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 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.
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!
Molly Flynn
Lead Chef & Instructor
CCKC Lead Chef Molly Flynn 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.
Clark Grant
Exec Chef Clark Grant started cooking and baking at age 10 with his grandmother in his hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia, and he began professionally in 2004 as a line cook at an Italian café in Athens, GA. His culinary journey led him to Chicago and then to KC, where he has partnered with Shawn McClenny to open Hogshead Kansas City. With experience in modern & classical cuisine, Clark focuses on palate-pleasing flavor combos that are executed with quick precision.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Rachel Van Stratton
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, additionally she shares her decorating talents at many pop-up shops around the KC area.
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.
Jackie Wilson
A native of Overland Park, Jackie graduated K-State with a degree in Home Economics Education and went on to become a certified Culinary Arts Instructor. She used that background to teach for 25 years, as well as working in restaurants, catering and as a food stylist. After spending the past 9 years teaching at the Lake of the Ozarks, Jackie is returning to her roots in KC and will continue to share her passion for good food, good cooking and good company.
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®!

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
Summer Hours


Mon, Tue, Fri
9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Farmers Market Days
Wed & Sat
8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

9 a.m. - 8 p.m.


Noon - 5 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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