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'Top of their game': Shawnee Mission School District program cooks up next generation of top chefs

SMSD Broadmoor Bistro
Posted at 12:36 PM, Apr 25, 2024

SHAWNEE, Kan. — Nationally recognized chefs are in the making in the Shawnee Mission School District.

The district’s high school students get to learn how to cook, make and source food, and bring those skills to the table in actual restaurants across Kansas City.

“I would put our food and our menus against any restaurant in the city,” said Justin Hoffman, culinary instructor and restaurant manager. “We actually have a certificate of distinction which puts us at the top 1% of the country for high school culinary programs.”

You can find him in one of the Shawnee Mission School District’s four culinary arts businesses, namely the Broadmoor Bistro.

“It’s open to the public, so we have a 200-seat restaurant, that students completely run, they do all the cooking, they do all the serving, the hostess, the barista, the dishes, the recipe development,” he said.

This program has changed the game for students like senior Keegan Bachert.

“Best decision I’ve ever made,” Bachert said on enrolling in the program. “It’s set up my future pretty well, given me a lot of good skills, completely changed my career choice.”

He and many classmates are bringing their cooking to competitions — and winning. Some are winning as much as a full ride scholarship.

“Either Culinary Institute of America up in New York, or Johnson & Wales in North Carolina,” Bachert said of his top prospects at this point.

Junior Lucy Hutton’s life path changed after enrolling in this program, too.

“It’s kind of changed everything,” she said. “I really didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I was kind of going into the science route and that’s why I do really like getting into the food.”

After college she wants to teach or open a restaurant somewhere new.

“Somewhere cool, maybe like Singapore or Hawaii,” she said.

Hoffman said the ability to continue on highly ambitious paths like these is indicative of how sought after students are after graduating from the district’s program.

But their success is blended into the kitchen’s golden rule: a chef is only as good as their team.

“You really learn teamwork. You really learn how to communicate with your peers and how to kind of see them on a different level because you can’t really not,” Hutton said.

This program is certified through the American Culinary Federation.

If you want to help mold the next generation of chefs, they’re actively looking to hire a full-time pastry instructor!