It’s 3:30 p.m. at the Dynamite Shop’s kid-focused cooking school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the room is buzzing. A boisterous chorus of tween voices rises over the sound of sizzling onions and Michael Jackson songs. As the students, a group of local kids, settle in, a small miracle happens: The room falls silent. They start shaving carrots into ribbons and fearlessly chop bunches of scallions. “Isn’t it amazing?” says cofounder Dana Bowen. “Something incredible comes over these kids when we start cooking. Everyone just gets in the flow.”
Creating moments like this is one of the reasons that Bowen and her business partner, Sara Kate Gillingham, launched the Dynamite Shop last year. Both women are moms and food-world veterans: Gillingham is a cookbook author and the founder of the cooking website The Kitchn, and Bowen has spent most of her career as a food writer and an editor at top food magazines (including this one). After years in the media, the duo dreamed up a concept that they call Home Ec 2.0, which combines hands-on cooking instruction for kids ages 8 to 13 with a deep dive into global ingredients and cuisines.
At the heart of the Dynamite Shop is the Make & Take after-school program, where students tackle a new recipe each week and pack it up in to-go containers to serve their families for dinner. “Each week is designed to teach the kids not only practical skills but also the context of what they’re cooking,” says Gillingham. In a recent class, kids learned the difference between authentic Mexican food and Mexican American food before making corn tortillas from scratch. Today the students are making Thai-style lettuce wraps and getting a lesson on the herbaceous Thai pantry—and a chance to get in some serious chopping practice. (And, yes, the kids use real knives!) Students come away with kitchen confidence, new friends, and a deeper connection to the diverse community around them. Or, as 10-year-old Elias put it, “You can’t have life skills unless you have knife skills.”
"Before this, I just helped my dad cook," says Jules, a student. "But now I take the lead."
"We want to celebrate the diversity of the city and show kids how cooking is a way to connect with each other," says Sara Kate.
Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps
Recipe: Try the Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps