Once a month, people from all over Olathe arrive at Les Arts Culinaire to enjoy a fine-dining experience. The restaurant is run by students enrolled in the Culinary Arts program that falls under the Olathe Advanced Technical Center. Students from the Olathe, Blue Valley, and Spring Hill school districts enter this program if they are interested in culinary arts, and receive instruction from culinary professionals.
Only juniors and seniors are allowed to enroll in the program, which includes classes at Olathe North for three hours a day. As seniors enter their second year in the program, they are allowed more responsibility in and out of the kitchen. Senior head pastry chef, Paige Schoenhals reflected on this transition. “I think it’s huge,” Schoenhals said. “There’s a lot more responsibility, and you’re expected to do a lot more. The chefs kind of treat you more like a worker than a student.”
Senior Brennan Smith, who was the sous chef for the October restaurant night, also considered the differences between junior and senior year of the program. “Since it’s my senior year, I feel a lot more important,” Smith said. “You have to be a role model for the younger people.”
Senior Trea Stahlhut explained the different roles that the seniors of the program might take on, and how they are different from junior year. “Seniors take on leadership roles, like the general manager, executive chef, and sous chef,” Stahlhut said. “Seniors still might be a cook or server, since there aren’t that many head positions available. I’ll be general manager [for the October restaurant night].”
Planning the menu for each night is usually a week-long process, and an important one at that. “Typically we give ourselves from Wednesday to Friday to plan, but since this is our first [restaurant night] we are starting Tuesday,” Stahlhut said. “The general manager and the head chef talk about what kind of menu they want to do.”
While planning the menu, the general manager and head chef have to consider any guests who might have a food allergy or a specific diet, like vegetarianism. “We did a dinner theatre and we had to serve pistachios, but we had some people who were allergic to nuts, so we just made a different dessert for them,” Stahlhut explained. “However, it’s not as common as I thought it would be.”
Once the restaurant closes for the night and all of the guests have left, the students gather and read the reviews from those who ate there.
One semester remains, and these seniors have started thinking about their plans for next year.
“I plan on going to JCCC and get my degree in Food and Beverage Management,” Stahlut explained.
Schoenhals and Smith are also considering JCCC’s culinary program.
With the experience they’ve gained through Les Arts Culinaires, these seniors have a sure path in front of them.