Suburban families upset after ‘Master Chef’ summer camp refuses refunds


NORTHBROOK, Ill. – Chicago area families are upset after an expensive summer camp based on “Master Chef” is not offering refunds following its cancellation.

From a young age, Tyler Kaplan developed a taste for cooking. Baking became one of his favorite activities and he wanted to improve his skills.

“It was just really appealing to me and it made me feel a lot more in control, because of the consistency,” said Kaplan. “Like it has to be perfect, like all the measurements and stuff, so that really made me draw my eye towards cooking and baking.”

Naturally “Master Chef Junior” became appointment viewing for the Northbrook seventh grader.

“He started cooking in the kitchen with me, he started kicking me out of the kitchen and cooking on his own,” mother Alexis Kaplan said.

Alexis noticed her son’s passion and saw that “Master Chef” offered a summer camp for kids. So last year, he went to the one-week sleep away camp in Lake Forest.

“It was my first like real sleep-away camp, I guess? It was really fun because I love baking and cooking and it’s two of my favorite things. Hanging out with friends and baking and cooking,” Tyler said.

The plan was to do it again this summer and the Kaplans paid a hefty tuition.

“It’s a very expensive camp,” Alexis said. “It’s a one-week camp, it’s over $1,500 for one week.”

The official price for the week is $1,699.

“We jumped on it the minute the forms came out, I think right after Halloween, he had already talked to his friends and we were all registering for the same session and we coordinated it,” Alexis said.

But by spring, the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of nearly everything, including the camp.

“I was really upset because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my friends from that camp, and I don’t even know if I’d like to go back next year,” Tyler said. “I can’t blame them for taking safety precautions, so I understand that.”

What the Kaplans can’t understand is what happened next. Alexis contacted the camp about a refund on May 4. The camp’s policy was to refund tuition if requested by May 15.

“The company finds itself in a very challenging situation due to the unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We intend to respond once we have more information,” the CEO wrote back a week later.

She was then told to wait another month in a letter.

“I get the same form e-mail every time, ‘we’ll get back to you in four weeks,’ so that was four weeks ago, then it was another four weeks, and I just want somebody to get back to me,” Alexis said.

WGN News also contacted the camp and none of our questions were answered.

Kaplan said she eventually received a response saying there would be no refund, but the camp would be “automatically rolling over all tuition to the 2021 season.”

“I was sort of shocked by that. Considering it’s as expensive as it is, my son is 12, he’s going to be 13 next year. Maybe we have a family trip planned next summer, maybe he wants to go to a different camp next summer – you can’t just assume in 12 months he’s going to want to do this,” Alexis said.

So for now, “Master Chef” is leaving a bad taste in the Kaplan’s mouths.

“It just feels icky,” Alexis said. “It feels not right.”


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