Longtime chef opens cooking school in downtown Lawrence, teaching French, Italian, German styles and more

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Carolyn Kumpe, owner of Cookshop on 8th, is pictured at the new cooking school's downtown location at 745 New Hampshire St.

I can envision that a menu that includes pizza by the slice and Steak Diane would lead to several things. A confused Italian and an insulted Diane are just two.

A new Lawrence cooking school, though, I would not have guessed.

But that combination is part of Carolyn Kumpe’s story and her new Lawrence business, Cookshop on 8th, which teaches French, Italian, German and a host of other cooking styles to small-group classes.

Don’t look for a combination pizza and Steak Diane class anytime soon. But Kumpe indeed worked at a Lawrence restaurant decades ago that had such a menu. It was the old Campus Hideaway just off 11th and Massachusetts streets. A new owner who was a classically trained French chef bought the popular student hangout. He had to keep the pizza because it was the business’s best seller, but he really wanted to do upscale dining at the location, thus the odd menu fusion.

The concept didn’t last, but the early lessons the chef gave Kumpe and her fellow employees did.

“We learned all the mother sauces,” Kumpe said, referring to classics like tomato, Hollandaise and béchamel. “He knew what he was doing.”

And when the Campus Hideaway closed, Kumpe knew what she was doing too: heading to California. That led to a 17-year career cooking in San Francisco, including at her own French-inspired restaurant, Tisane. But her favorite job was a three-year stint at a cooking school in Sacramento.

So, when retirement came — a few years earlier than expected because of the pandemic — a couple of things came to mind. First was Kansas, after a changing California no longer looked like the dreamland of years ago. The second thing, after she and her husband relocated to a rural property near Oskaloosa, was the idea of a cooking school.

“I decided if I was going to work again, it should be doing what I love,” she said.

Cookshop on 8th opened a few weeks ago in the building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets that previously housed a branch of Bank Midwest and a Sandbar Sub shop several years ago. Kumpe is using the existing commercial kitchen and diner-style counter space to host small classes of approximately a dozen people who want to learn a variety of cooking styles or techniques.

“It is hands on,” she said.

The business already has hosted sold-out classes on scones, spaghetti, biscuits, paella, sushi and several other topics. Kumpe teaches most of the classes, but she said several of her chef friends have agreed to teach a class when they make the trip to Kansas to visit her. That includes a California chef who will provide a class on Mexican cuisine, a French chef from Houston and another from New Orleans.

Next on the list is bringing in local chefs and farmers. Kumpe said she will have a local butcher providing classes this winter, and she’s already making connections with several local food producers because she’s buying ingredients from them. That includes millers of local flour, growers of local mushrooms and producers of local cheese, thus far.

“I like to stress the points of eat well and use good ingredients, because your health is your wealth,” Kumpe said.

The classes are expected to be the biggest part of Cookshop on 8th’s business model. But Kumpe said she also thinks the location, 745 New Hampshire St., will be a good spot for specialty events that are centered around cooking or food.

Examples include birthday parties, bachelorette parties or other special events where participants get some instruction, but also spend a lot of time eating, networking and enjoying creations from the kitchen. For those special events, the customer gets to pick what food or skill they want taught.

The business doesn’t have a liquor license, but is set up to allow guests to bring their own alcoholic beverages. Kumpe said she’s currently in the process of working with a local wine shop to make wine-pairing recommendations for each class or event she hosts.

And some of the events can get pretty unusual.

“If you want to get 25 people together and cook paella in the alley, we can do that,” Kumpe said, explaining that the business has huge pans for paella that are best used outside.

Kumpe also thinks classes geared toward kids will be a hit. She has already hosted a kids pizza-making class and has a kids pasta class set for next month. Most classes, both for adults and kids, range in price from $35 to $65, with many lasting three or four hours.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The building housing Cookshop on 8th, 745 New Hampshire St., is pictured on Sept. 7, 2023

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