With just three hours left until dinner, it’s go-time at Dynabite, a one-night popup in South Slope.
The workforce inside the Seventh Avenue spot is split into teams tackling décor, appetizers and dessert simultaneously. Some of them flip colorful arepas—dyed pink and blue using dragon fruit flower and pea flower—atop hot plates. The smell of baking galettes emanates from a nearby oven. Newly minted pastry chefs diligently fill and fold more at an adjacent wooden table, one at a time. Their colleagues hang handcrafted decorations and expend nervous energy fidgeting, pacing, and chatting. A few retire to the lush backyard garden, impatiently waiting their turn to assemble a galette or fixing their hair.
It’s Day 4 of the week-long culinary summer camp for teens and ‘tweens. The campers—most of them from Brooklyn—are preparing for a dinner that night to show their parents what they’ve learned. They’ll serve rainbow arepas, grain bowls with roasted chicken thighs, summer fruit galettes and a panela lemonade. And the young Brooklynites made almost all of it.
It’s all part of the brand new Dynamite Shop, a culinary training ground for some of the city’s youngest food lovers. The sold-out camp—which runs six times this summer—is just one of element of what’s offered here. There’s a limited coffeeshop in the front. In the fall, the space will morph into a semester-long afterschool program, with students coming weekly and bringing home their creations as family dinner. And co-founders Dana Bowen and Sara Kate Gillingham already have more in mind for their unique “culinary social club” that they call “Home Ec. 2.0.”
Bowen and Gillingham are already food world luminaries. Gillingham holds a James Beard Award, has written three cookbook and co-founded Apartment Therapy, where she ran thekitchn.com. Bowen served as the executive editor at Saveur, Rachael Ray Every Day, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine, and she wrote for The New York Times’s dining section, too.
The friends—who each have a ‘tween-aged kid—want the Dynamite Shop to use food as a “vehicle for getting these kids to connect with the community around them,” as Bowen put it. At camp, that means daily field trips, including a popular farmers market challenge where kids get $15 to design a pasta dish. It also means bringing in chefs, food writers and other professionals to talk about everything from Aleppo peppers to Nigerian efo riro, addressing issues like history, migration, access and visibility in the process.
“It’s about cultivating curiosity,” said Gillingham, who lives in Bed-Stuy.
Campers get excited about prepping the big family meal, picking out music, arguing about who will host and taking pride in their expanded kitchen skills. But dinner isn’t the culminating point. Instead, camp wraps with a day of service, with kids cooking for the shop’s neighbors, like residents of an assisted living facility.
“We really want to promote the understanding that the intersection of food and culture can be a salve during these times,” said Bowen, who lives nearby. “And it can be a tool for community building.”
Dynamite Shop campers range from 8-16 years old. Summer camp is $650/week and the after-school program is $780 for a once a week program for thirteen weeks. Right now, signup is only available for the fall semester and you can learn more about the Dynamite Shop on their webiste and Instagram.