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Food is the performer at the Wysong Family Culinary Theatre

March 1, 2018

Flexible and unique space ideal for student learning and special events

Gone are the days on JCCC’s campus when chefs-in-training learned cooking techniques by watching an overhead mirror in the classroom. Instead, the state-of-the-art Wysong Family Culinary Theatre, built as part of the Wylie Hospitality and Culinary Academy (WHCA), uses four cameras, six screens and a video control booth to help instructors teach their lessons.

High-tech classroom

At the front of this amphitheater-style classroom is a demonstration area with a small kitchen. The 75-seat room has video recording capabilities, as well as the ability to project the demo area onto four screens at the front of the classroom. All of the screens can show the instructor’s hands, or some can show the hands and others the instructor’s face or even a prerecorded video. The instructor also has two screens facing him or her to show what students see.

According to Jerry Marcellus, Professor of Hospitality Management, the Wysong Theatre gives students a close-up and personal experience, even if the group is sizable. “It’s the biggest classroom in this building as far as seating capacity. It makes a great lecture hall and wonderful meeting space.” The room can accommodate even more people when a large set of double doors at the back are opened, providing spillover access into the hallway. The spillover crowd also can see what’s happening on the culinary “stage” on two large screens over the doors.

“The flexibility of this space is amazing,” said Adrian Swan, Multimedia Services Manager. “And the control booth gives you even more options for a high-tech classroom – wireless mics, the ability to change camera angles and switch back and forth between cameras, show prerecorded video and, of course, record what’s happening in the demo area.”

Ideal for special events

The Wysong Theatre was considered a must-have when the building was being designed and built. Not only is it used as a classroom almost every day, but it provides the perfect space for special events such as the culinary fundraiser Friends with Taste®, industry seminars from partners such as the Kansas Beef Council and Midwest Dairy Association, and culinary demonstrations by guest chefs.

“This is how students are learning today,” Marcellus said. “Being able to see up close how masters in the industry – like Italian chef Andrea Trapini – make risotto or how Colby and Megan Garrelts – chef-owners of Bluestem – prepare their famous scallops has a lot of impact on students. These kinds of opportunities encourage and inspire.”

For the American Culinary Federation (ACF) student competition JCCC hosts each year, photos are taken when a team completes its food. That way, when judges critique the teams all at once in the Wysong Theatre, the photos are shown on the screens and the judges can see the food right after it’s been prepared, when it’s at its best.  

Impressive flexibility

Other parts of the College find the space useful, as well. Continuing Education has used it for classes such as Mediterranean cooking, and departments find the Wi-Fi-enabled space great for offering standardized exams online, as well as for teaching lessons that benefit from recording a demonstration or broadcasting it on a screen.

“It’s almost like a third studio,” said Barrett Beasley, Video Services Director, whose team handles those “little extras” for an event like recording or streaming from the building. “Always before, we had to bring in equipment and set it up. There was never enough room, and it took a lot of time. Now we’re ready to record within 10 minutes and are completely out of the way of the event.”

Videographer Andrew Cornwell often works at the Wysong Theatre. “We’ve done everything from record a series of culinary videos that help students prepare for the ACF accreditation exam, to broadcast a live demo into the hallway for a large group, to livestream an event – complete with monitoring chat and taking questions online. There are a lot of possibilities with the space.”

Campus-wide educational opportunities

Departments interested in learning more about using the Wysong Family Culinary Theatre for educational programming should contact Jerry Marcellus at 913-469-8500, ext. 3611.

If you can see yourself in a culinary classroom at JCCC, check out these options and contact Marcellus to find out how you can get a taste of success.