The culinary instructors listed below represent some of the best and the brightest culinary educators in the industry.   Not only that, but each is trained in what our students have come to expect as the most professional and highest quality class experience possible.  There is more experience among this group of folks than you can shake a stick at ... or a spatula, if you are so inclined.  They are passionate about making sure that you go home with real and user-friendly cooking information to make you a better and more informed cook.  Look at those mugs!  Do they look like slackers?  I think not.  Read on.... you'll see.


Think you've got what it takes to be an instructor at The Culinary Center of Kansas City? If you have a passion for food and the culinary arts and you like people and teaching, then this may be the place for you...

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Lauren Abel
Healthy lifestyle educator by profession, Lauren loves helping people improve their wellness through healthy cooking, eating, lifestyle and exercise choices. She teaches people how to make favorite recipes healthier through simple ingredient substitutions, and her dishes include vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, paleo and cooking for various medical issues such as heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Bottomline, she shows people that healthy cooking can be fast, easy and delicious.
Ben & Jess Anthony
Ben and Jess Anthony, a brother & sister team raised in Kansas City, are the co-owners of the popular local business, Wood + Salt, where they are on a mission to deconstruct the art of Kansas City BBQ to its parts and see what they can make. They currently create and sell items such as rubs, brines, and spices, as well as smoke sea salts, finishing salts, sustainably harvested artisan woodchips for smoking, and infused sugars for cocktail rims – most are certified organic.
Andrea Bengimina
Andrea grew up in a houseful of hairdressers and barbers. She tells us about her mother who would spend all day cooking & cleaning, then disappear for 10 minutes. When she reappeared, she looked as though she had spent the entire day at the spa … like a “movie star.” Andrea is passionate about helping others look good and, more importantly, feel good about themselves … something she practices every day at Encounters Salon in Overland Park, Kansas.
Amiel Brosoto
With an expertise in 'World Cuisine', Amiel Brosoto brings a wealth of experience to our kitchens. After spending years as a college professor, he pursued his passion for cooking and earned his culinary degree. Now he's a natural as a Chef Instructor!
Bruce Campbell
"The Food & Beverage Guy" and CCKC Class Instructor
Bruce has been in the food and beverage industry for many years. As a founding member of the Rib Stars BBQ team, he has competed on the BBQ circuit for more than 12 years and has won numerous awards. He has been teaching our Grilling, Smoking & BBQ classes for over 10 years. (full resume available upon request)
Bruce has been teaching at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ since 2006.
Rachel Ciordas
Rachel is a cooking instructor and wellness coach. Her cooking classes focus on healthy whole food recipes that are delicious and fit into the busy modern life.
Sandy DiGiovanni
Class Instructor
Sandy teaches a wide variety of classes with us with emphasis on Italian cuisine (her heritage). She's been with us since 2012 and brings her own unique and humorous style of education. Chef Sandy was a finalist on NBC's "America's Next Great Restaurant" with Bobby Flay and is a contributing writer for Edible Magazine. She's also a heck of a bartender!
Brent Grider
Brent’s passion for the food & beverage world at the beginning of the ‘Coffee Craze’. Starting as a barista, he worked his way up through the industry to his position today as Complex Director of Restaurants & Bars for the Westin KC and Sheraton KC at Crown Center. We’re proud to say that Brent shares his knowledge and passion of wine and spirits with students at The Culinary Center of Kansas City – cheers!
Shannon Hartnett
After working sales, marketing and baking for several local grocers and bakeries, Shannon couldn't deny the 'buttercream in her blood', so she decided to focus on her true passion, cake decorating. When she's not working as a special education para-educator, she's running her small home-based business called 'Simply Sweet'. Shannon wears many hats @ CCKC, from Retail Therapist to Class Facilitator, Waitstaff and Instructor.
Gary Hild
When it comes to making great food, Chef Gary Hild’s love for cooking is exceeded only by his passion for teaching and mentoring others. His interest in nutrition and a healthy lifestyle is expressed in a broad range of cooking styles. Gary has taught at The Culinary Center of Kansas City for 17 years.
Yvette Hirang
Leaving behind a career in sales and marketing, Yvette decided to pursue her life-long dream of attending culinary school and becoming a chef. Born and raised in the Philippines, this music-loving, jet-skiing mom brings to The Culinary Center a passion for world cuisine and a knowledge how to help you prepare it!
Kyle Hopkins
A member of Boulevard Brewing Company’s Tours & Rec Dept since 2013, Kyle Hopkins leads tours, hosts beer dinners and other pairing events, and preaches the good gospel of all things Boulevard. He is a Certified Cicerone® and a passionate beer drinker. Kyle also writes the weekly column “Cooking with Booze” for the men’s style website
Marcella V. Ibarguren
An experienced baker, Marcella is also an incredibly talented pastry artist. After years in the corporate world, she followed her passion & moved to NYC to attend pastry school at the Institute of Culinary Education. She gained valuable experience in the kitchens of Danny Myer’s Maialino, Dominic Ansel’s Bakery and Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud, then moved back to her roots in KC and spent time at Rye and French bakery Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott. She started Brigabon Confections in...
Terry Kast
Terry Kast has been Head Honcho (aka Owner) of the Celtic Ranch store in Weston, MO for 11+ years. The Celtic Ranch is not your typical Irish store, it also offers the most complete line of Irish Whiskeys and Single Malts Scotches in the Midwest. This whiskey cowgirl has made it her mission to share this liquid sunshine by hosting and leading very popular whiskey tastings at the Celtic Ranch.
Joe Kieltyka
After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Special Education from the University of Kansas, Joe Kieltyka spent five years in the classroom before opening up his first of several successful restaurants, including neighborhood favorite, The Stonewall Inn. He teaches the world how to make his famous pizza and fried chicken. None better!
Laura Laiben
Main Dish & CCKC Instructor
Laura, owner of The Culinary Center, enjoys teaching the occasional class, as well as running the place! In addition to her extensive experience as a culinary arts instructor and teambuilding facilitator, Laura was a practicing attorney for 18 years before creating The Culinary Center.
Susy Lara
Susy's profession is a grade school teacher and she loves to teach! She cooks authentic Mexican cuisine and with her sister, Vicky Lara (our own "Chicana in Charge") teaches authentic Mexican cuisine here.
Vicky Lara
"Chicana in Charge" at the CCKC & Class Instructor
Vicky knows how to cook authentic Mexican cuisine just like her Mom used to make for her! She and her sister, Suzy Lara, teach classes in Mexican cooking especially the very popular "Talamada Party" classes.
Daniela Mancinelli Abel
Growing up in a big Italian family, Daniela knows and loves Italian cooking, and her background in training and cooking lessons makes her natural as a culinary instructor her at CCKC! Italian food is her forte but she also dedicates a lot of energy to cooking with organic, seasonal and non-GMO produce. She can’t wait to show the beginner cook how easy, fun and affordable it is to make delicious and sustainable meals.
Paul McCool
Paul McCool has been baking breads for family and friends since 1977. Paul's other passion is teaching, which means he's really happy to be able to combine the two by teaching baking classes in his home and at private events. He has been an extraordinary baking instructor with us since 2013.
Richard McFarlane-Clark
McFarlane-Clark, a Welshman, says he has led a charmed life. Since he began his training in Nice, France, he has cooked and eaten in some of the world’s best hotels and restaurants. Working at the BBC, he cooked for royalty and presidents. He has traveled to 86 countries, working in 16 of them. You’ll enjoy the tales of his culinary adventures he brings to his classes.
Chef Richard McPeake
"Educator of Que"
Chef Richard has been teaching our Smoking, Grilling & BBQ classes as well as our very popular Professional Series classes for over 10 years, He is also a Chef Instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College as well as cookbook author. (full resume available upon request)
Margo Mikkelson
Margo has been teaching kids’ cooking classes for us for several years now. She brings her expertise to every class. She’s passionate about showing little ones that cooking, entertaining, and creating can be fun as well as educational.
Katie Newell
Katie Newell is a reformed junk food junkie turned healthy eating expert and real food advocate. Good food is a gift that should be celebrated. Katie wants to share that gift, and the celebration, with you.
Christina Robson
Christina Robson joined the Culinary Center more than ten years ago as a student! Eager to learn new techniques and gather great recipes, she took many classes and ended up loving the place so much, she decided to spend more time here hanging out with the chefs and instructors working! She's been an instructor at CCKC since 2013, and when she is not here, she cooks and bakes at home for her family and friends.
Vincent Rodriguez
Vincent is a coffee roaster with 22+ years in the coffee industry. In 2012 he decided to follow his dream of crafting an experience with both bicycles and coffee. Since then, he opened the bicycle shop Velo+ in Lenexa, added a coffee roaster and now, chocolate. He’s partnered with Shatto Milk, Boulevard Brewing, Meshuggah Bagels and continues to develop relationships with other Kansas City area artisans. His focus is simple: roast great coffee, make great friends & enjoy the conversation.
Christine Rossi
Rossi invites you into her world of Middle Eastern foods. The stories, music and smells will transport you as Christine shares memories of growing up with a dining table filled with Jorden Almonds, figs, dates, olives, lots of lamb dishes with rice and lentils, and many types of vegetables. Enjoy a culinary trip to the Old Country with a few new twists.
Mari Ruck
Mari Ruck has been teaching great classes with us since we opened! She co-owned The Food Bin, a specialty food store, from 1983 to 2004. After college, bread baking took priority and led Mari to the Chef Program at Johnson County Community College, graduating in 1999.
Laura Thomsen
Also known as “Goddess of Good Eats”, LT has been drawn to the culinary world since she was a child delivering coffee, sandwiches and homemade banana bread to her farming father in the field. She was hooked. After developing her resume at New Century Catering, the bakery at Dean and Deluca, The New Theater Restaurant, Union Station, area schools and Unity Village, she joined the CCKC family in 2014.
Jim Tinkham
Recently named GKCCA Chef of the Year, Chef Jim has been teaching a wide variety of classes at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ since 2012 and continues to be one of our most popular instructors! Jim currently works for Fresh Ideas Food Service Management and is the Executive Chef at William Jewell College.
Jesse Vega
Chef Jesse has a sincere passion for teaching the culinary arts and has done so with us for many years now. He is a graduate from the Johnson County Community College Chefs Apprenticeship Program and was also a team member of the JCCC culinary team.
Larry Wheeler
Larry Wheeler, known as the “Director of Ambiance” at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kansas City, manages the floral department at this landmark hotel and directs social and civic events of note from small intimate parties to grand social occasions.

The Culinary Center of Kansas City™

Located in Historic Downtown Overland Park 

7920 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, KS 66204

Phone: 913-341-4455

Fax: 913-341-5070


Kitchen Shop Hours:

Monday - Friday
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
12 - 4 p.m.


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To consistently exceed client expectations and enrich our community by providing education and appreciation for the culinary arts through a variety of experiences including cooking classes, interactive culinary experiences and creative catered events, all of which are brilliantly conceived, precisely and joyously executed in an immaculate and comfortable environment.

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