.

If you'd rather have your child attend shorter individual cooking classes, both of the above schools offer those, too. The Cooks Marketplace, 4697 Centennial Blvd., also has kids cooking classes. For details, call 960-4414 or visit thecooksmarketplace.com.

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