A Lifelong Journey

Hello, my name is Gigi Miller! I currently work at VeryVera part-time as an office assistant while I take classes at Augusta Univeristy. Due to my history with VeryVera, I am very grateful to have this opportunity! For as long as I can remember, VeryVera has been a part of my family for holidays, birthdays, and some lucky days in between. It was always a good day when I would get home from school and a VeryVera tin was on the counter.

I first began my journey with VeryVera when I was 8 years old. After seeing my older sister have so much fun at VeryVera Cooking Camp, I could not wait for my turn to go. I still have the cookbooks, recipes, and napkin folds from camp. My sister and I would practice the recipes we learned, some of which we still make today, including Cranberry Orange Scones and Cookies and Milk Pie. Attending Cooking Camp not only helped me be more comfortable in the kitchen, but it also boosted my confidence across many social situations.


You can only imagine how excited I was when I was asked to help out this summer for Cooking Camp 2017. Coming back to Cooking Camp as a camp counselor allowed me to be part of the aspect of Camp I love--being in the kitchen, making crafts, and teaching children etiquette and nutrition. I was also able to make new friends among my fellow counselors. One thing I will never forget is getting to work alongside my big sister. This brought back the old days of camp for the both of us.


When I’m not working or in the kitchen, I am a freshman at AU pursuing a degree in nursing with emphasis on pediatrics. I love being around kids, and if I can one day help children stay healthy and happy, I can be happy, too! Although this is something that I am very passionate about, my ultimate dream is to one day own a bakery with my sister. Having the opportunity to work alongside a successful female entrepreneur like Ms. Vera gives me the motivation to work hard at making my dream a reality!


Doing it Fright Saturday Camp

Just like that, our first Holiday Saturday Camp of the season is over and done! We had so much fun meeting new friends and creating all kinds of goodies.

A camper shows off her trick-or-treat bag

A camper shows off her trick-or-treat bag



A quick vote showed that most of the campers’ favorite activity was making a really cool Pumpkin Play Clay that combined canned pumpkin, cornstarch, and pumpkin pie spice to make a fall-scented play dough that can easily be re-created at home! The campers had so much fun mixing this up, and it’s a great activity to try with younger siblings as it’s totally taste-safe and non-toxic. In the craft room, campers also decorated a bag from our overall sponsor, Hershey, to transform it into a spooky, Frankenstein’s monster-themed Trick or Treat bag. They’re ready for Halloween!

Miss Maddie helps a camper mix up pumpkin play clay

Miss Maddie helps a camper mix up pumpkin play clay


In the kitchen, campers enjoyed making cupcakes with a candy surprise inside! This is a great use of leftover Halloween candy, although our campers insisted that they NEVER have leftover Halloween candy. The frosting flowed freely as they decorated these cupcakes to look like a pumpkin, complete with a pretzel stick stem.

Pumpkin Surprise Cupcakes

Pumpkin Surprise Cupcakes


Another fun recipe we made using Hershey’s candy was a Candy Bark that campers enjoyed piling high with chocolate and drizzling with, guess what, MORE CHOCOLATE! Following the Frankenstein trend, we made a crisped rice and marshmallow treat that we dyed green and decorated with melted Hershey’s chocolate and candy eyeballs to look like Frank himself. Campers loved buttering their hands and squishing the marshmallow mixture into the pan. It was quickly decided among the campers that the best way to clean all that sticky, sweet, cereal mixture off of your hands is to just lick them, but we promise that hands were washed thoroughly afterwards! For lunch, campers made quesadillas that looked like mummies and jack-o-lanterns, using mozzarella for the mummies and cheddar for the jack-o-lanterns. We cooked the quesadillas in the oven to get them crisp and melty without having to babysit them in a pan or risk ruining their cute little designs.

The best way to clean marshmallows off your hands!

The best way to clean marshmallows off your hands!

Candy Bark is best when topped with even more candy

Candy Bark is best when topped with even more candy



One of my favorite parts of getting ready for camp is decorating the cottage and coordinating counselor outfits. For our photobooth backdrop, we used green wrapping paper to create a Frankenstein that was larger than life! As always, our tin foil Hershey’s Kiss hats were very holiday appropriate! Our wonderful counselors wore oversize green t-shirts that were decorated ric-rac to create a fun Frankenstein hairline and googly eyes and a painted on mouth to complete the Frankenstein look. So fashionable it’s scary!

Don't our counselors look scary good?

Don't our counselors look scary good?

She makes that Hershey Kiss hat look even sweeter!

She makes that Hershey Kiss hat look even sweeter!


I’m so happy to be able to help these sweet campers have fun making crafts, recipes, and maybe a few messes along the way. I think more than a few of them walked away with a new Halloween tradition, or at least a great sugar high!

Manners Still Matter

You've heard it before: manners matter! Recently, Jones and I had plans to take our grandson, McCord, and two of his friends to our house in Beaufort, SC for the weekend. Unfortunately, Irma reared her head that weekend and we were forced to relocate our plans to our home in Augusta. 

Believe it or not, my weekend with my husband and three almost-teenage boys was pleasantly spent, thanks to the politeness of these three young men! We went out to dinner on Friday night, and Saturday was spent with breakfast and golf, finishing with college football on three different TVs.  We had one young man that was a Carolina fan amongst UGA lovers, and he was even polite about going back and forth between rooms to watch. We made "Pluck It Cake" (my family's favorite), and on Sunday the boys' parents picked them up and life returned to normal. 


A few days later, we received a note from one of our 12-year-old guests thanking us for the fun times he had during the weekend. Do you think I'll be singing this young man's praises for the next month or what?

Thank You.jpg

Having good manners has nothing to do with status, education, or income.  Parents are always willing for friends to be invited back or included in a special outing if they come equipped with good manners.  This is truly the gift that keeps on giving!


Where Roots Run Deep

Hi! My name is Sanford Satcher. I served as a junior counselor for VeryVera this summer. I'm an upcoming senior at Wardlaw Academy in Johnston, South Carolina. I have had the great pleasure of being shaped and molded through my formative years by the wonderful Miss Vera.

My grandmother gave me a week of Cooking Camp for my birthday when I was 8 years old, and this became a tradition for the next five years. I would stay with my grandmother and attend Camp every summer.

Going through as a camper was a great experience for me. I met new people, learned to cook, and learned the importance of manners and good social skills. My parents have always stressed the importance of showing gratitude, and Miss Vera's emphasis on manners further inspired me to write a thank you note after my first year of Camp. This must have made a good impression, because after this simple act of gratitude, the doors of truly amazing experiences opened up for me at VeryVera.

I was asked to attend the filming of the first VeryVera Cooking show at the age of 12. Scenes from this were aired on the Throwdown with Bobby Flay episode featuring Miss Vera and her delicious carrot cake. Miss Vera shook my hand in the show and said she felt that I may be a senator one day. That, of course, remains to be seen, but she planted the seed that may have me striving for that very goal one day! When I was 13, I was asked to film another VeryVera show on her new set, and we just completed the five-year reunion show this spring.


This led up to my summer as a Junior Counselor. I was only able to serve two weeks because I attended Palmetto Boys State and various football camps and training throughout the summer, but no matter the short time with Miss Vera, the impact is as impressive as ever! Being a Junior Counselor gave me a deja vu feeling of all the amazing memories, new friends, and life lessons learned at VeryVera Cooking Camp when I so much younger. I was so proud to be a counselor and witness the fun the campers were experiencing, watch them learn so much, and see how much they mature in just a week!

After being under the leadership of Miss Vera for ten years, I can tell you that she truly, deeply cares about the future of the youth she mentors. I am forever grateful for her guidance and faith in me. I cannot wait to apply the tools of life she has taught me in the next phases of life, and I will definitely continue the practice of showing gratitude! VeryVera Camp- where the roots run deep!


Camp 2017 Reflections

As I reflect back on Summer 2017 Cooking Camp, I am truly reminded of all of the reasons that Camp was created in the first place back in 2004. As I remember so vividly my early days in the kitchen myself, those are some of my fondest childhood experiences and certainly skills, recipes and antidotes that are with me still to this day.

Our Camp T-shirt this summer was reminiscent of the original recipe card, those handwritten notes from close friends and family, sharing secrets and written with love and gratitude to a recipient that either asked for this kindness or as a gift to share a well-guarded secret. We chose to represent what is taught in a week's experience at VeryVera Cooking Camp by structuring it as "Recipe for Success."


Food | Our Culinary Director, Lora Hydrick, brought her experience as a PHD candidate and High School Culinary Arts Instructor to our program this summer and the students adored her!  Her expression certainly indicates that she, too, feel in love with the opportunity to be with this age group, and have an impact in their introduction to the culinary world.



Friendship | We probably have over 10 different schools represented each week in our student body, plus students that come in from out of town to visit grandparents. Our goal is to mix the groups of students up each day so that each child leaves having made new friends.



Tradition | From our enthusiasm each morning to see each student, to the customary first time recipes that have been made at Camp for fourteen years, we have created an experience that area young people look forward to as they approach their 6th birthday to become part of each summer.



Problem solving | We spend time each day discussing how to make things easier and how to accomplish successfully more difficult tasks. Something as simple as the bowl being too big or too heavy can have several solutions to get the job done!



Entrepreneurship | We love to showcase the fact that VeryVera is a business that developed in my home kitchen and that, one step at a time, I grew a company from those steps. Creating unique packaging for food can be the beginning of a child's introduction into sales, marketing and business development.



Creativity | expanding on the creative aspect of entertaining is a great beginning for larger projects that require creativity. Developing a theme for a party and then developing that theme into the food, decor, favors and dress code allow students to learn how to write an outline, work through a plan and showcase how important appearance is to presentation.

So, these ingredients yield:

  • Useful life skills: Organization, Logistics Management, Teamwork and Etiquette Skills
  • Confidence: Good Communication skills, understanding of directions and opportunities to show leadership (


  • Independence: Understanding that you have to take steps at a time to earn the opportunity to work independently and to be responsible for what that entails. 

Our VeryVera Camp Team, inclusive of each franchise and all staff members, feel that these skills and the unique way provided to develop them, makes for a great introduction to each student on how to manage their next school year.  Our Camp has grown from Campers, to Junior Counselors, Interns and Staff that are former campers.  We feel that the foundation of excellence that is being fostered through our program is being fostered through happy parents and superior graduates of our program.

Here's to year 15 coming up in 2018!


Happy Camper, Happy Counselor!

Hello! My name is Maddie Miller, and I am the Director of Education for VeryVera Cooking Camp 2017. This is my sixth year working for VeryVera camps. I began as a camper twelve years ago when I was 8 years old. I went through each level of camp, learning more and more every year. When I turned 14 it was the last year I would attend as a camper, but little did I know that I would begin my journey working in the shipping department at VeryVera, then on to the role as a camp junior counselor, a counselor, and now the Director of Education.


VeryVera has always been a well-known name in my family. My relatives all over the country received the famous Red Velvet cake for Christmas. As a kid, Mrs. Vera’s cakes made every occasion a true celebration. I still have a few of tins used for packaging the cakes.

The summer I turned 8 was probably one of the most memorable and exciting summers of my childhood. I was finally old enough to start my first year of Cooking Camp, since 8 was the youngest age that could come to camp at the time. I loved being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, but I was ready to learn more and challenge myself. I remember my first day of camp as if it was yesterday. Mrs. Vera was out front with a beautiful smile on her face and a cute outfit to match. She made me feel so welcomed and I was so excited to finally be in the kitchen where thousands of cakes have been made and shipped all over the country. It was a dream come true!


My years as a camper taught me more than just important skills to have in the kitchen, but also etiquette. The lessons of learning how to plan a party, write a thank you note, and have good manners at the table are skills I will carry throughout my life. I was always a little shy growing up, but thanks to Mrs. Vera and all of the counselors I have had over the years, I have learned how to speak in front of a large group of people with confidence and poise.

The role a counselor plays in the life of a camper is truly remarkable. I always looked up to the counselors I had growing up, and I made it a goal of mine to one day become one myself. My experience of being a counselor has taught me so much, and I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to work with such amazing children. There is a lot of hard work that goes into preparing for camp. I have a great amount of appreciation for the counselors I have had the pleasure of working with and, and I love learning from their stories of their camp days.

I recently finished my freshman year at Georgia College & State University, where I am currently studying marketing. Although becoming an entrepreneur is a great dream of mine, I have always loved working with children. The job of Director of Education has been the highlight of my summer. I have had the joy of teaching campers from the age of 6 all the way to 14. There have been challenges, but thanks to my years of being a part of VeryVera, I have learned to face them head on and learn from them in order to improve. I am so thankful for the awesome team of counselors this summer and their hard work. I love waking up and going to work!

This summer I have also had the pleasure of working with my little sister, Gigi. We have always been a team, in and out of the kitchen. I love being able to work alongside someone so happy and hardworking. She continues to amaze me and inspire me with her determination and eagerness to jump in and lend a hand. Cooking camp was something we went through together and gained so many friendships and lifelong lessons. We have come a long way from our days of glasses and braces!


The last six years have made me the person I am today. VeryVera is a family and the best team of people with whom to work. I cannot thank Mrs. Vera enough for all of her encouragement and the inspiring stories of her personal experiences. I have gained confidence, life skills, and a great amount of happy memories all thanks to VeryVera. I am looking forward to the last two weeks of camp and the many memories to come!

Family Tradition

Our camp director, Jamie Lough, shared her family's recipe for baked beans with our campers and they were a hit! This is the perfect recipe for your summer barbecue, and we know your family will love it as much as we do. 


4-5 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces

1/4 cup of onion, finely chopped

28 ounce can of Van Camps' Pork n' Beans, drained

1/3 cup of barbecue sauce 

1/4 cup of ketchup

1/4 cup of brown sugar


Place bacon and chopped onion in large skillet. When bacon is almost done and onion is tender, add the Porkn' Beans. Stir, add the barbecue sauce, ketchup, and brown sugar. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, 

stirring often. Serve hot. Enjoy! 

Full Circle

My Name is Haleigh Newman and I’m the newest Intern at VeryVera. Working at VeryVera is special to me because I attended VeryVera Cooking Camp when I was a kid for all four levels that were being offered at the time. I still remember the first year I went; I truly thought I was hot stuff when I went back to school because I could fold a napkin into a decorative rosette shape. Honestly, I still think I’m hot stuff because I can fold a napkin into a decorative rosette.

I still have all my old recipe booklets from camp. Among them is one of my most loved recipes, a simple Lemon Icebox Pie recipe that we made at camp when I was 12. I think I made that pie 100 times before I was 16 because my family loved it so much. I kept going back to Cooking Camp because of recipes like that, ones that teach you that good food and good taste are something that can bring people together.  And, of course, the napkin folding.

Lemon pie.jpeg

Cooking Camp is an experience that I carry with me today. Every time I write a thank you note or prep my ingredients before I cook, I think of the counselors who taught me those things when I was a kid. I graduated from the University of Mississippi and went on to teach first grade in Oklahoma for a year before deciding to pursue another career path, but no matter where I am in the country or in my life’s journey I know from my time at Cooking Camp that good manners and good taste are invaluable traits. Having the skills to navigate a kitchen sure doesn’t hurt either.

Poolside Paradise

What a great day we had at our Poolside Party Saturday class on May 5th! The first thing our campers noticed upon entering the Cottage was our beautifully remodeled kitchen, which is HUGE! It has two kitchen stations, and there was enough room for all of us to work with plenty of space. It still has a few final touches to be performed, but it's a far cry from the kitchen we had for summer camp last year! (Pictures to come when everything is in place.) Chef Ben Reardon taught us all about feta cheese and how to make a vinaigrette, which we used to make a sea shell pasta.

Chef Ben even taught us new culinary terms like “emulsify,” which means to combine oil- and water-based ingredients without them separating. Making and decorating sugar cookies was a favorite among these campers! We learned all about royal icing and had a great time filling in our cookies.

In our craft rooms, we decorated a tea towel to give to our mom for Mother’s Day. We love being able to do things for other people, and camp always gives us an opportunity to do just that. Our campers also had the chance to decorate their own pool bag. We decorated it to portray a summer scene, which we can use every time we go to the pool this summer.

Saturday camps are always such a great time! We get to hang out with friends we know and meet new ones. We learn delicious new recipes that we can take home and share with our families. Finally, we eat really well at the end of the day! Saturday camps are a great introduction to our week-long summer camps, which are right around the corner. We look forward to seeing all our campers this summer and everyone else in October when our Saturday camps start again!

See the photo album here.

A Camper's Commute

Growing up in my family, I believed that my mom, grandma, and aunt were practically world-class chefs. Their ability to whip up literally anything and make it both look and taste amazing was, and still is, astounding to me. I was always in the kitchen as a kid. I’d be overjoyed whenever my mom would let me crack eggs (that was my specialty), pour in the milk, or turn on the mixer. I was the best 8-year-old sous chef you’d ever meet, if I may say so myself. When I was 10 years old, my grandma let me (or made me?) attempt to make homemade chocolate chip cookies all by myself, and my love for cooking was born. Bye bye, sous chef! I could do this on my own now!

I was 13 years old when I attended VeryVera Cooking Camp for the first time. I live in Carrollton, GA, which is around 3 hours away from Augusta. I have family that lives in Augusta, and they were gracious enough to let me room with them for a week. I absolutely loved the camp. It’s unlike anything we have in Carrollton. I was picked as the Culinary Camper of the Week my first year, and I was so proud of myself! The second year of camp was just as fun, if not more. Being as old as I was for the camp (the max age is 14), I was really sad that I’d discovered something so great at the end of the line.

Much to my excitement, Vera offered me a junior counselor position for summer 2016. I worked 3 different camp sessions last summer, and it was so much fun. I love working with kids and cooking, so what could go wrong? Turns out, keeping up with around 30 kids is not a walk in the park. Being a junior counselor last summer taught me extreme discipline. Working in the kitchen was stressful, but I absolutely loved coming back day after day. Vera has a firm hand with employees, and the reason for that is simple: She cares so deeply about the people around her that she pushes them to be their absolute best.

I’m currently all set to work as a junior counselor again this summer, and I’m truly honored to be writing this blog for veryveracamp.com. I have a blog of my own, bonappetemptsite.wordpress.com, which started as an assignment for my AP Language class and has grown into much more. I can’t wait to go back to Augusta this summer (finally making the long drive on my own!) and work with amazing people and great campers! See you this summer!

From Camper to Counselor

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Pipkin.  I started going to VeryVera Cooking Camp when I was eight years old. At the time, Camp was held at the Washington Road location, and it was also where her catering and cake business took place.

Part of the experience of going to camp there was being able to watch the cakes be baked, frosted, and packaged. I also remember how exciting it was to tour the building and walk into the large freezer. Being able to see the "behind the scenes" of the business was really neat. 

I always loved going to VeryVera Camp when I was younger. Cooking and baking are a passion of mine, so the camp was very fun for me. I loved the environment, and I always wanted to work there one day. We were able to cook, craft, and prepare for the banquet, which was the conclusion of the camp. One of my fondest memories was being asked to appear on Season 1 of The VeryVera Show. It was such an honor. Former camper Sanford Satcher also went on the show with me, and it was nice meeting him. We made fruit pies, meat pies, and pull apart cake. It was such a fun and amazing experience, and I'm glad I was able to do it. 


During middle school, I stopped going to camp, and I missed it. I wrote Mrs. Vera a letter and I asked if I could volunteer at her camps. I worked as a junior counselor for a week that summer, and I learned so much! I learned how to be a leader, and I took pride in my job. My primary job initially was dishes, setting up, and anything Vera needed done. Over time my responsibilities have increased. I now am in charge of an entire room at the camp as a junior counselor.

I've always been a shy person, and this job has definitely made me more confident. I've learned so much, and I continue learning more each time I work as a counselor and as a part-time office assistant after school at the VeryVera Cottage. I have been taught so much by my coworkers and Mrs. Vera, and I'm so glad to have this experience.

Happy Hearts and Full Bellies

What makes your heart happy? Team VeryVera’s hearts are happiest when stepping into the kitchen to teach children how to cook and bake. A sold-out class of 24 students celebrated Valentine’s Day early last weekend by discovering that cooking is good for the heart!

Our campers spent last Saturday showcasing their skills--turning simple ingredients into culinary works of art. Saturday’s recipes were a hit! We lived our own Disney movie by making ratatouille, a deliciously savory French vegetable dish. We got into construction by building our own granola cups, then we filled them with yogurt and fruit. Finally: dessert! This time we tried our hand at heart-shaped jam cookies and scrumptious salted caramel brownies!

Once everything was in the oven, campers moved on to create keepsake photo frames that will hold their Camp memories forever. During lunch, the air was filled with “Mmmm” and “This is SOO good!” Campers left VeryVera’s Saturday Camp with a full stomach and a few new favorite recipes in their repertoire.

Thank you for making our hearts happy and joining us at VeryVera’s Happy Hearts Camp! Follow the rainbow straight to our Leprechaun Luncheon on March 4th

Below is the recipe for Jam Shapes, the beautiful cookies with a window of jam that our campers made. Enjoy!


Jam Shapes


• 12 Tablespoons butter, softened
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
• 1  egg, beaten
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
• 6 tbsp raspberry jam
• 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, for dusting 


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Process the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest in a food processor until smooth. 
2. Add the egg, egg yolk, and flour to the food processor and process again, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs and is starting to come together in a dough.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and lightly knead until dough is smooth and uniform. Flatten into a circle, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes. 
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ in (3 mm) thick. Using a 2.5 inch (6 cm) cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. 
5. Use a 1-1.5 inch (2-3 cm) cookie cutter to cut out the middle from half of cookies. Remove middles and discard or bake to make mini-cookies. Arrange on the baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
6. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. 
7. When completely cool, spread the whole, uncut cookies with jam. Dust confectioners’ sugar on the cookies with holes. Press one sugar-dusted cookie (with the cutout) onto each jam-covered one and serve. 

Gingerbread Dreams Saturday Camp

Team VeryVera kicked off the holiday season on December 3rd, 2016 with our “Gingerbread Dreams” Saturday camp. We had a packed house with 24 students ready to celebrate the holidays in the best way: holiday cooking! 

After taking a picture in our festive photo booth, students set to work on 4 different recipe rotations: Gingerbread Cookies, Pizza Stockings, Peppermint Fudge, and a Holiday Wreath made of pigs in a blanket! A quick snack, complete with apple cider, was followed by craft time. 2D coloring pages transformed into folded houses to hold gingerbread men, plain clay snowflakes became keepsake Christmas ornaments, and blank gingerbread cookies turned out almost too pretty to eat! (I said almost.) 

Thanks to all the children who attended our December camp, and we hope to see you all in the spring!