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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Shanita Bryant
Executive Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant’s motto? “Winner, winner – fried chicken dinner!” It’s an appropriate mantra for this chef who was the last woman standing in an episode of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen”. Owner of Magnolia's on the Move food truck, Bryant's inspiration is seasonal freshness, ethnic diversity and simply prepared, highly flavored food.
Jackie Caldwell
Jackie is an avid student of nutrition and a holistic nutrition coach. Her belief is that food is medicine and that many of the current autoimmune diseases can be controlled through diet. She is a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and certified as a Wheat Belly Instructor and has taught classes at Your Wellness Connection, Turning Point, and Natural Grocers, and has published articles in Evolving Magazine and Health Hunters.
Bruce Campbell
"The Food & Beverage Guy" and CCKC Class Instructor
Bruce is Graduate of the Hotel and Restaurant Business School at Michigan State University. With over 30 years in the restaurant business, Bruce brings his passion and knowledge to a variety of culinary topics. As a founding member of the Rib Stars BBQ team, he has competed on the BBQ circuit for more than 17 years and has won numerous awards. Bruce has been teaching at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ since 2006.
Rachel Ciordas
Rachel was born the same year the word “foodie” was officially added to the English language, and boy, is that appropriate. Rachel has been a cooking instructor in the Kansas City area since 2010. She also contributes culinary articles and recipes to local publications and does televised cooking demonstrations. Rachel is a lifelong learner and has several degrees, a wellness certification from the Mayo Clinic and has studied cooking around the world including Le Cordon Bleu Paris.
Matt DeMoss
Matt DeMoss, owner/operator of The Meat Shed in Frontenac (SE corner of KS), started a business to share the great food he learned to make as a child. He left a teaching career to help carry the torch for the recipes & traditions he loved. He learned to source local products and to establish a market that understands quality is more important than quantity. Over the years, Matt’s love for charcuterie has grown, and he enjoys focusing on providing better food alternatives.
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!
Dr. Lisa Sharpe Elles
Lisa started cooking as a young child with anyone who would let her in the kitchen. Now as a biochemist & assistant teaching professor at University of Kansas, her love of cooking has expanded to the laboratory. Chemistry lectures often turn to how molecules in the kitchen produce yummy food. Not only is cooking a science, but cleaning is too. Lisa makes soap using natural ingredients and loves to share this science to anyone who will listen.
Molly Flynn
Molly attended culinary school at Seattle Central Culinary Academy. She 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. She worked as Banquet Chef at the Reserve event space in Rockhill Grille. before joining us at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.
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, and is now Wine & Spirits Sales Representative with Vintegrity Kansas. 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.
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!
Ariel Johnston
Ariel's passion for cooking & baking came from her mom, who encouraged her to try any recipe (and didn't mind a little mess in the kitchen). After college, Ariel moved to Australia for 4 years. Since moving back to KC, Ariel has taught nutrition and cooking classes to adults & kids for the local food bank, Harvesters. She's working on her Dietetics & Nutrition degree at Kansas State University, and is on her way to becoming a Registered Dietitian.
Nora Kaschube
Nora has had 2 passions in her life — and both involve dough. After a 30-year career in investment banking, the Kansas native attended the French Pastry School in Chicago, combining her love of dessert and art. After graduation, Nora started her own catering company called Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Lawrence. She has also taught pastry classes at the Bayleaf in Lawrence and Public Market in Lenexa.
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.
Lauren Lane
Lauren, one of our newest CCKC cooking instructors, left behind a corporate career to pursue her passion of teaching cooking and entertaining. 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 her passion but she also dedicates a lot of love to simple and delicious seasonal dishes.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Jill Garcia Schmidt
Jill grew up in Newton, KS surrounded by family and food. She learned to make authentic Mexican cuisine from her great grandmother, classic comfort food from her grandma, and family-favorite dishes and baked goods from her mother. She has spent 25 years in the food industry, and her dream is to share her passion for food with the world. She describes her approach to cooking as ‘full of fun, with a touch of manic perfectionism’.
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.
Rachel VanStratton
Rachel Van Stratton began her cake decorating career at a local cake and candy supply store where she learned the basics of cake and cookie decorating. In 2014, she opened her own home-based small business, Sweet Ideas, that specializes in custom cookie and cake orders and any other sweet idea you've got. Once a month, Rachel teaches a cookie or cupcake class at the Keeler Women's Center in KCK,
Duke Walter
Chef Duke Walter, raised in SE Kansas, lived about a mile down the road from a large dairy farm, and had a father who loved to garden, grandparents that raised cattle and parents who insisted they eat well. Chef has spent most of the last 20+ years working in & around food - much of it spent as a bartender & wine guy. Working with Chef Matt DeMoss of the Meat Shed allows him a level of creativity and camaraderie that all lifers look for in the kitchen.
Leighana Williams
Leighana Williams is one of our newest instructors, and is a passionate cake artist and baker who has worked with some of the best pastry chefs in the country. She studied art at Kansas State University and has spent the last decade cultivating her unique pastry style. After several years in San Francisco and Minneapolis, she has come back home to Kansas City to put down roots. We welcome Leighana to our awesome team of instructors at The Culinary Center of Kansas City®!
Alli Winter
As a self-proclaimed Kitchen Crusader, Chef Alli believes that the more we are inspired, encouraged and empowered in the kitchen, the better our families and lives will be. She is a sought-after speaker, who is honored to share the story of Kansas agriculture and how our food is grown. A “fancy farm wife” and mom at heart, she and her husband, Pat, live in rural NE Kansas along with their three (hungry!) sons.

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

Monday  9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday  9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Wednesday  9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Thursday  9 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Friday  9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Saturday  9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Sunday  Noon - 5 p.m.


We will close at 3 p.m. Christmas Eve and reopen at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec 27.

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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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