The Dynamite Shop Schools Kids Learning About Global Cuisine

These Brooklyn kids are learning how to make their own globally-inspired meals—and they're learning a few life skills along the way, too.
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Students strike a pose before class starts at the Dynamite Shop. From far left: Zoe, 10; Betsey, 9; Alma, 9; Reiss (front), 10; Jules (center), 10; Elias, 10; Rayna, 9; and Maiya, 9.

Students strike a pose before class starts at the Dynamite Shop. From far left: Zoe, 10; Betsey, 9; Alma, 9; Reiss (front), 10; Jules (center), 10; Elias, 10; Rayna, 9; and Maiya, 9.

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.”

dana teaches kids about lemongrass at counter

Dana teaches the kids about lemongrass.

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. 

kids cooking pork

Students team up to cook the pork

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.”

man in cafe serving coffee and pastries

During the day, the café at the front of the shop serves coffee and pastries.

girl using mortar and pestle

Maiya learns how to use a mortar and pestle.

"Before this, I just helped my dad cook," says Jules, a student. "But now I take the lead."

kids in cookbook library

A cookbook library provides lots of inspo.

shop's to-go window

Sara Kate (on the left) and Dana take a break by the shop’s to-go window.

"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.

Alma does a lettuce-wrap taste test

Alma does a lettuce-wrap taste test.

Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps

larb gai lettuce wraps

Lettuce wraps are ready to go.

Recipe: Try the Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps

Cucumber & Carrot Salad and Sticky Rice

cucumber carrot salad

Students give the salad a finishing touch.

Recipes: Try the Cucumber & Carrot Salad and How to Make Sticky Rice at Home