New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute
The South is celebrated the world over for its hospitality. Here in Louisiana, we have hospitality down to a fine art form. From the crawfish boils of springtime to the deep gumbo pots of football season, we’re always finding a way to gather together and welcome communities old and new. We’re lucky to live in a state with a rich heritage that gives us some of the world’s greatest food, surrounded by neighbors who are devoted to carrying on that legacy.
This spring, John Bel and I were thrilled to celebrate the grand opening of New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. (The last time we saw it was in late 2018, when all visitors had to wear hard hats!) Two of the school’s founders, Ti Martin and Dickie Brennan, were born and raised in New Orleans dining institutions like Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s; their cofounder, George Brower, is a seasoned local developer. These three know better than anyone that the hospitality industry is the heartbeat of our state. They recognized a real need to develop a pipeline of skilled hospitality workers and an opportunity to give back to the industry that has given so generously to their hometown. This January, after years of hard work and preparation, they saw their dream come to reality.
A food capital like New Orleans deserves its own hub of culinary education, and my husband and I are thrilled to support NOCHI’s mission. The school’s concentrated 20-week curriculum is designed to put students on the fast-track to a culinary career, creating an accessible entry point to this vital and ever-growing field. John Bel and I were so inspired by the passionate, ambitious students we met, who have taken advantage of every learning opportunity. Kewianna Richardson had been studying to become a pediatrician when she bravely decided to instead pursue her culinary calling. Through her time at NOCHI, she learned the skills to grow her catering business, with the goal of eventually opening her own fine dining restaurant.
Restaurant and foodservice jobs comprise 11% of employment in Louisiana, and that number is only expected to grow in the next decade. With an estimated $10.3 billion in restaurant sales in 2018 alone, it’s crucial for us to cultivate the next generation of industry leaders. I’m so proud of my husband for working to boost our great state’s economy by supporting projects like NOCHI, which is educating these hardworking professionals and carrying out Louisiana’s legacy. Together, we’re promoting the new face of hospitality.