Campers gather for a picture at culinary camp

First National Bank Led Culinary Arts Camp for The Vault

July 6, 2022

First National Bank and Trust Company employee Connie Unruh, Financial Literacy Coordinator, organized and led a 5-day culinary arts camp this past week for The Vault Community Center. The camp was part of The Vault’s summer Envision U Career Camps that give campers hands-on experience in various careers. The Culinary Arts Camp gave 12 campers ranging from 6th to 9th grade basic cooking skills and the opportunity to learn about available careers in the culinary field.

Day One

Day one began with instruction from pastor and professional chef, Paul Stroup, who started the camp off with much needed food safety and basic knife skills lessons.  Once the campers practiced their knife cuts, they learned how to make sushi. Although there was some hesitation in trying the sushi, most tried it and were surprised they liked it!


Picture #1 Tayah Simonton-Stephenson and Pastor/Chef Paul Stroup. Tayah’s first time making and eating sushi! Picture #2 Layne Miller and Madison Waddell  making matchstick cuts for our sushi

Day Two

Students then prepared all of the food for this year’s one day only Taco Bowl Tuesday. Students made almost 200 taco bowls, 100 lemon shakeups and lots of desserts. The campers learned how to determine the cost of their products, how to calculate break-even and how to price their menu items. Thank you to the very supportive community that waited patiently for their orders as there were many more items ordered than anticipated, giving the campers a profit of over $700 that was donated back to The Vault.

Pictured above (left to right) Karalyne Peterson, Skylea Hunter, Riley Keelin and Ellie Riley are filling bags with chips and salsa for Taco Bowl Tuesday.

Day Three

Wednesday the kids had the opportunity to learn some new baking skills. The American Legion generously let us use their spacious kitchen. The campers baked lemon cupcakes, Hershey's chocolate cupcakes, Oreo cheesecakes, and learned some basic cake decorating skills.


Picture #1 (left to right) Cadence Wyatt, Madison Waddell, Emily Troyer and Phelix Kritt are prepping their lunch, pepperoni pizza. Picture #2 (left to right) Cadence Wyatt, Riley Keelin, Tayah Simonton-Stephenson & Ellie Riley made and decorated cake bikes with homemade frosting.

Day Four

On Thursday there were two field trips. The campers first went to Cinco de Mayo and co-owner, Del Naxi, gave the students a tour of his kitchen, teaching them the different jobs in a restaurant and let them try their hand at cooking. They made breakfast quesadillas that the campers loved! Next, the campers headed over to Dairy Queen where Manager Mindy gave everyone a tour and let the campers make their own Dairy Queen swirl ice cream cones. VP of Operations, Sara Schlesinger explained the differences between a franchise and a standalone restaurant. She also explained all the requirements and the pros and cons of owning a franchise.


Pictured #1 Del Naxi is teaching (left to right) Brianna Gundy, Tayah Simonton-Stephenson, Phelix Kritt, Owen Rexshell and Vault Co-Program Director Jason Kitson how to use the grill to make quesadillas. They learned you had to work quickly! Picture #2 Dairy Queen manager Mindy showed Emily Troyer the different ice cream machines.

Day Five 

Friday, the final day, the campers hosted a Friends of The Vault Luncheon. They invited community members who supported the career camps this summer. The campers decorated creative placemats and place cards to provide a welcoming atmosphere for their guests. Chef Paul helped the campers make all of the food for the event which earned high marks from the guests. Although a little hesitant, campers had the opportunity to use their newly learned business etiquette skills with their guests. They greeted everyone at the door, practiced their introductions and handshakes and escorted them to their tables. Campers served and sat with their guests, practicing their conversation skills.


Pictured #1 (left to right) Layne Miller, Phelix Kritt, Karalyne Peterson and Ellie Riley decorated placemats and place cards for their guests. Picture #2 Our luncheon and Pastor Paul singing a blessing over our food. In French!  

"The event was a huge success," says Connie Unruh. "At the beginning of the week when they were told that they would have to greet and talk to the guests they were terrified and some said they wouldn't do it. By the end of the week they were more comfortable and they did a fantastic job. A couple of students are applying for jobs at Dairy Queen and I'm so excited for them." 

About First National Bank & Trust Company: First National Bank & Trust Company is a community bank located in Clinton, Illinois as well as Arcadia, Whitehall and Independence, Wisconsin. Dedicated to community prosperity, the First National Bank and Trust Company was chartered in 1872 under the name DeWitt County National Bank and became part of the TS Banking Group in 2017. With $400 million in assets, First National Bank and Trust Company is dedicated to community reinvestment and gives 10% of its net income back to the community. For more information, visit