Tag Archives: Key Ingredient

Meet Larry Hadley

Meet Larry Hadley, a special “Key Ingredient” at The Culinary Center”. He is better known as “BBQ Dude”. You will see Larry at almost every BBQ event at CCKC and he is usually “on the line” during Staff Lunch. Larry is also one of our “Kitchen Shrinks” which means he always has his shingle out for BBQ/grilling/smoking questions. Send your questions anytime. This is one special guy.

After taking several classes at the CCKC several years ago, and then becoming a volunteer, I had the opportunity to come on board and work with this great team.  My background and culinary love is the art of smoking and grilling, with a lot of TLC thrown in. Though I’m known around the CCKC as the “bbqdude”, I feel privileged to be able to continually broaden my skills by working  along side the Executive Chef, who shares his passion and talent for cooking.

I serve as Contest Representative and Certified Master Judge for the Kansas City BBQ Society. I have also had the opportunity to cook with and be a member of an award winning KCBS Competition BBQ team. This enables me to gain more expertise in the wide field of what BBQ should be at its best.

One of my biggest & most rewarding culinary adventures has been serving as Crew Chef for the Continental Divide Trail Alliance for several trail building projects. This is high altitude cooking at its best! With my wife Sharon assisting, we cooked meals at 10,000ft for groups of 30 on propane stoves in a cook’s tent, using battery lamps. This is where it’s 32 degrees in July at 5AM and the coffee is on!


Meet Michelle Kelle

One of my fondest memories as a kid was getting the Sears catalog and circling all the toys I wanted Santa to bring to me. As the years went by, I came to have an impressive collection of kiddie culinary gadgets, including an EZ-Bake Oven, a fondue maker, a Snoopy Sno-Cone stand and a kiddie cake decorating set just like my mom’s!

As I got older, my love of kitchen gadgets only grew. It didn’t matter that I hardly ever cooked. It was still fun to collect them. All of that changed when I started taking classes at The Culinary Center of Kansas City. I suddenly had the confidence–and the recipes–I needed to master my kitchen and all those kitchen gadgets. I learned that the more you cook, the easier it gets. And if you make mistakes and recipes don’t turn out, it’s not the end of the world as long as you have the phone number to your favorite take-out joint handy.

While the Sears catalog is no longer published, I still get out my pen and circle my culinary wants whenever I receive the newsletter from the Culinary Center. I’ve loved all the classes I’ve taken but am particularly fond of Italian, Greek and Mediterranean cooking. The three-day boot camp was also a lot of fun.

Getting to work here is truly “the icing on the cake!” When I’m not here, I enjoy traveling, running marathons and spoiling my nephews, Drew (age 9) and Drey (age 6) who is also a budding chef. Check out his picture on the website.

Meet Jill Schaecher Long

Jill has been at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ since 2006.  She had taken several classes here and fell in love with the place.  She had been in Corporate Accounting for 8 years and was looking to make a switch.  She received a Culinary Center newsletter and noticed they were looking for a Bookkeeper.  The rest is history!

Jill’s formal Culinary Center title is “Numbers Ninja” which was given to her after the birth of her son in 2007.  She would work part-time from home and work a lot of nights in the office.  The office ladies dubbed her the Ninja because she’d be in and out of the office before anyone had seen her.

Jill keeps all our accounting issues in order and handles payroll and personnel.  Everyone loves her come payday!

Takin out the Kitchen Trash

Let me tell you CCKC folks have a strong sense of duty….and  a stronger sense of humor. Unless breathing or blood flowing is a problem you will usually hear the howls of laughter. Interesting things happen within and without…think I will just start with a warming story. As I drove up to work the other day, I saw Victoria’s butt hanging out of the dumpster. Vicky is a little thing…dumpster a big thing….need I say more. The closer I got, the more laughter and cheering filled the air. The facts; one of our truly incredible and organized guest chefs  left her favorite pan at the CCKC. She rode her bike back the next day to retrieve it. Vicky KNEW it was there. She had washed it and put it in a bag, knowing the chef would return. High and low they looked…no pan. Vicky, knowing her “clean team” would do a thorough job, headed to the dumpster for a little diving. Fabuloso! Out crawled Vicky and the pan. Cheering crowd, happy chef, stinky Vicky. We are proud of YOU Victoria!!!!!!! stay tuned for more

Meet Maria Dickson

Maria Dickson has been working with special events since 1997. She got her start in weddings by turning pages for her pianist mother, and then singing at weddings at age 12. She was often found taking notes on the ceremony between songs, making lists of things that she liked or would change. Those years of singing and note-taking paid off, as she began working in the bridal gown business in college, then apprenticed for an event planning firm in 1999. She began to direct and plan weddings on her own and also dabbled in corporate events. Maria joined The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ in 2004 as Event Planning Specialist or “Manager of Merriment.” Between corporate teambuildings, private dining, rehearsal dinners and interactive cooking parties, Maria keeps very busy at The Center. She manages everything from initial client calls to execution of the event by directing the staff and follow up. Creativity, attention to detail and flexibility are all key elements in this position. When she’s not planning and managing events, Maria enjoys singing (yes, she still sings weddings!), salsa dancing, yoga and going out with friends. Though she considers herself a foodie, it’s her dear husband Leo who excels in the kitchen. (He also teaches wine and food classes at the CCKC, by the way!) Maria and daughter Allegra love trying out his latest, creative dish. And yes, they sometimes even help clean up the kitchen!

Meet Libby Hawkins

After teaching fifth grade for 32 years, I was ready to try something fun and new. I happened to walk into the Culinary Center of Kansas City™ one day and felt an immediate connection.  Everyone was so friendly and seemed to really enjoy each other’s company. I like working in our retail space, “Kitchenology” because I get to introduce customers to all of the different components of the Culinary Center. People are genuinely interested in what we have to offer and love spending time in our kitchens. I can truly say, “I learn something every day.”

When I’m not at the Culinary Center, I love to dig in the dirt (flowers and herbs mostly), make quilts, go to Jazzercize class, and of course experiment in the kitchen!

Meet The Main Dish

Laura O’Rourke is the owner of The Culinary Center of Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas. She grew up in a small German community in Missouri where her passion for the culinary arts began at a young age with making pastry dough with her Grandmother while sitting on her kitchen counter. It was her dream to create a venue in the Midwest where culinarians of all skill levels could gather to celebrate the culianary arts in a variety of ways. She believes strongly that magical things happen around the table over well prepared food, good wine and interesting conversation.

Laura practiced corporate, securities and public finance law for 18 years before jumping career tracks to design and open The Culinary Center of Kansas City in May of 1998 which has enjoyed continued success. She has extensive teaching, teambuilding, facilitating and special event planning experience and has been a featured speaker at many area organizations.

In 2008, she expanded the physical space to include a second teaching and entertainment kitchen, expanded office and a retail store – “Kitchenology.” This expansion supported her dream of offering more classes and events in celebration of the culinary arts. Ms. O’Rourke and The Culinary Center have also been featured in several local newspapers and media and trade publications as well as on the cover of a national magazine. She was honored in 2003 as one of the “Top 25 Women Who Mean Business in Kansas City” by the Kansas City Small Business Monthly and has been an active member of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program for 6 years. In addition she is a Board Member for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. Her resume includes membership in the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the Missouri Bar Association, Slow Food Association, and the Kansas City Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Laura and The Culinary Center of Kansas City were awarded the 2008 Impact Award and the 1999 President’s Award by The Downtown Overland Park Partnership for your contribution to the business and community in Overland Park. The ACF’s Greater Kansas City’s Chef’s Association awarded her business its prestigious President’s Award in 2007 as well.

Laura is currently living her dream. Go figure!