Category Archives: Who’s Who at CCKC

October’s Local Maker of the Month

Vain Vanilla's Kate & CharlieDid you know we feature a Local Maker of the Month in our Kitchen Shop at The Culinary Center of Kansas City?  Better yet, you get 10% off your purchase of items by that Local Maker all month long! 

This month, our Local Maker of the Month is VAIN Foods, Inc., creators of unique vanilla extracts like Indonesian vanilla in cane rum, Mexican vanilla in bourbon and Tongan vanilla in orange vodka, as well as flavorful coffee drops.

Kate Banks and Charlie Hammond, founders of VAIN Foods, are two friends who share a love of cooking and great ingredients. Kate loves to bake, teach cooking classes, and has an obsession with vanilla. Charlie, who occasionally teaches cooking classes at The Culinary Center, is a trained chef with Southern roots and a passion for distilled spirits. A few years ago, they combined their interests and began making their own vanilla extracts.

These flavors were so enjoyable that their friends would beg them for bottles of their delectable concoctions. It soon became clear that they should share their vanillas with others, so in 2015 they began sharing their extracts with bakers, mixologists and foodies everywhere.

By combining high-quality spirits and the best vanilla beans available, VAIN vanillas have incredibly distinctive flavor combinations, making VAIN’s impact on everything from cookies to your coffee truly remarkable.

We’ll have the folks from VAIN in our Kitchen Shop this Friday at Local Life, and they’re bringing samples of a Cranberry Orange bread made with their Tahitian Vanilla extracted in Cane Rum. Stop by The Culinary Center to meet them and talk about vanilla.  Take advantage of the 10% off to get a start on your holiday shopping!

Vain Vanilla

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Take a Class from a ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’ Winner!

Chef Shanita BryantThe Culinary Center of Kansas City is proud to introduce our newest instructor… Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant.

Shanita says her mantra is ‘Winner, Winner, Fried Chicken Dinner!’ and It’s an appropriate mantra for this chef who was the last woman standing in an episode of Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen.

After winning Cutthroat Kitchen in 2014, opening Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine and launching Magnolia’s On The Move food truck, Shanita is ready now to share her passion and knowledge of cooking at The Culinary Center.

Her passion, which started with the homemade crust she made for an apple pie at the age of 13, led her to pursue culinary arts training at The Culinary Institute at Johnson County Community College.  When she isn’t cooking, Shanita enjoys spending time with her husband, five children and working on her first cookbook.

Register now for a spot in one of Shanita’s upcoming cooking classes:

Flavorful Weekend Nights:
Contemporary Southern Cuisine

Fri, Nov 10,  Limited Hands-On | Dinner  |  $75
Let Chef Shanita introduce you to a variety of essential cooking techniques as she walks you through mouthwatering recipes, starting with Red Velvet Waffles, Shrimp & Grits, Scallops & creamy Sweet Potato Risotto. We’ll end on a sweet note as she shows you how to prepare one of her famous southern dessert specialties!   

Sweet Southern Lovin’ from the Oven
Sat, Dec 2,  Limited Hands-On | Tastings  |  $60
After learning a few universal baking techniques like measuring (yes, there is a correct way to do it), mixing, whisking, rolling and tips for making the perfect pie crust, you’ll  learn to make some of Chef Shanita’s favorite Southern treats, including Bread Pudding, Buttermilk Pie, Sweet Potato Pie and more!

Raise a Toast with Brent Grider

Meet our favorite ‘Wine Guy’ here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City…

Brent GriderBrent Grider, Beverage Manager and Sommelier for Stock Hill Restaurant in Kansas City, teaches wine appreciation classes at the CCKC. Brent holds the title of Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommelier, and is certified through Bar Smarts™ for his knowledge of cocktails and spirits so, well, he knows his drinks and loves sharing his passion and knowledge with others.

He started in the beverage industry as a barista in several local coffee shops and worked his way up to management, including years with coffee giant Starbucks.

Next Brent began his foray into full-service restaurant management, beginning at an Italian restaurant on the Country Club Plaza, then with McCormick & Schimick’s. As Bar Manager there, Brent managed the wine and cocktail menus, beginning to put his tasting skills to work, providing guests a selection of wines and cocktails that worked in harmony with the menu.

Later, serving as General Manager at Benton’s Prime Steakhouse in the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, Brent worked to gain recognition for Benton’s wine list and bar program.  And he succeeded – Benton’s Prime Steakhouse was honored with the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine for a wine list that comprised of more than 200 selections of wine and with local recognition of “Best Bar” by the Pitch magazine.  He went on to become Complex Director of Restaurants & Bars before moving to his current position as Beverage Manager & Sommelier for Stock Hill, where he continues to share his passion of wine and spirits with associates and guests any chance he gets.

We are lucky to have Brent share his knowledge and passion for wine and spirits at classes at The Culinary Center of Kansas City!  Check out one of his upcoming classes:

Understanding Bordeaux Wine
Monday, September 25, 2017,  6:30-9:00 p.m.
Demonstration | Wine Tasting & Appetizers
Explore one of the world’s most collectible and age-worthy wines.

Flavorful Weekend Nights:
Bourbon – American History in a Glass
Friday, October 27, 2017,  6:30-9:00 p.m.
Demonstration | Bourbon Tastings & Appetizers
We’ll taste our way through Bourbons from Kentucky, Washington State, and beyond as we learn how it’s made and what makes it unique.

ABC’s of Wine Tasting
Tuesday, January 9, 2018, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Demonstration | Wine Tastings & Appetizers
Relax and sit back as you learn the basics about wine tasting (or refresh your skills) with a pro.

Meet Chef Molly Flynn…

Molly FlynnLet me introduce you to another of our new culinary instructors at The Culinary Center of Kansas City…  Chef Molly Flynn.

Molly attended culinary school at Seattle Central Culinary Academy. She’s worked for several restaurants and catering companies in Seattle while running her own business as a personal chef.

She has been a chef instructor for 5 years for both adults and children, and she currently works as the Banquet Chef at the Reserve event space in Kansas City’s Rockhill Grille. 

Molly is one of our newest instructors here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, and we are happy to have her in our seasoned line-up. 

Take a look at Molly’s two CCKC cooking classes this summer:

French Classics Made Easy
Sun, July 30,  6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Limited Hands-On | Dinner

Junior Chefs Academy:
Kids Cook French Classics

(for ages 9-14)
Sun, August 6,  10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Hands-On  | Tasting

Cooking with Lauren

Lauren LaneWe are pleased to introduce you to Lauren Lane, one of our newest culinary instructors at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.

Lauren left behind a corporate career to pursue her passion of teaching cooking and entertaining.  She enjoys traveling and tasting all the local foods a region has to sample. She not only teaches people how to recreate her delicious recipes but also provides tips and tricks on how to entertain effortlessly in your home, and have FUN while doing it!

Italian food is Lauren’s passion but she also dedicates a lot of love to simple and delicious seasonal dishes.

She believes nothing brings friends and families together like great food – and she inspires her classes with fun, make-ahead entertaining ideas. She encourages us to slow down, enjoy life and gather around the table.

Check out two upcoming classes Lauren will be teaching at The Culinary Center soon –

Low-Country Shrimp Boil: The Perfect Party
Sat, July 15,  6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Dinner  |  Limited Hands-On

Cooking with Lauren: My Favorite Italian Dinner Party
Sat, August 19, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Dinner  |  Limited Hands-On

Welcome our Newest CCKC Instructor…

One really great task we look forward to at The Culinary Center of Kansas City is attending New Instructor Demos.  When we’re talking with folks who are potential instructors here, one step in the process is to invite them in to ‘show us their stuff.’  They do a shortened version of a cooking class that they’d like to offer at CCKC. We stand in as the class members, asking questions and taking notes like students in our real classes do.  This is a chance for the instructor to feel out our kitchens, and it gives us the opportunity to see if they’re a good fit and ready to take on some classes in our schedule.

Today, we had the pleasure of watching a New Instructor Demo by a chef who we all agreed is definitely CCKC material. In fact, we put two classes on the schedule immediately!  A seasoned chef and natural teacher at heart, Jason Bowers brings a wealth of talent and knowledge to the table. After graduating at the famed Johnson and Wales Culinary School, Bowers stayed the next few years on the East Coast before returning with his wife and family to his native Midwest. He went on to work as Executive Chef at Dean and DeLuca in Leawood before opening Café Trocadero in midtown Kansas City in 1999. He has also served as Executive Chef at Cerner Corporation and Hotel Phillips here in the KC area.  (Folks, this guy is the real deal and you’ll love learning from him. It’s like you get to peer behind the curtain of how a chef thinks and feels as he cooks.)

Register today for seats in one of Jason’s upcoming classes at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.  (Click on the class title below for more information or to sign up.)

The Chef’s Table – Spring Treasures
Friday, April 14  |  6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Limited Hands-On, Dinner included
Join Chef Bowers as he highlights the intense and nascent flavors of spring in a sophisticated menu which includes dishes such as Freshly Harvested Greens with a Hot Bacon Vinaigrette, Rice Noodles with Spinach, Mushrooms and Asparagus, a delicate seared fish with a Red Wine Cherry Glaze, marinated and grilled steak with Avocado and Ramp Salsa and as the finale, an Orange Chocolate Crème Brûlée. 

A Tribute to Escoffier
Friday, May 5  |  6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Limited Hands-On, Dinner included
Georges Auguste Escoffier, known as the “king of chef and the chef of kings” was a French chef and restaurateur who almost single-handedly revolutionized his profession and the public’s palate nearly 100 years ago. His impact on the world of cooking still resonates to this day. Let’s explore traditional French Escoffier-inspired cooking methods this evening with an experienced local chef as he walks you through a stylish menu.  You’ll learn how to break down a whole fish as well as how to prepare two beautiful sauces to pair with your tender fish – a Vin Blanc and a Beurre Blanc.  Master the art of seasoning and this menu’s flavor profiles as you learn to cook with fresh herbs and explore the various types of salts that chefs use to achieve their spectacular results. We will learn as he prepares Roasted Lemon Sole with Smoked Shrimp and Feta Stuffing and Fresh Fruit Salsas and Chutneys, among other beautiful courses.

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Meet Chef Sergio…

We have some fabulous folks working with us as part of our team here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, and we love to introduce them to you. So, we profile some of these extraordinary employees in our Kitchen Talk blog. Now, we’d like you to get to know our Executive Chef Sergio Lara, who is the focus of this Employee Spotlight.

Sergio LaraSergio Lara was raised in ‘la cocina’… and has been working in professional kitchens for more than 20 years – from senior living communities and country clubs to hotels and fine dining restaurants.

Chef Sergio started out as Sous Chef Sergio at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™. He eventually became a class instructor and now serves as our Executive Chef. We’re darn glad to have him with us full time now.

Chef Sergio brings a gift for understanding great cooking technique, and a true passion for culinary creativity.

Vicky & SergioYou might have met his twin sister, Vicky Lara, here at The Culinary Center too. She has been our ‘Chicana in Charge’ for 10 years now, and runs our operations as well as facilitating classes and events. The Lara family talents also include sister Susy, who teaches classes here also and Sergio’s daughter Alexis, who is one of our wonderful Wizards (that’s the fancy title for “behind the scenes employee making certain we are clean and organized”).

Check out one of Sergio’s upcoming cooking classes: