As a group of tweens practiced sauteing with frozen slices of bread, some of the more enthusiastic attempts ended up on the floor.

"It's not how high you go, it's that it stays in the pan that matters," chef Evelyn Brown told them. "Try it again."

Down the hall, another group was scooping lemon poppy seed batter into muffin tins before sliding them into an industrial-size oven.

The kids were spending this week at two of Trident Technical College's Kids' College summer camps, learning the ins and outs of what it takes to be a chef.

The camps teach the students that cooking is about more than just food, although they do learn about portion control, healthy eating and proper cleanup, said Brown, who teaches culinary arts at Fort Dorchester High School.

"They get exercise, they get math skills, they get science skills, and English because they have to read recipes," she said. "And patience. They learn a lot about patience."

The practical use of math and science, she said, is important. It's one reason she believes kids should learn their way around the kitchen, whether they want to become professional chefs or simply cook for their families.

"For example, today, they needed two tablespoons, but they didn't have a tablespoon, so we had to convert it into ounces," she said. "Yesterday, they needed a pound of beef, but our scale was in ounces, so they had to convert ounces to pounds."

Brown's campers were attending Culinary Boot Camp, where they were introduced to basic cooking methods as they prepared a full meal each day. One thing she's learned is that they arrive at camp already excited by the culinary arts.

"A lot of them watch Food Network and Rachel Ray. They love 'Chopped,' " Brown said. "The first thing a lot of them said was, 'I want to learn how to chop fast.' We're truly sparking an interest in the profession."

Indeed, Trident Tech's Culinary Institute of Charleston could get some recruits a few years down the road. Cecilee Westen, who led this week's Flour Power baking camp, said a student who attended the cooking camps six years ago is now back, helping out as a Culinary Institute student.

"That's really exciting," said Westen, who teaches baking and pastry classes at the institute. "That's kind of a testament to, maybe this is the beginning of figuring out what they want to do."

Sisters Luisa Schenk, 13, and Alexandra, 11, said they didn't have much baking experience but would definitely step up their game with their new skills.

Their favorite part of baking so far?

"The cheddar rolls," Alexandra said.

Jagger Nicoll, 11, said he wanted to go to Culinary Boot Camp to learn to cook like his brother, but so far the camaraderie among the budding chefs was his favorite part.

"Just cooking with these guys," he said, elbowing his new friend, 12-year-old Mason Strickland. "It's a good time."