Feel at home in Baltimore Chef Shop's Kitchen. No plus-one required.
Chef Scott Ryan and his business partner wife, Gwynne Ryan (who also works as an art conservator at the Hirshhorn museum in D.C.), opened the Baltimore Chef Shop in their Hampden home in 2014, and moved the operation to a row house on the busy “Avenue” of nearby 36th street a year later.
“We realized that part of the initial success was that people felt like they were coming into a home,” Gwynne says. So the décor of their storefront space resembles just that. “Everything is on the scale of a home kitchen,” including reclaimed cabinets from A Second Chance and stand mixers from Sur La Table. The health code mandates a commercial oven, so they got the smallest one they could find. The result? “It feels like the most awesome kitchen at your friend’s house,” she says.
After training at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Massachusetts, Chef Scott, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., returned to his alma mater as a professor. “He’s a natural teacher,” says Gwynne, who grew up in Sonoma County, CA. “His dream was to open a culinary school.”
The couple brought that dream, along with their twin toddlers, to Baltimore.
Currently, the Chef Shop has about 30 employees and offers some 50-60 classes per month in its two kitchens–a fully equipped space on the main floor and a “low heat” kitchen on the lower level. There students learn to can, or make pasta or cheese–anything that doesn’t require the high temps of things like Chinese food, one of Chef Scott’s specialty cuisines.
The school offers two types of experience, Gwynne says. Technique classes may cover anything from knife skills to working with pastry dough, while during menu-based classes students collaborate to create a meal, splitting up the tasks and sitting down to eat together at the end. But one thing is certain: everybody takes part. “We’re BYOB and we encourage you to enjoy yourself,” Gwynne says. “But you’re going to be learning.”
When she began to realize that the most popular Chef Shop classes seemed to be the “Couples Cook” nights, Gwynne became concerned that solo guests might hesitate to sign up for a class, so she reached out to Mixolo. “I had been seeing them on social media and thought it would be great to collaborate,” she says. “I was encouraged to see what Mixolo was doing.”
The Mixolo Make-your-Own Sushi Class, scheduled for October 11, is the first of what she hopes will be many collaborations, says Gwynne.
Along with its adult classes, the Baltimore Chef Shop runs camps for children and teens throughout the summer. The one-week sessions for ages 8-12 and 13-17, Gwynne says, teach through stealth. “We make four meals throughout the week–we consider dessert a meal,” and through these sessions, students learn important kitchen skills.
The Ryan twins, now 10 years of age, participated in the kids’ cooking camp for its first three years, but last summer they were edged out. “I told them we didn’t have room–I thought they’d be relieved,” Gwynne says. “But they were so upset.” Quite possibly because the Ryans designed the camp around what they thought their own kids, a daughter and son, would love—just the way they have designed the Baltimore Chef Shop’s adult curriculum. “Our attitude is, we welcome you the way you’d welcome someone coming to your house,” she says. “We don’t care if you know how to cook or not. We want to empower you at whatever level you are.”
For information about Mixolo’s Chef Shop sushi class, visit https://www.mixolo.io/events/make-your-own-sushi.