Master Chef Poon is Coming to TOP Cooks Camp!

We’re incredibly excited to announce that Chef Joseph Poon will be coming to TOP Cooks Camp this summer!



Known for his exquisite fruit and vegetable carvings and Asian fusion cuisine, Master Chef Joseph Poon began his culinary training as a teenager when he worked in the airline food service industry in Hong Kong. Fascinated by another chef’s carved fruit and vegetable centerpieces and sculptures, Chef Poon purchased several hundred potatoes and practiced until he mastered the skill himself. The art has since become one of his trademarks.

Chef Poon went on to study nutrition at the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta before enrolling in an intensive program at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where he studied international cuisine. In 2006, Chef Poon was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from SUNY. He currently serves on the advisory board for the University’s Food service and Nutrition department and frequently visits to motivate the culinary students and host fundraising appearances.

Throughout the course of his career, Chef Poon has owned several restaurants, including Sang Kee Restaurant, Joe’s Peking Duck House, Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant and Joseph Poon Chef Kitchen. He has also worked as a managing chef and product manager for China Coast Restaurants and has consulted for the Disney World Dolphin Hotel, major airlines and various Italian restaurants in New England.

His culinary and carving expertise has earned him appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Food Network’s The Best Of…, PBS-TV’s Christina Cooks, the Learning Channel’s The Makeover Story and The Dating Story and Discovery Channel’s Home Matters. He has been awarded a President’s Medallion by the American Culinary Federation for his outstanding contributions to the profession. He has appeared as a consultant to the Culinary Institute of America, performing his fruit and vegetable sculpture and carving demonstrations for corporate chefs.


As the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s National Culinary Spokesperson, Chef Poon appears throughout the United States doing watermelon carving demonstrations.  His Wok ‘N Walk Tour was named the #1 attraction in Philadelphia Chinatown by Disney’s FAMILY FUN magazine.  Additionally, Chef Poon leads culinary trips to China and is the author of an inspirational, autobiographical cookbook, Life is short…Cooking is fun, for which he received an award at the World Cookbook Fair in Paris, France.

A sample of his carvings recently appeared in the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine.

For more information, visit

Posted in Top Cooks Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Ways to Stay Healthy at Camp


As the official start of summer approaches, our nurses thought it would be helpful to share a list of recommendations for your campers as they start to gear up for camp. Don’t worry, they will be in great hands!

10. Homesickness – It is real.  So if your camper is talking about not feeling well, also encourage them to focus on feeling happy.  Know that they might be feeling sick but they also might feel H.A.L.T.D (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Dehydrated).  Ask them to share their concerns but also ask if we can address H.A.L.T.D.

9. Hand washing – In the last 100 years, this might be the most radical change in health.  The amount of bacteria that lurks around campers and activities is high.  We can’t really do much about it but we can wash it away!  Encourage your camper to wash after using the bathroom and before eating.  If they shower on a regular basis (which they do at camp), that helps too!

8.  Bugs – Bugs bite. But how we respond to them is important.  Encourage the camper to not scratch them and turn annoying bites into infected wounds.

7. Ticks – Show your camper what a tick looks like and the importance of self-checks.  Let’s not get involved with Lyme Disease.

6. Wear the right clothing – When hiking, wear long pants and know what poison oak and poison ivy look like.

5. Eat well – Campers are encouraged to make healthy choices.  Fruits and vegetables are available at every meal.  Encourage them to make good choices and to recognize how too much sugar and caffeine might make them feel.

4. Drink water – Send them with a water bottle and beg them to drink water.  Water will help them feel great and enjoy all of those activities they came to do!

3. Actually drink water!! This is very important!

2. Sleep – The best way to make the most of camp and take part in all of the activities is to rest the right amount.

1. Encourage campers to talk to their counselor if they do not feel well.   There is nothing wrong with not feeling well and it is bound to happen over the course of the summer.  Keeping counselors in the know is the most proactive way to stay healthy throughout the summer.


Posted in Top Adventure Camp, TOP Chess Camp, Top Cooks Camp, Top Ranch Riding Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now Casting: Food Network’s Chopped!

CJ1 Flyer-page-001

Posted in Top Cooks Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love What You Do and Do What You Love

This guest blog post was written by TOP Chess Director, Danny Kopec. Since each TOP Camp has its own unique focus, all of our campers can benefit from Danny’s advice.


Whatever you are interested in, be it mathematics, chess, music, basketball, computers, horseback riding, art, etc., it is important to observe the experts! Without observation there can be little improvement. You must see what the experts in your area do, observe their actions, and try to derive patterns and methods from what you see. Additionally, if you don’t love what you do, whether it is a hobby or a career, then it’s very difficult to succeed. It is passion, motivation and pleasure that drive success.

In chess, you must enjoy playing over the games of the great Champions who helped bring the game to its current state.

In the coming months, I hope to finally complete my video (3-4 hours long) on the History of the World Chess Championship from Morphy to Carlsen. It will cover all the Champions and their styles.

Posted in TOP Chess Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get to Know: Pine Forest Camp

We want our new families and campers to be as comfortable and as prepared as possible in the days leading up to camp, so we use this blog series as cheat sheets to keep you “in the know!”

This week, the spotlight is on Pine Forest Camp, which is the home base for TOP Cooks Camp and TOP Chess Camp.

“Up Where the Sky Begins”– Pine Forest Camp slogan/philosophy

“When Lights Are Low” and “High In The Mountains”– PFC’s camp songs, among many others!

Blue and Gold– Camp colors

Most of camp’s fields, courts and venues are named after our founders, Hughie and Selma Black, their descendants, as well as many old-timers.

Netsy Playhouse”–  Outdoor amphitheater where camps shows are held.


“Hughie Hall”- Indoor venue that houses many camp activities, including basketball, broadcasting, yoga, and fitness.

Libby courts”-  One of camp’s three sets of tennis courts.

Marvin Hall”-  Outdoor gymnastics pavilion.

“Mitchell Field”–  Large field near the entrance for sports and campfires.

“Barbie’s Bar-B-Que”/AKA “The Grove”–  Outdoor picnic area where campers are served a weekly cookout.

“Lauri Field”– Another large field at the top of camp that hosts various sports, including track and field. Great for star-gazing too!

Lee’s Rink”- Hockey pavilion by Hughie Hall.

“Eric’s Fitness Center”– State-of-the-art fitness facility.

“Ruby’s Canteen”– Named after Uncle Hughie’s great-great granddaughter.  Various times a week, campers look forward to special treats.

“Chadwin Court- AKA “Main Court”-  Popular basketball court in the center of camp, with lights and stadium seating all around.  Named after long-time athletic director Steve “Chad” Chadwin.

Lake Greeley- Our lake. The walk to our beautiful lake is always a special one.  Stroll down “Milligan’s Trail” and throw a stone to make a wish into “Lisa’s Heart-Shaped Pond.” Blueberry Island is camp’s private island by the lake where campers canoe to and explore.

IMG_0111-2 (1)

“Friendship Tree”­- It used to be a sprawling spruce tree in the center of camp, but over the 84 years,  it’s been reduced to more of a “beautiful” stump.  With a white bench all around, it’s the main meeting place for campers and counselors in the center of camp, perfect for brothers and sisters to meet after dinner.

Bunk Names- The boys bunks are names after trees and the girls bunks are named after flowers.

Old-Timers Tree- This old tree proudly displays plaques of the names of all campers and staff throughout our 84 years that have gone to camp for 10 years or more.  It’s very exciting for old-timers to have their names added for all time.  There are almost 400 names on the tree now!


Posted in TOP Chess Camp, Top Cooks Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get to Know: Camp Timber Tops

We want our new families and campers to be as comfortable and as prepared as possible in the days leading up to camp, so we use this blog series to keep you “in the know!”

This week, the spotlight is on TOP Ranch Riding Camp’s home base, Camp Timber Tops!


“The Alma Mater”: This is a song the whole camp sings together every night before bed.

As time goes by like a river, and people alter their ways
We will always remember, the joys of Timber Tops days.
The friends we’ve made through the summer will be our lasting delight,
And the joys and the tears that we’ve known here are the joys of the red and the white.

Camp Colors: Red and White

Olympic and Pioneer Days: Our version of “Color War,” Olympics during the first half of the summer, Pioneer Days during the second half of the summer.
Campers are split into four colorsRed, Yellow, Green, Blue

Many of camp’s fields, courts and venues are named after camp’s founding family as well as many old-timers.

Bunk Names
The bunks at camp are named after trees! Some you’ve heard of, some we bet you haven’t!


“Hughie Field”- The Upper Field. Hughie and Selma were the founders of camp!

“Mitchell’s Creek”–  The beautiful creek on the way into camp. It’s especially great for creek stomping! Mitchell or “Mickey” is Anna’s dad!

“The Anna Summer Black Swimming Pool (or ASB)”– Named after our co-director Anna, built the year she was born.

“Lake Selma”- Our very own, beloved lake named for one of the camp’s founders.

“Ted and Sue’s Dance Studio” Named after our long-time directors emeritus, Ted and Sue Weinstein.

“Missy’s Gathering Deck”- Named after our co-director, Missy Ruddick in celebration of her 20th summer.

The “Winding Road”– Our beautiful drive into camp often referenced in songs, cheers and memories of Timber Tops girls.

Ten Year Tree  This old tree proudly displays plaques of the names of all campers and staff that have gone to camp for 10 years or more. It’s a huge honor to be on the tree!


Hopefully this list will help our new families feel even more a part of our Timber Tops and TOP Ranch family as we count down to welcome everyone this summer. See you in Greeley!

Posted in Top Ranch Riding Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Nurse Appreciation Week!

Health Center

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: camp is all about the people!

As you know, we have beautiful health center facilities at all of our camps. But more importantly, these health centers house incredible nurses who work day and night making sure that every camper is safe and feels taken care of during the summer (we have a camp doctor, too, of course).

We’re also so fortunate to have Rachel, our head nurse, with us year round. Rachel is married to TOP Adventure Director, Johnny and they both also work as part of the director team at Lake Owego. Rachel is unbelievable! She’s a nurse, she’s a lifeguard, she’s a mom, and she’s part of our camp family! We couldn’t be luckier.

As we get closer to camp, if you have any questions about our health center, medication, or care during the summer, reach out to Rachel! She’s awesome, and she’s here for you. Just call the camp office and we’ll put you in touch! Thanks, Rachel, and thanks to our wonderful team of nurses. We are so lucky to have you at our camps!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kopec’s Five Goals of the Chess Opening

The following guest post was written by International Master and TOP Chess Director, Danny Kopec.


1. Develop Pieces (Bishops and Knights): You must get your pieces out.

2. Control The Center: You must move them to control the center.

3. King Safety: You should get you King in a safe position by
castling early.

4. Space: You need space for your pieces with adequate pawn play.

5. Material Balance: Here is the Catchall. You cannot finish the opening with any loss of material (pawns, pieces) or permanent structural defects (PSDs).

Posted in TOP Chess Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplugged and Happy

Yesterday, there was an article in the New York Times Style Section about the benefits of disconnecting from electronics entitled “Hey Kids, Look At Me When We’re Talking” by Bruce Feiler.

In particular, it highlighted the positive impact of unplugging at overnight camp.  Here is the key paragraph:

“In 2012, Dr. Greenfield and her colleague Yalda T. Uhls performed a study of their own. They invited 51 preteens to spend five days at an overnight camp without television, computers or mobile phones. These students were compared to a control group that retained usual media practices. All participants took before and after tests that required them to infer emotional states from photographs and videos. After five days without screens, the children at the camp were significantly better at reading nonverbal emotional cues.”

Last week we heard from one of our campers’ parents, who wrote:

“Last night I drove 3 9th graders into NYC for a concert. As the driver, I remained silent and there was an interesting conversation going on between the 3 girls. Two were from camp… and the 3rd, [was]  a non camp kid.”

The camp girls were extolling the virtues of unplugging at camp. They said that it wasn’t easy, but they appreciated not feeling the pressure to stay on top of social media during that time. After the first few days, they really enjoyed the separation. Late night chats with friends without everyone being distracted by their screens are really unique in this day and age. There is great importance in authentic face-to-face communication and that is all you find at camp.

Just 2 days ago, another camp parent sent us a picture of a t-shirt that said “There is no WIFI at camp, but the Connection is Awesome!”



Posted in Top Adventure Camp, TOP Chess Camp, Top Cooks Camp, Top Ranch Riding Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get to Know: Lake Owego Camp

We can’t believe it’s spring and the 2015 camping season will be here before we know it!  Each week, we’ll feature one of our camps and provide new families with fun facts and trivia about that camp. We want you to be as comfortable and as prepared as possible in the days leading up to camp!

This week, the spotlight is on TOP Adventure’s home base, Lake Owego Camp!



Camp Colors:
 Blue and White


Every night after dinner and on Thursday mornings, this special time is for campers to play freely. With counselors supervising, children get to choose from various activities such as basketball, followed by some tennis, and then head to the lake to go fishing.  Whatever they’re in the mood for that day!


Olympics and Frontier Week

Two big all-camp events. Olympics is in the first session and Frontier Week is in the second session. The camp is split into six teams, different countries for Olympics and different native American Indian tribes for Frontier week. The two events start with an exciting, surprise “breakout.” 


The Village

The location of the Junior and Intermediate bunks, grades 2nd-6th. All bunks are named after pioneers.


The Ridge

The location of the Senior and Hi-Senior bunks and tents, grades 7th-11th. All bunks are named after Native American Indian Tribes.

Many of camp’s fields, courts and venues are named after camp’s founding family as well as many old-timers.


Hughie Black Center”

The indoor basketball court, weight room and fencing room. Named after Hughie and Selma Black, the founders of the camp.


Robinson’s Pool”

 Named after our long-time head of pool and the original Papa Polar Bear.


Shelly’s Cookout”

 Location of our Thursday BBQ lunches and our end of Olympics Steak dinner. Named after Shelly Silver, long-time director of camp.


“Kyle’s Gathering”

A special area in camp for campers and counselors to relax, reflect and hang out. Named after current co-director Kyle Silver.


Jacoby Field”

This is our upper field at camp where we play soccer, football, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee, and many other special events at camp. Named after long-time director Tom Jacoby. Tom’s daughter, Melissa, currently works at Owego.


South Courts”

 One of our two sets of basketball courts. Named after Bill South, current Junior Head Counselor.


Scotty’s Stage”

Camp’s covered stage where we gather to watch camp’s incredible shows.  Also used for rainy day activities and various other indoor camp activities.  Named after Scotty Myers, current head of Creative Arts.

Hopefully this list will help you feel even more a part of our camp family as we count down to welcome you this summer.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have and we can’t wait to see you this summer up at camp!

Posted in Top Adventure Camp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment