Following a first-place finish in the National ProStart Invitational Culinary Arts Competition, Raytown Quality Schools continued to see a growing interest in its culinary program offered through the Herndon Career Center, and with that growth came the need for expansion. The program, once limited to a single small classroom, needed a state-of-the-art prep kitchen and teaching area for students to refine their culinary skills in a real-world, restaurant-style setting. The new center would mean doubling both in building size and number of students enrolled in the Herndon Institute of Culinary Arts. Raytown Assistant Superintendent Travis Hux said Hollis + Miller’s expertise was exactly what the district needed.
“Hollis + Miller focuses on educational institutions; we’re not an afterthought to this company,” Hux said. “That really comes in handy through all phases.”
The school faced several challenges as they looked to expand the program, including budget, site restraints of the existing building’s footprint, and completing the project on time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team from Hollis + Miller crafted a proposal to get stakeholders on board with the school district’s new expansion. Hux said getting the project on the ballot as a bond issue was crucial in funding the new facility.
“We went back and forth on whether this would make it on the list, but the beautiful thing is the process that Hollis + Miller uses to identify priorities for the district allowed for this to make it onto the list,” Hux said.
During the design phase, Hux said Hollis + Miller was always conscious of the district’s budget, even redesigning when necessary. And unlike many new construction projects, the culinary center avoided unexpected price changes.
“If we do have change orders, it’s usually because I have asked for it, not that it was unforeseen,” Hux said. “They have a really succinct process that allows us to get all of those stakeholders together and organize literally $280 million worth of potential projects and boil it down to what we could do with $50 million and make everybody happy about it.”
While site restraints appeared to be a challenge, Hollis + Miller designed a new 9,500-square-foot center including a commercial kitchen outfitted with new technology and a dining area for community members and events. Cinder, the building’s name, was conceptualized with materials of metal, wood and the idea of fire, a tribute to Raytown’s founder who was a blacksmith. The center can now comfortably hold students from six school districts and 11 high schools.
While complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic could have delayed the facility from opening on time, the project was completed just in time for students to return in fall 2020.
“It’s a seamless process and they know who to involve,” Hux said. “Because their expertise is in education and those types of facilities, there’s none of these leftover pieces we have to figure out later.”
Now, Hux said the facility is one of the nicest looking restaurants in the Kansas City Metro area. Fully staffed by students, the state-of-the-art kitchen puts learning on display, connecting to the dining area through open-air windows where patrons can interact with students as they work. Behind the scenes, the prep kitchen features a demonstration area with integrated technology, including a mirrored camera and display system, allowing students to follow along with the head chef as they craft meals together.