Millie's Camp

Third Annual Millie’s Camp a Success

From July 16th to 19th, 2023, No Matter What hosted a remarkable culinary and hospitality-focused summer camp at the Loyola Ecology and Recreational Center in Woodstock, IL. This life-changing experience provided nine deserving Chicagoland students with the opportunity to develop invaluable life skills, expand their horizons and gain a deeper appreciation for nature and the world around them – all free of charge. The third annual event, created and sponsored by HIC - Harold Import Co., was also made possible through the support of and generous donations from HIC’s Culinary Futures program held earlier this year. 

“Summer camp has always been a catalyst for transformation among our Culinary Futures students, and we are excited to witness its impact again.,” explained Kenneth Griffin, founder of No Matter What (NMW). “At Millie's Camp, we believe that every child deserves a chance to thrive, explore, and uncover their full potential.”

Past Culinary Future Alumni and NMW Supporters helped facilitate and support the education efforts during the camp activities. Chef mentors included Chef Gabi Siegfried, Chef Christopher Lowe, program manager for NMW, Chef Avery Easley and Chef Stephanie McBlackwell. Camp Chaperones were Kenneth Griffin, Founder, No Matter What, Nicola Copeland, Executive Director, NMW, and Chef M. Taylor.

Throughout the camp, students participated in bonfires, nature walks and time in the kitchen that included tasting activities as well as a Culinary, Hospitality & Pastry discussion. The culmination of the camp was the in-kitchen culinary competition during which the four student teams planned and prepared their chosen menu which was to be judged. 

Students enjoyed the process of being part of a competitive team and creating their own menu and flavor profile, which included Thai Spiced Chicken with Coconut Rice to Asian Ground Beef Kebabs with Soy Ginger String Beans, to name a few. 

The winning team, Alegria, consisted of  Darryl Pearson, Amari Yarbrough, and Jackie Hall. Led by Chef Christopher Lowe, Alegria prepared hot water cornbread pancakes, sauteed collard greens, and green tomato salsa with roasted pork loin. “Today I realized the growth I have made in myself since I first started,” explained Pearson of Team Alegria. “Now I feel more comfortable with my knife and my cuts. I can work on my time management and not be afraid of the heat.” 

Win or lose, every student walked away with an experience that helped grow their confidence and skills in the kitchen. Said Deshawn Foxx-Williams of his experience, “The competition not only showcased my ability to help out in the kitchen, but also showcased that I’m capable of serving a satisfactory dish.” Added Yazmin Hunter of Team Food Force, “My experience with participating in the culinary competition was extremely fun. The brainstorming and research sessions for our dishes were filled with a lot of ideas as we researched meals.”

Millie’s Camp is named after Mildred Polansky, former president and owner of Harold Import Co. from 1961-1992. Robert Laub, president of HIC, Harold Import Co. recalls how his mother, who grew up during the Depression in Hell’s Kitchen, benefitted from local funding that enabled her to attend summer camp. “She often spoke of her experience at camp, and was always grateful that she was provided this wonderful opportunity as a child, recalled Laub. “She enjoyed the experience immensely, eventually becoming a counselor. “ Adds Laub, “I am sure that she would be proud to know that her name is associated with Millie’s Camp, which provides opportunities to underserved youth in the Chicago area.

Founded in 2015 by Culinary Futures Scholarship alum, Kenneth Griffin, No Matter What is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that invests in the youth of the Chicagoland area through mentorship, career readiness training, and mental health healing with a strong emphasis on helping them reach their highest potential No Matter What obstacles they face. 


For more information about Millie’s Camp or Culinary Futures, contact X

For more information about No Matter What, contact Nicola Copeland,

Chefs in training