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Calgary cookbook author bakes up a winner with The Kitchen Club

Free weekly Zoom cooking/baking classes for kids and teens a hit

Calgary cookbook author and food personality Julie Van Rosendaal had had enough when school openings were delayed after Christmas break due to the pandemic. Feeling for the kids stuck at home with nothing to do, the Calgary mom and blogger decided to do a week of Zoom baking/cooking classes for whoever wanted to join. It was an instant hit.

"It was minus 30 that week and everyone was going squirrely," said Rosendaal from her Calgary home. "I was already doing occasional virtual classes with my nieces so I just put the idea out there-- two Zoom baking classes every day that week. The response was crazy. Over 1,000 tuned in from across Canada the first day--kids with siblings, parents and little ones, teens. Kids are into food, creativity and cooking, and I think they liked the routine. If they couldn't be in school, they could have this project to look forward to each day."

Rosendaal is onto something. Research shows there's huge benefits to kids learning to cook, for themselves and the whole family. For kids, there's increased language development, reading and life skills and math ability--not to mention becoming a more adventurous eater--and if they do it with siblings, parents or grandparents, it encourages family bonding too. Whether it's simply spending quality time together, creating new family traditions or just a concentrated place to catch up on day-to-day life, having kids as active participants in the kitchen is a win for all involved.

For her part, Rosendaal's initial pandemic-inspired 60 to 90-minute Zoom classes saw she and kids preparing pastry, biscuits and dumplings together, with the young cooks likewise on screen and able to ask questions if needed. By the last day of that first week, the group felt like they knew each other, says the author, and they capped it off by making croissants together while wearing toques and pajamas.

"The kids asked for more--they wanted it to continue beyond the week, so that's what we're doing--something each week, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon," said Rosendaal. 

Spring boarding off the surprising popularity of the initial week of Zoom classes, Rosendaal has created a website for what she's dubbed The Kitchen Club. Aimed at kids/teens, upcoming free classes even include guest hosts/cooks that will join Rosendaal and the gang. And lest anyone think kid-friendly cooking means it's too simple, think again. First up is Chef Roni Zaide from Roni’s Kitchen, who joins to make potato phyllo samosas with cilantro-mint chutney. 

"We pick things we can do in real time, from scratch, nothing overly processed. I've had requests for butter tarts and cake; something with rice paper too, but we don't want parents running to the grocery store for ingredients--it's mostly recipes with things you already have in your kitchen," Rosendaal says, adding she keeps in mind vegan eating too. "I see how happy and eager the kids are, I don't mind making it part of my weekend. The classes are a great thing for grandparents and kids to do together too."

Adults are asking to join the free weekend Zoom classes, Rosendaal says, but she acknowledges there's a different dynamic when it's just she and kids interacting on the platform as they cook. Still, she points out, as all recipes and recordings of past classes are posted to the website, there's no reason adults can't watch and cook with their kids afterwards too.

"I've committed to do this for the year," she said. "The kids are loving it. And one of these days we're going to make dinner together on a weeknight too!"

There's no need to register for the free, weekly Zoom cooking/baking sessions. Just download the recipe, gather ingredients and click the link on the kitchen club site. Rosendaal says if the timing doesn't work or the class happens to be full (capacity 1,000), the recorded class can be found at