Virtual Cooking Club Emerges Amid Shelter-in-Place

Cooking+club+meets+via+Zoom.+Freshmen+Makenna+Olson+and+Lucia+Aguilar+decided+to+start+cooking+club+as+a+way+to+connect+with+other+students+during+virtual+learning+through+a+shared+interest.+Photo+courtesy+of+Makenna+Olson.

Cooking club meets via Zoom. Freshmen Makenna Olson and Lucia Aguilar decided to start cooking club as a way to connect with other students during virtual learning through a shared interest. Photo courtesy of Makenna Olson.

Danielle McNair, Staff Writer

Clubs at Menlo are meeting on Zoom this year amid virtual learning. For many conversation-based clubs, meeting virtually is a seemingly smooth transition from being in-person. However, for clubs that typically require hands-on engagement or where materials are provided during meetings, these virtual gatherings present new challenges. 

Freshmen Makenna Olson and Lucia Aguilar decided to take advantage of recent shelter-in-place activities, starting a virtual cooking club, where students gather their own materials prior to meetings and need to be prepared to cook in their home kitchen. Inspiration for the club came from Upper School history teacher Katina Ballantyne. “[Ballantyne] was a sponsor for a cooking club at her old school. We thought it would be a cool club to bring to Menlo, so [Ballantyne] offered to be the supervisor,” Aguilar said.

During distance learning, it has also been especially difficult for freshmen to meet their peers and interact with upperclassmen. “Cooking club seemed like a good way to get to know each other and meet people in other grades,” Olson said. “We have not been able to meet people the way we traditionally would,” Aguilar added. 

A typical cooking club meeting is a combination of cooking an item on the agenda and socializing with other club members. “Everyone gets the recipe a week before the meeting so they have time to gather the ingredients. Then, during the meetings, we make fun foods like cookies or guacamole,” Aguilar said.

“We also like to talk as we cook. Lucia and I come up with conversation starters for all [the members] to chat about so it isn’t just silent and boring,” Olson said. 

Aguilar and Olson also hope to expand their club by raising funds. “In the future, we hope to start a fundraiser where members of the entire student body can pay for ingredient kits, made by [Aguilar and Olson] that would be sent to their home so they can cook or bake items,” Olson said. The goal of the fundraiser would be for members of the cooking club to collaborate on ideas that will become enjoyable for all members of the Menlo community.

If in-person school were to resume, it is unclear what exactly the cooking club would entail; however, Aguilar and Olson have brainstormed exciting ideas. “We think the club would happen after school in the cafeteria,” Aguilar said. “We hope that the club will cook together and make one large meal, rather than just individual small items.” They added that they envision some members working on appetizers, while others cook up an entree, and specialized bakers could create a delicious dessert.