Kansas City’s top chefs in training will soon be able to have a new way to cultivate their barbecue skills and take their show on the road.
A $1 million donation from the John and Glenna Wylie Foundation will pay for a new barbecue pavilion at the Johnson County Community College Hospitality and Culinary Academy Building. The money will also create an endowment for student competition travel.
A barbecue pavilion was part of the original concept for the freestanding culinary academy, created in 2013. The building includes an expansive professional cooking lab, an innovation kitchen for the culinary team and a 75-seat culinary theater for approximately 400 students.
At the time the building was constructed, money was not available for a permanent exterior extension dedicated to barbecue and other outside cooking techniques. Students do get trained on the smoking and exterior grilling required for the best of Kansas City barbecue, but the equipment they use now is temporary and portable.
JCCC Director for Hospitality Management, Ona Ashley, said the pavilion would help the school expand class offerings. That’s important because when people come to Kansas City they want barbecue, she said.
“We’re a barbecue town and we teach culinary,” Ashley said. “We can do a little bit now, but this will really give us an opportunity to do a lot more with what Kansas City is famous for.”
While the pavilion will be a major expansion for the program, the majority of the gift from the Wylie Foundation will go toward the creation of an endowment. That endowment will help pay for competition expenses for the school’s culinary team as well as other study abroad experiences and staff development opportunities.
The JCCC culinary team is invited to contests around the world. This year, they will attend the World Culinary Olympics in Germany and the International Culinary College Competition in Perth, Australia. The team also earned a spot at the American Culinary Competition Nationals in Phoenix in July.
Kate Allen, associate vice president for advancement and governmental affairs for JCCC, said the gift from the Wylie Foundation would create the first endowment to help with those travel expenses. Up to this point, a group called “Friends with Taste” has helped pay for the trips, which would otherwise be out of reach for the students.
“We are very grateful to the Friends with Taste members who have been making this possible for the last few years. Now, we will have a sustainable source to help complement their efforts,” Allen said.
Allen estimates the October competition in Germany alone will cost about $30,000, money that can’t come out of the taxpayer dollars that fund the college. Depending on the costs of the new barbecue pavilion, at least $750,000 of the $1 million gift will become part of the endowment.
Trust supervisors for the Wylie Foundation chose the culinary institute for the gift because a barbecue pavilion seemed to line up with John “Jack” Wylie’s interests. Wylie owned two meat companies during his lifetime. He was the owner of Midwest Boneless Meat before selling it and opening B&B Meat Company. Wylie died in 2014.
The culinary building at Johnson County Community College will be renamed in honor of the donation. It will become the Wylie Hospitality and Culinary Academy.
The next competition the JCCC Culinary Team is set to attend will be the American Culinary Federation national competition in Phoenix in July. The team earned the right to participate in that competition by winning a regional contest. Students will compete against three other regional teams and a military team. The school has won the national competition four times in the past.
JCCC is the only school that has won the competition more than twice, Ashley said.