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'A bit chaotic but it works:' Alta. food writer holds virtual cooking class for 1,000 kids

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A virtual cooking class is giving kids a fun activity to do during the extended school break while teaching them valuable skills.

Julie Van Rosendaal is a food writer and home cook. With school out for the week in Alberta and a deep freeze blanketing the province, she decided to help parents keep their kids entertained. She set up her camera, created a cooking camp on Zoom and tweeted out the link.

"I know what it's like to have to keep a younger child busy when it's winter and it's 30 below, but I can't imagine having to do it when it's a pandemic so I have been doing virtual cooking classes," said Van Rosendaal. "The response has been incredible."

That response was a full class that Zoom capped at 1,000. There were kids logged on from across Canada, as well as from the U.S., Australia, and Finland.

"With 1,000 it's a bit chaotic but it works," laughed Van Rosendaal.

She says she chose Zoom over other streaming platforms because she wanted the experience to be interactive for the kids.

"I like being able to see the kids in their kitchens if they have their cameras on and then they can show me their pies or say, 'My dough looks like this, do I need more water?' That kind of thing."

"Cooking is something that brings everybody together," said Krista Li.

Li's daughters Anna and Iris are participating in Van Rosendaal's classes this week. Li said she found out about the Zoom classes on Twitter, and knew it was the perfect way for her girls to spend the week.

"This is a great opportunity to give them some kitchen experience, so huge props to Julie for putting herself out there in the spirit of generosity."

"It's very hard to find stuff to do, so when she was like, 'We're going to do a cooking camp,' Me and Iris were over the moon, we love cooking," said Anna.

"I was really glad we got something to do and we wouldn't sit at home doing nothing," said Iris.

The classes are giving kids a sense of community that has been missing with school and extracurricular activities being virtual during the pandemic, said Li.

"Not only is it cold, but COVID has gotten to a point where we're not comfortable to go out and do things indoors anymore," said Li. "So it's hard to find not only something to do, but hard to feel part of a group."

Li says her girls are excited for Thursday's class where they'll learn to make Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings), ahead of the Lunar New Year.

"They're really, really happy to see a little bit of their culture reflected in that as well," said Li.

Van Rosendaal's classes are running twice a day for the rest of the week. She said she may extend the classes into next week, starting with a day-long croissant camp on Saturday.

"I think everyone's sort of used to rolling with it and taking it day by day and week by week."

Rosendaal records each class and posts the full video and recipe on her website after it ends.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb.