December 3, 2020

To support New Orleans culinary school NOCHI, online event taps top chefs, rising talent | Where NOLA Eats

The pandemic has been a nightmare for the restaurant business. But dreams of a better future in the hospitality field endure, and the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute is helping people work towards them.

NOCHI, a different approach to culinary training, has a virtual event coming up tailored to the times to support its programs.

Boudin, Bourbon & Beer

Emeril Lagasse speaks at Boudin, Bourbon and Beer, presented by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, in 2018.

Cooking for a Cause is an online auction benefiting NOCHI and offering culinary experiences with accomplished chefs from New Orleans restaurants and big names from the American food world.

Auction lots include private cooking classes with Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link or Nina Compton, and a business coaching session with Danny Meyer and his executives, who run some of New York’s most successful restaurants and created the Shake Shack brand.


Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, is offering his expertise as part of a fundraiser for the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute.

To take part, people register at and bid online. Auction lots opens on Sept. 30 (you can preview them now) and are open through Oct. 14, when final bids will be made and lots will be awarded during an online party.

Commander’s Palace proprietor Ti Martin is a co-founder of NOCHI. The Oct. 14 finale event is modeled after her restaurant’s popular virtual wine and cheese parties, which were created during the pandemic and now draw hundreds of people each session for uniquely interactive online wine tastings.

The Cooking for a Cause finale will be held in conjunction with the wine and cheese party on Oct. 14 (full disclosure: this writer is a volunteer co-host of the auction finale).


Students at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute take part in a fast-track program designed to help people advance their careers in the culinary field.

The nonprofit NOCHI got its start last year as a fast-track culinary training program aimed at helping people in the hospitality field advance their careers.

It sets out a different pathway than conventional culinary schools. Instead of pursuing two-year or four-year college degrees, students complete a single-semester certificate program at the downtown New Orleans facility.


Nina Compton, chef of Compere Lapin and Bywater American Bistro, shown here at Chefs’ Charity for Children.

It’s designed to provide a quick, affordable jump-start in the field and help more people rise in management and other higher positions. Many students attend NOCHI with scholarships funded by donors.

Proceeds from Cooking for a Cause support NOCHI’s hospitality programs, continuing education and community initiatives.

Some big names have signed on to support with their time and talents.

James Beard Award finalists for 2019 (copy)

Donald Link at his downtown New Orleans restaurant Herbsaint.

For the business coaching session, Danny Meyer will be joined by Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, and Mark Leavitt, CIO, of Enlightened Hospitality.

Through other auction lots you can master the making of tiki cocktails with drinks pro Deniseea Taylor; judge a “showdown” between winemakers with Commander’s Palace sommelier Dan Davis; host an at-home dinner party prepared by chef Sue Zemanick; or trace the connections of Creole and Senegalese cuisine with rising talent Serigne Mbaye. 

Find details and more information at

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