By Daneen Thurman

Saturday, the reigning National Champion Culinary Team from the Herndon Career Center in Raytown manned a pop-up bistro at the BMX Mid-America Nationals held in Raytown.

Chef Mike Chrostowski mentioned several students who have gone on to make their names in some of the most highly rated restaurants in the country: The French Laundry in Napa, Charlie Trotters in Chicago, and Eleven Madison Park in New York. One of his students was in town and asked to participate in Saturday’s event.

“The Teacher has become the student”, said Chef Mike when asked to tell us about his class. “Graduated students call me and tell me what’s going on in their lives…I never called my teachers…these kids want to tell me what they’ve achieved.” He acknowledged the drive and determination his students have, diverting attention from his impact. He could not have been more proud of his former and current students.

Chef Mike said his daughter races BMX, and when he heard there was going to be such a huge event, he asked, “Who’s doing your food?”

Chef Mike didn’t want to do burgers and fries…he wanted to do a dining event. Breakfast included “Belly Bustin Biscuits and Cajun Gravy” (It was DELICIOUS), Breakfast Burrito (eggs, cheese, pulled pork – YUMMM), BLTA Canadian Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado Aioli on Texas Toast, all alongside fresh fruit, yogurt, Avocado Toast, and an Israeli Couscous with dried cranberries, spinach, feta, over a grilled ham steak. Not your average meal at a bike race.

The large white tent was crowded, even at 10 when most of the breakfast goers were already on the track. Staff (students) in crisp white jackets and smiles–everyone was smiling. Orders were at the end of the counter almost before the diner got there. Did I mention they were smiling? Young people from several Jackson County school districts were elbow deep in their future, learning skills that will take them far and wide, and by the end of the year, they’ll each have created a business model. When they leave, they’ll be taking two certifications and the pride of achievement from the Heartland along with them.

The future for the Herndon Career Center Culinary curriculum is bright. If the education bond passes in April, they’ll begin the ground breaking on an in-school restaurant for the public. I’ll be in that line.