The Dynamite Shop’s Online Cooking Classes Are Simply the Best Thing Going for Kids Right Now

updated Aug 6, 2020
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Credit: The Dynamite Shop

If you’re a parent who has ever yearned for a set of hands to (willingly) cook dinner every now and then, The Dynamite Shop is preaching the gospel you need to hear right now. The Brooklyn-based “culinary social club” believes that kids should be given a whole lot more credit in the kitchen. And the founder and voice behind it probably is familiar to you, if you’ve followed Kitchn for a long time. Our own co-founder, Sara Kate Gillingham, started The Dynamite Shop in 2017 with co-founder Dana Bowen. “Our basic DNA is helping kids get dinner on the table for their families,” she says.

The Dynamite Shop is an absolutely brilliant idea, offering after-school cooking classes and a summer camp for kids in Brooklyn. Their signature “Make & Take” after-school cooking class empowers kids, tweens, and teens with culinary skills plus sends them home with ready-to-eat dinner for a family of five. (Hello, what a win-win; kids having an educational after-school experience and they bring dinner home? Absolutely ingenious.)

Obviously, however, coronavirus shutdown has put a crimp in the swinging business and fun of The Dynamite Shop. But there’s a silver lining for all of us who live far away from Brooklyn: When the brick-and-mortar location had to close in March, the operation had to quickly earn its virtual sea legs — and they didn’t miss a beat.

Since The Dynamite Shop program transitioned online, it has opened up its doors to a much wider audience, expanding its mission far beyond Brooklyn. When we spoke with Gillingham and Bowen, the team had just finished their fourth week of online classes. “We had to shut down, but we didn’t miss a day. We were up and running online the very next day,” explains Gillingham.

What do online cooking classes look like? These days, cooking classes take place on 1 1/2-hour Zoom calls, where up to 25 kids learn to create an adaptable recipe like, say, a large pot of soup. Given the circumstances, no two soups will be exactly the same, but the fundamental lessons of building flavor, adding seasonings, and bulking up a dish with healthy ingredients are more practical than ever. “They feel so proud to be able to contribute dinner to their families — particularly at this time when people are cooking every meal at home,” says Bowen.

Of course, students aren’t the only ones who benefit — parents and siblings do too. According to Abbey Nova, parent of Alex (10) who’s been part of the program for two years, the brick-and-mortar classes have taught her son how to be safe and competent in the kitchen. “I love that one day a week Alex brings home dinner for the four of us! It’s the highlight of our week … I’m so glad to have a night off cooking.”

Credit: Kate Mathis

For other families, the class has surpassed all expectations. “This has been a challenging time for our family. As an infectious diseases specialist, I’m working very long hours at my hospital … I’ve been coming home late, exhausted, and hungry,” says Dr. Caitlin Reed, parent of Milena (15) who recently joined The Dynamite Shop classes online.

“Milena has seen how much pressure I’m under at work and she’s stepped up to help out with household responsibilities — especially cooking. She sees that it’s a way she can contribute, and also how tiring it is for my husband to be responsible for every meal and all the dishes. She’s volunteered to cook three dinners a week,” says Reed.

The lessons students learn cover much more ground than simply how to follow directions, Reed explains. “I was amazed to see her take down our recipe books from a shelf, figure out what recipes might work with the ingredients we have on hand, and improvise a Parmesan-asparagus risotto including some wild rice the other night. The Dynamite Shop has been teaching her how substitute using the pantry ingredients we have on hand — especially important now, as we are minimizing trips to the grocery store.”

Want to sign your kid up for The Dynamite Shop classes? If you want to learn to “delegate dinner” like these families, visit The Dynamite Shop website for more information and to sign up. Classes take place from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. ET and 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. ET each day and are $25 to $30 per session. If you are unable to commit to an entire semester, you can sign up for one-time classes as well. The Spring semester of The Dynamite Dinner Club officially kicked off this week.