Fast Food

WSU Tech culinary program looking for a chef de cuisine

WSU Tech’s The Niche, which will include a culinary program as well as a ramen restaurant and public food hall, is getting closer to complete in downtown Wichita.

WSU Tech’s The Niche, which will include a culinary program as well as a ramen restaurant and public food hall, is getting closer to complete in downtown Wichita.

The Wichita Eagle

WSU Tech’s new culinary school — called National Institute for Culinary & Hospitality Education (or The Niche, for short) — is speeding toward completion in the old Henry’s building on the corner of Broadway and William, and its administrators are hoping that classes can start there soon.

But before they do, the staff has one big hire to make, said John Michael, who will serve as director of the program. The Niche is now on the hunt for a chef de cuisine, who will be in charge of the school’s ground-floor restaurant called Envision Bistro, will teach a couple of classes and will head up any catering gigs at the building.

Michael said the school already has a few top-level local chefs interested but is soliciting more applications for the job, which will be focused solely on food and not on the business and paperwork hassles that typically bog down executive chefs.

The job is also envisioned as one that will have daytime hours and would usually require around 40 hours a week — another rare find in the chef world.

“I’ve been at multiple head chef positions myself, and you spend 95 percent of your time doing stuff that has nothing to do with food,” Michael said. “The chef de cuisine is almost like a dream job for a lot of chefs. You get to do all the fun stuff.”

Michael said the school hopes to make a hire by the end of the year. Interested chefs can still apply a

On Wednesday, Michael guided a tour of the massive new school, which takes up four floors in the former Henry’s building.

WSU Tech is leasing 23,000 of the building’s 64,000 square feet from owner Sudha Tokala, who is a pharmacist turned developer and who also is opening a new nonprofit Kansas Health Science Center and its Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Henry’s building ground floor will include a restaurant called Jinya Ramen Bar — set for a January opening — as well as the Envision Bistro (which originally was going to be called BVI Bistro.) The school will run that restaurant but it won’t open until later in 2023.

The ground floor also has space for a Tokala-owned, open-to-the-public food hall that will have five individual counters where different dining concepts can set up. Those also won’t likely open until later in 2023, Michael said.

The building also has a 500-person event center with 4,000 square feet of indoor space and another 4,000 square feet outside, a floor full of classroom space and kitchens for the WSU Tech program, and even commercial kitchen space that will be for rent to startups in the basement of the building.

Construction on Jinya Ramen Bar, which is on the ground level of the space and accessible through its south-facing door, is well underway and much of the interior, including a large and attractive bar, is complete. Tokala is a franchisee for Jinya, a Los Angeles-based company that makes slow-cooked ramen dishes, small plates like dumplings and mini tacos and more.

Michael said he couldn’t commit to opening dates for the classroom spaces but said inspections are happening this week, and he’s hopeful the building is almost ready for its public debut.

“Fingers crossed,” he said. “It’s very close.”

This story was originally published October 27, 2022 1:50 PM.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.

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