New Orleans Culinary School Breaks Ground on $32M Project
New Orleans has long been a leading innovator and destination in the culinary world. With the official groundbreaking of New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) held on January 16—a new $32 million culinary school set to open its doors at 725 Howard Avenue in 2019—it now appears to be doubling down on further advancing its position for the next 300 years.
With the support of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) providing equipment for the facility; a commitment from Tulane University to launch new programs in hospitality entrepreneurship at NOCHI; and a 2017 cooperative endeavor agreement with the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, NOCHI closed on additional financing from Fidelity Bank, IBERIABANK, Enhanced Capital, and United Fund Advisors last week. The successful closing of the project’s financing fully funds the renovation of NOCHI’s historic five-story, 93,000 gross square feet space in New Orleans’ Central Business District already under way by Woodward Design+Build, general contractor for the project.
Designed by the architecture firm of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, 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 a stunning event center on the fifth floor with its own showcase catering kitchen and terraces boasting breathtaking views of downtown New Orleans.
NOCHI is already licensed by the State of Louisiana’s Board of Regents to offer rigorous, hands-on post-secondary certificate programs in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts developed in conjunction with CIA Consulting. With 650 hours of instruction provided in just twenty weeks’ time, NOCHI’s programs are designed to provide a greater return on investment of time and money for aspiring chefs seeking higher wage jobs in the industry. Envisioned from its inception as a long-term platform for diverse partnerships that advance culinary and hospitality scholarship and training, NOCHI plans to announce additional training partnerships and programs after the institute opens.
NOCHI was co-founded in 2013 by Ti Adelaide Martin, co-proprietor of The Commander’s Family of Restaurants; Dickie Brennan, award-winning restaurateur and co-owner of Palace Café, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House and Tableau; and George Brower, tax credit specialist who has helped to facilitate $125+ million in commercial ventures including the Saenger Theatre and Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans. “This is what the New Orleans hospitality industry has always dreamt of,” says Board Co-Chair Ti Adelaide Martin. “NOCHI is where culinary and hospitality careers will begin, where business minds will be nourished, and where we’ll teach the New Orleans brand of hospitality and fun.” Other current members of the Board of Directors include David Blitch, Edgar Chase III, Deborah Elam, Barbara Mollere, and Michael Smith.
A key component of NOCHI’s operations will be programming designed to drive culinary tourism for New Orleans and enrich the local community through engaging learning experiences. Locals and visitors alike will be able to immerse themselves in a wide variety of seminars and classes ranging from Knife Skills 101 to New Orleans Cocktails. “New Orleans is a world-class destination for food lovers, so it is only fitting that we offer enthusiast-related experiences designed to be both educational and fun,” says Co-Founder Dickie Brennan.
With a year-long construction under way now, the institute will shift its focus entirely to fundraising and program execution. Says Board Co-Chair and Treasurer George Brower, “Not only are we committed to completing our capital campaign before we open, our goal is to raise enough funds and support to ensure the long-term success of this incredible school that New Orleans has long deserved.”