Christy Harmon started cooking when she was 6-years-old making pancakes with her father.
Now she’s in the first class and her second semester at WSU Tech’s relatively new National Institute of Culinary and Hospitality Education (NICHE). After graduating in as soon as another year, Harmon hopes to open a catering and meal prep business. NICHE’s program intrigued her because “it was a culinary program that was close to home. It was decently affordable.
“I like how broken down the program is – it’s broken down to culinary or hospitality. I didn’t have to do a four-year program.”
NEW RENOVATED DOWNTOWN FACILITY
Harmon, like other members of her class, are excited about the school’s news home, which is expected this fall. They’ve been taking classes at WSU Tech’s South Campus and Boston Recreation Center, however this fall, they’ll move into their new 65,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility in downtown Wichita.
The school will open in the historic Henry’s building at 124 S. Broadway and it’s part of a major educational renovation downtown, with the new Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine also scheduled to open this fall.
The property is being be renovated to feature state-of-the-art commercial kitchens, classrooms, demonstration kitchen, an open-to-the-public food hall, student-ran café, and rooftop event center. Envision, a nonprofit who promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision, is partnering with WSU Tech to create a first-of-its-kind innovation kitchen and culinary education opportunity designed to help meet the career goals of people who are blind or visually impaired.
“WSU Tech is proud to bring this new educational opportunity to downtown Wichita,” said Dr. Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech. “NICHE will further build upon the momentum generated in recent years in our community and will create a synergy between our students and applied learning opportunities. Many of the spaces will be open to the public, and it is our hope that NICHE will become one of the top food destinations in the Wichita region.”
Included in the food destinations open to the public will be the food hall, student-run cafe, a rooftop event center available for leasing with the food and service provided by program students and, a bistro to be operated by Envision participants. The facility will also bring to Wichita a location of the popular and expanding restaurant chain Jinya Ramen Bar, The restaurant is a favorite in the growing Ramen craze. The food is a far cry from the dried ramen you buy at your local grocery store.
WSU TECH CULINARY & HOSPITALITY PROGRAMS
The Hospitality and Events Management program began in fall 2020 and focuses on customer service, foundational skills in food and beverage operations as well as hospitality finance and human resource management. The one-to-two-year associate degree or technical certificate options also includes an internship course which allows students to apply classroom and lab experiences in the real world.
The Culinary Arts program opened in fall 2021. This is a one-to-two-year program that covers a diverse menu of options, from artisanal breads and pastries to global cuisines classes.
Harmon says she likes the small class sizes and that her teachers have taken an interest I her success. The program “feels like family,” she said.
NICHE is helping Harmon prepare for a career, she said. She hopes to open a catering and meal-prep business after she graduates.
At a recent press conference announcing a $400,000 contribution from Cargill to the culinary program, WSU Tech Foundation president Courtney Sendall told Harmon that “we can’t wait to cheer you on wherever your career might take you.”
Utash further supported WSU Tech’s commitment to the program and its students.
WSU Tech wants to “inspire the next generation of leaders for our city, our region and our state,” Utash said. “In the end, we all are here for one reason, and that is for the betterment of our students.”