For the last year, I have been consulting with Johnson County Community College Hospitality and Culinary Department. I've been doing their culinary event planning for their gorgeous new, $13 million dollar, Hospitality and Culinary Academy. This is one of the most highly accredited culinary schools in the nation right now, and it is right here, in Kansas City. Most of the work I do for them, centers around creating unique food events for members of their culinary donor group called, Friends with Taste. Anyone can become a member of Friends with Taste, for as little as $100 per year, per couple. This is your donation to the culinary school, or simply the price of admission to Friends with Taste. Then once you are a member, you will be sent email invitations to attend monthly dinners, classes or even trips with other members of Friends with Taste. The money we charge for each of these events goes directly to the culinary students to help fund their culinary competitions, buy equipment and provide scholarships for the culinary students who need them. I have completely enjoyed working with JCCC and my Friends with Taste group. How could I not love helping the future Chefs of Kansas City? It IS the biggest part of why I do, what I do, for a living.
During our first year of Friends with Taste, we have hosted the following events:
- Coffee cupping class with Roasterie Coffee & Tea
- Mozzarella making class with Chef Jasper Mirable from Jasper's Restaurant
- Wine tasting class with Master Sommelier and Master of Wine, Doug Frost
- Wine Dinner with visiting Italian Chef Andrea Trapani, from our sister culinary school, Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy.
- Foodie Tour of Downtown Overland Park from Farmers Market to the Culinary Shops
- JCCC Student Culinary Team Practice Dinners - they prepare food the way they will for competition
- Anniversary Dinner prepared by Chef Ryan Brazeal of Novel Restaurant with wines by Doug Frost.
The list goes on and on . . .
If you are interested, I'd like to invite you to our next Friends with Taste event. It is a Foodie Field Trip to Bentonville, AR. Join me, and a total of 24 other Friends with Taste members, in Bentonville, AR on August 15th - 17th. If you have never been to Bentonville to see the Crystal Bridges and you are a food lover, then this little weekend away might be your perfect excuse to join us. I am calling the excursion, "Arts & Eats: A Tour of Bentonville, AR."
Group Tours not your thing? No problem. I have set his up to give you ultimate flexibility. First, you are responsible for getting there on your own. (No, tour buses will be used in the making of this field trip.) Bentonville is an easy 3.5 hour drive from Kansas City. Second, you are also responsible for choosing and booking your own hotel room. I highly recommend the 21c Museum Hotel in the heart of downtown Bentonville. All of our activities and dinners are within walking distance to the hotel, so once you arrive, if you stay here you will not need your car the rest of the weekend.
- Friday night is a private tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum, followed by a wonderful 3-course meal with wine pairings done by Executive Chef Bill Lyle of ELEVEN, the restaurant located inside of the Crystal Bridges Museum.
- Saturday we will be met by the Culinary Director for the Crystal Bridges museum, Chef Case Dighero, who will take us on a walking tour of the Farmer's Market in picturesque downtown Bentonville. Then we will spend some time at the Spice & Tea Exchange meeting the owner, Bill Oakley, and speaking to him about the spices that the local Chefs use in their restaurants. Lunch will be at local favorite, Tusk & Trotter. You will meet Sous Chef Jonathan Morrow and hear a little more about what inspires Tusk & Trotter’s “protein-centric” approach to food. Free time for the rest of Saturday afternoon gives you plenty of time to take in the Wal-Mart museum, head back to Crystal Bridges or do a little shopping downtown. Dinner Saturday night will be at THE HIVE inside of the 21c Museum Hotel. Executive Sous Chef Luke Wetzel, who will come out to our table and be our guided tour as he discusses his 3-course meal with wine pairings with our group.
- Sunday we will meet for breakfast one last time across the street from 21c Museum Hotel for a breakfast from the Crepes Paulette food truck. They will be opening 1 hour earlier for just our group and we will enjoy our final meal of the trip noshing on crepes and coffee that have the locals lined up around the block. After that, you are free to continue exploring the city or head back home.
- Price for this trip is $300 per person and includes all meals and drinks and experiences mentioned above. For more information, or to book this trip, email the JCCC Foundation at: email@example.com or call 913-469-3835.
But, planning this trip to Bentonville for Friends with Taste has not been my only experience with the culinary arts meeting the fine arts in this new consulting position. Let me give you another fine example. I was recently setting up the dining room for the final culinary competition practice dinner that the JCCC culinary students were hosting for Friends with Taste members in preparation for the upcoming ACF culinary competition. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) convention was held last month in Kansas City. (SPOILER ALERT: I am pleased to tell you that our student culinary team from JCCC won the American Culinary Federation National Student Team Championship. All of us who have worked with this student team are beyond proud of them. You can't imagine how hard they have worked for this.)
So, back to my story, the dinner was held at the new Hospitality and Culinary Academy at Johnson County Community College. As I was setting each table with silverware for the dinner, I suddenly spied a package sitting outside the building in a strange out-of-the-way corner. Who knows how long it had been there for? I said, "Let's go get that package out of the line of sight of our guests, tonight." When it was brought inside it was revealed that it was a gift from a local artist calling himself, Anson the Ornery.
Flipping it over, we rip off the plastic that says FREE PAINTING to reveal a colorful painting with a note on the back that says:
"Free Painting Series. Hooray! You have found one of my free paintings.
Who am I? I'm Anson, a local Kansas City artist. I have placed two hundred paintings all over KC in the hopes that you will be kind enough to send me a picture of this painting hanging in your home. No name, no address, no info required. You can even create a fake email just to send me a picture to my firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will choose to participate in my artwork.
Whether you respond or not, I hope you will enjoy my painting. Thank you. Anson the Onery. www. ansontheonery.com."
We decided then and there that the painting would be hung inside of the new Hospitality and Culinary Academy, as that was where it was found. We have painting 50/200, signed by Anson himself. There it was . . .the culinary arts mixing with the fine arts. It is little things like this that still give me hope in this world. Hope for happiness . . .kindness . . .surprises . . .and art, of all kinds.