Master Chef Richard McFarlane-Clark and chef, caterer and sommelier Carey Weir who owns the St. James Event Center in Liberty and Salt Catering are teaming up to create the Kearney Culinary Academy located at 105 S. Jefferson in downtown Kearney.
The 4,000 square-foot space will feature a modern loft-like esthetic featuring three commercial kitchens and a full patio that will serve as their barbecue pit where they will teach their barbecue classes. The pastry kitchen will feature cool white marble counter tops, and each kitchen will sport the latest in both traditional and cutting edge molecular gastronomy equipment.
Kearney Culinary Academy will combine culinary training, group fun, and the opportunity to enjoy uniquely themed meals. You’ll find peer to peer and chef to peer cooking classes, along with child, teen and adult cooking classes, and professional cooking classes classes in addition to a full working bakery that will sell items to the public.
They will also be hosting hands-on team building events, have a commercial kitchen ready to incubate food artisans, and offer a barbecue cooking series and a line of grab n’ go meals called Chef’s Kitchen that will be prepared each day to be picked up by folks on their way home from work.
“We will also be working for accreditation to teach culinary vocational and technical programs for the High Schools in North Kansas City, that will feature advanced culinary training programs, with access for the students to put their practice to work at Bistro 105 located just across the parking lot from the academy,” says Weir.
They also plan to host culinary experiences or dinners that will always be partly hands-on and partly observing a professional chef as he/she creates demonstration dinners and five-course meals around a certain theme, and, of course, students will enjoy the meal at the end of the class with wine pairings.
“Education will be the core of everything we do here,” says McFarland-Clark. “But, we will not be so serious that we forget to have fun.”
The academy will be equipped with a full bar that will allow them the ability to host various events and parties as well as cater them.
The two chefs are backed by two local investors, Mike Wrenn and Becky Cole, who own and run, Affinity Group Management, a company that deals in the insurance and real estate business. But, as a couple, they also have an interest in investing in local businesses to ensure their future success.
“I am primarily driven today by the motivations and passion of others who are either in a small business or would like to create a small business and have reason to believe that they can, with our support, succeed,” says Wrenn.
Wrenn and Cole also happen to own Bistro 105, a small restaurant in downtown Kearney, that Weir is currently managing for them in addition to her thriving catering business, which is how the conversation started between the two of them about the plans to open a culinary school. Bistro 105 is directly across the shopping center from where the new culinary academy will be.
“Carey and I were approached by Mike and Becky to head up this project for them, and they have been completely supportive of all of our ideas and 100 percent hands off,” says McFarland-Clark. “They trust us to do the right thing.”
McFarland-Clark is a relative unknown in the Kansas City chef circles. He speaks fondly, with a charming British accent, about his early career in Europe working corporately for hotels, nightclubs and restaurants. He ended up eventually moving to the United States for good in 2008, and opened a small restaurant in Herington, Kansas. He was forced to close his restaurant after he suffered some health issues a few years later, and from there he moved to Kansas City.
He eventually found his calling working with people who had disabilities or who were hungry. Working for several programs that feed people, including Harvesters, around the Kansas City area, he found his skills as a chef helpful to soup kitchens, as they struggled to figure out what to serve the homeless and hungry with the ingredients they had on hand or where given to use within a certain budget. To scratch his itch to cook four star meals, McFarland-Clark also spent several years teaching French and European-themed cooking classes at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.
Now, he is looking forward to running the culinary academy, with Weir, who will run her catering business, Salt, out of the new culinary academy in addition to teaching classes and hosting wine dinners there.
Right now, both chefs are looking to connect with other chefs, food artisans or home cooks willing and interested in teaching a class at their new facility when it opens this summer. They will work with anyone interested in building a class from the ground up, and will do the marketing to sell the classes. Anyone interested in teaching a cooking class should contact Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is our goal to draw regular customers from a 3-state area to this facility,” says McFarland-Clark. “We know we are the new kids on the block, but we plan to put everything we have into building a real culinary community here.”
Kearney Culinary Academy, 105 S. Jefferson, Kearney, Missouri.