The student chefs shed no tears as they cut spring onions and stuck the stems into carved halves of acorn squash.
"I am not crying yet, but I didn't even notice we were working with onions," said Scott Schymansky, 12, who wore a paper version of the traditional chef's cap.
"Look, I've made palm trees for my garden," he said as he fanned out the stems.
Scott was making vegetables into edible baskets -- garde manger to the more sophisticated chefs -- and learning other assorted culinary arts.
"It's a great class and we get free food," said Gregg Retkowski, 14.
"Yeah, but you gotta make it," said Scott.
Cooking class was one of 15 offered to middle school students at the fourth annual Career Summer Camp held yesterday at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster.
"We let kids have some fun in what may be their careers," said Catherine E. Engel, principal. "They choose two classes in whatever areas they like."
From carpentry and computers to cooking and cosmetology, the children tested their skills and tastes for possible careers. The choice from a list of technical or service vocation programs was all theirs. Gregg enrolled in cooking and electronics and learned "how not to burn my fingers" in both classes.
At another work station in the school kitchen, Caitlin Rauschenberg, 14, put the finishing touches on soon-to-be grilled cheese sandwiches -- lunch for the 230 campers.
"I made about 300," she said.
Adam McCready, 14, said he really liked "the easy stuff" and planned a reprise of the chicken fried in a batter of eggs, flour and Cap'n Crunch cereal.
"Not too sweet, but really crunchy," said Morgan Kerr, 12.
Tim Peak, 13, pronounced the chicken palatable as he munched on a piece during his break from auto mechanics.
Tim had just changed the oil and filter and checked all the fluids in a car. The class was ideally suited to a "kid who likes to take motors apart," he said.
The students all entered the week-long adventure with enthusiasm, said Ms. Engel. She hoped they were plotting a course for their futures.
"I came to camp here two summers in a row, and now I am studying floral design at school," said Heather Brown, 17, a teaching assistant.
Stephanie Panuska, 13, had already made prom bouquets and centerpieces and was ready to "do a wedding."
"It's hard but if you take your time, it turns out pretty," she said.
Fresh from a facial and manicure in cosmetology class, Kerri Horton, 12, tried spray-painting her paper flowers without ruining her nails. Stephanie admired Kerri's bright red nails decorated with designs and said she had made a manicure appointment for the next class.
"The manicures were great, but the facials were slimy," said Kerri, who plans to return to camp next year and try auto mechanics.
Next door, students were making a propagation chamber for greenhouse plants.
"Every day, we make something the students can take home," said the teacher, Chuck Schuster. He led a tour of the greenhouse and helped the children select cuttings.
With a handful of leaves and roots, Monica Sparks, 12, was already planning a garden for her home in Hampstead. She took the class for some "on-the-job" training.
"My dad owns a greenhouse and I might like to go into the business," she said.
Nearly all the students were Carroll County residents. Nathan Small, 14, who is visiting his grandparents in Manchester, may have traveled the farthest to camp from his home in Florida.
"They wrote me about the camp and I told them I wanted to come," he said, as he sanded the second of a pair of wooden candleholders he had made in carpentry class.
Sarah Backhaus, 13, placed a pastel corsage, made in design class, next to her computer terminal and went to work on the keys. "I have already learned a lot," she said. "My dad wanted me to take this computer class and get used to them."
Jennifer Fahr, 12, said computer class was giving her a jump-start on a job.
"You have to know all about computers to get a job," she said. "They will do a lot of the work for you."