NEW ORLEANS — Going pro as chef is never easy, but it just got easier in the Big Easy thanks to the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI). The $32 million facility broke ground (if not bread) at a ceremony earlier this week at the site of the former Louisiana ArtWorks building with the NOCHI board and staff, and Governor John Bel Edwards on hand.
Designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple architecture firm, the school will include five dedicated teaching kitchens, a beverage lab for wine and spirits programs, a retail café space on the ground level, separate classroom and office spaces for NOCHI and Tulane University, and an event center on the fifth floor with its own showcase catering kitchen and terraces overlooking downtown New Orleans.
The institute will offer post-secondary certificate programs in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts developed in conjunction with CIA Consulting, a culinary consultancy spur of the Culinary Institute of American. (Note that this is not the Central Intelligence Agency, although the biz does claim “70 Years of Food Intelligence” on its website.) While there’s no word if the the emphasis in baking and pastry arts will include a master class in beignets, New Orleans’ signature donut-like sweet treat introduced to the city by French-Creole colonists in the 1700s, there are plenty of words on the fraught history of bringing the school to fruition:
After the 93,000-square-foot, five-floor Louisiana Artworks building project failed, the school’s board members won a bid to begin their project for $6.2 million and an ambitious start date that came and went in 2016. The opening was subsequently scuttled for a 2017 bow, but funding issues have led to a prospective 2019 launch after a year’s worth of renovations. The space will also be open to the community and visitors with seminars and classes, including New Orleans Cocktails and Knife Skills 101.