Grand Rapids Cooking School Kickstarter project falls short

Photo by Jonathon Stoner
Photo by Jonathon Stoner

Founded by Molly Clauhs and Chris McKellar in 2012, Grand Rapids Cooking School (GRCS) is cultivating an appreciation for the culinary experience for the Grand Rapids community. Grand Rapids Cooking School is a place to inspire the home cook.

Partnering with the school, Kelly LeCoy and Clauhs launched a campaign on Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. The campaign, an effort to better equip and grow the school, was launched on Feb. 6 and ended on March 6.

Clauhs has been working in the local food community in other ways, even before opening the school with McKellar. She owns the Silver Spork Gourmet Food Truck. LeCoy is the owner of Uptown Kitchen, the commercial kitchen and oven space where GRCS holds their classes.

Clauhs and LeCoy, already experienced food entrepreneurs at the age of 24, are passionate about educating the community about their food choices and providing hands-on experience and skill sets.

“The cooking school started as a side project for Chris and Molly. I think that GRCS is a wonderful addition to West Michigan, Grand Rapids and especially the Uptown neighborhood. There currently isn’t another hub for cooking classes [in West Michigan],” says LeCoy.

“We exist as a way to get inspired in the kitchen. It’s an alternative to going out to dinner and a way to increase cooking schools and food knowledge,” says Clauhs.

GRCS emphasizes locally sourced food and informed food choices.

“The cooking school focuses on local farms and produces and promotes that in all of the classes. Not only are students learning about how to be a more confident home cook, but also how to support their local food economy,” says LeCoy.

Contrary to other forms of culinary experience, GRCS offers classes for $55.

“You can take classes around town through different private chefs, at restaurants and other businesses, but there isn’t one place to go and find a variety of consistent classes taught by a variety of great local chefs and educators,” says LeCoy.

For Clauhs, her enthusiasm for cooking and quality food started at a young age.

“My mother and grandmother started a cooking school in Pennsylvania in 1990,” says Clauhs. “I’ve grown up in a family with three generations of passionate home cooks. That resonated with me and I wanted to offer a similar experience and resource for home cooks here in Grand Rapids.”

“The reason Uptown Kitchen exists is to give small food businesses a platform to get started. [We] advocate for and contribute to the food culture in Grand Rapids, specifically by providing opportunities for interaction between food and community in our space.

Cooking classes are a great way to do that,” says LeCoy.

The campaign closed on March 6. Although GRCS did not reach their Kickstarter goal of $8,000, they were supported by 55 backers who pledged a total of $3,946. The Kickstarter funding was anticipated to purchase professional knives and cutting boards, small appliances, pantry staples and jars for storage. In addition, the funding was intended to make improvements in their demonstration kitchen as well as marketing and promotional materials. But even though Clauhs and LeCoy did not reach their Kickstarter goal, they anticipate continued innovation within the local food community.

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