“Give to your community, and the community will find a way to give back to you.”
These were some of the first words spoken by Chef Brian Karadimos after welcoming me to peaceful Camp Beckwith, located on the coast in Fairhope, Ala. As director of food service for the camp, Karadimos sees thousands of children throughout the year, many of whom return annually to Camp Beckwith, either during summer camp or during the school year for educational programs.
One such program is Coastal Wonders, where students spend a week discovering the delicate balance of the coast and its ecosystems. Karadimos, unwilling to remain hidden in the kitchen, sees Coastal Wonders as a chance to show students that food is an important part of our environment. Kids find themselves in breakfast paradise at Camp Beckwith. Each morning starts with a stunningly colorful buffet filled with fresh and dried fruits, homemade granola, and whole grain cereals. Pay no mind to the early morning hours: The campers are wide awake and eager to share their discoveries of all the local wildlife the marsh has to offer.
After breakfast, the campers travel to Karadimos’ crab traps that line the pier. While reeling in the traps, Karadimos explains why crabmeat is labor intensive to prepare and sells at a premium in the market.
“This is so cool,” one of the youngsters says with a smile. Karadimos’ love for all things food-related crosses over to the children in a unique way. While campers learn about the coastal environment, they also take away lessons of food conservation and the benefits of eating whole foods. So far during his brief stint at Camp Beckwith, Karadimos has inspired a handful of youngsters to take an interest in becoming chefs, and his new helpers proudly assist the kitchen staff. At the end of the session, Karadimos likes to present the budding chefs-in-training with aprons from his collection. The visitors and staff of Camp Beckwith look on while Karadimos ties the apron around a young camper, and they can see a man giving back to his community.
By Susan Stone, a food writerin Birmingham. Ala. Recipes courtesy of Camp Beckwith, Fairhope, Ala.