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‘Generosity begets business’: Why The Meatball Shop gives away the family jewels online

Dan Holzman The Meatball Shop

If you’re looking for an affordable, hearty, and delicious meal in downtown New York, locals would point you no further than The Meatball Shop. With locations in the hip Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and Williamsburg neighborhoods, it’s no wonder that an average wait for a table during normal dinner hours range anywhere between 45 minutes to two hours (but trust us, it’s worth it). If you’re not one to wait around in the cold, now you can learn to make authentic Meatball Shop meatballs straight from your laptop. Co-creator and executive chef at The Meatball Shop Dan Holzman recently collaborated with Skillshare – an educational startup that lets people host a variety of classes – to offer free online cooking class and gave his curious consumers a video tutorial on how to make the perfect meal in a class whimsically titled, “Show Us Your Balls: Meatball Making with The Meatball Shop.”

The two-week long class gave students the opportunity to view video lessons and offered specific online office hours if they had any questions. Since the course wrapped up earlier this week, and we chatted with the meatball master himself to figure out why he would give away the secrets to his restaurant’s main product.

Digital Trends: The Meatball Shop has previously released its own cookbook, so why did you decide to take your recipes to the Web?

Holzman: It was actually Skillshare that approached us, and said it’d be cool to do a cooking class, because it was something they hadn’t done before. We thought the idea was interesting because when you think of cookbooks, they’re something you keep in your house, own, and pass down. An interaction online is something you just can’t get on paper. Our online class is essentially better than a classroom because you can zoom in and out, stop, and repeat any portion of the video.

DT: How has the response been now that the class has commenced?

Holzman: We didn’t know what to expect, so we just filmed it, and Skillshare did an amazing job cutting and putting it together to make it all it can be. The response was overwhelming – about 1,300 people signed up for the class and through the process, people gave us a lot of feedback, sent their pictures, and we saw a lot of creativity. I was blown away by the response. People were tweeting at us, asking us questions, and sending photos of their final product. One person even did a photo essay!

A screencap of Holzman's Skillshare tutorial.

A screencap of Holzman’s Skillshare tutorial.

DT: The Meatball Shop is clearly known for the dish it’s named after. Why would a restaurant give away the recipe for its pride and joy?

Holzman: Here’s the deal: Usually when you take classes on Skillshare, you are normally charged a small fee. I decided I didn’t want to charge people for it. The whole process was just a nice thing to do for people – it was a no sweat off our back, it didn’t cost me much to do or much of my time. A big misconception is that a recipe means so much. You can get a recipe from any chef and it’s still all in the execution, no matter how simple or complicated the recipe. I’m not worried at all or fearing giving away this recipe. Generosity begets business. The more generous you are, the more comes back to you; the stingier you are, the less you get back in the world.

DT: Recently, some restaurants have imposed a ban on customers Instagramming their food. How do you feel about people Instagramming your meatballs?

Meatball Shop Skillshare tutorialHolzman: If you pay for the meatballs, you can do whatever you want with them. You can eat them, take a picture of them, put ‘em in your pockets, I don’t care. Secondly, I can completely appreciate how, in a fancy restaurant, people don’t wanna distract the atmosphere with flashes going off. But we’re The Meatball Shop: our meatballs are cheap, we’re not pretentious, we want you to have fun and have a good mood in here. It’s fucking meatballs, man. I don’t think meatballs are the most aesthetically pleasing dish but if you want it go crazy and tell everyone about them, it’s free publicity for us and I love it. 

DT: We’re curious about the tech involved in random people in various industries’ lives so we wanna know: What’s the first piece of tech you touched today?

Holzman: My iPhone. I touched my iPhone before I touched my girlfriend this morning.

DT: And lastly, what’s on your gadget wishlist?

Holzman: I would love a pair of X-ray goggles. I’ve always wanted them my whole life, and if I’m being completely honest, I’d use them for people watching. Yeah, I’d want X-ray goggles so I can be creepy and do some naked people watching.