The New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute seeks to fast track career paths in high demand industries.
photos by sara essex bradley
On January 8, the non-profit New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) flung open the front doors to welcome its first crop of culinary students. The 90,000-square-foot, five-story, state-of-the-art facility, designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, is comprised of several buildings connected via a central courtyard. With sponsorship dollars and support from industry partners and high-profile industry leaders — including the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, the McIlhenny Foundation, restaurateur and co-founder Ti Adelaide Martin, her cousin, restaurateur and co-founder Dickie Brennan, developer and co-founder George Brower (Brennan’s brother-in-law) and chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse — the school is poised to make a sizeable impact on the New Orleans hospitality industry.
“The city of New Orleans has been at the forefront of the culinary and hospitality industry for nearly 300 years, but we can’t rest on our laurels,” says Executive Director Carol Markowitz. “NOCHI is an investment that builds on what we do best in this city while positioning us to do even better — for our industry, for our supporters and for our community.”
The building is owned by the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and leased by both NOCHI and Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman Business School. NOCHI’s part of the campus includes two culinary labs, two baking labs, a beverage lab, dining lab and production lab with a terrace, various classrooms and an event space with a terrace. Gracious Bakery also opened a new location in the restaurant on the ground floor that is open to the public.
“We are setting a new standard for culinary training and education with certificate programs that provide the highest quality curricula, instruction and facilities in a world-renowned culinary city,” says Markowitz. “… Our students will be able to jump-start their careers in a matter of 100 intensive days — instead of two to four years in a traditional college degree program — for a total cost of $14,775 — instead of $30,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 at much longer programs. This is all while receiving a comparable amount of hands-on instructional hours in the kitchen.”
Markowitz says that she strives to provide both structure and flexibility, while empowering and supporting the staff and fostering their “entrepreneurial energy.”
“I hope that by taking a service-oriented approach to leadership, by encouraging us to celebrate the team’s progress and achievements and by feeding everyone really well, NOCHI will become an employer of choice in the culinary education space and in this city.”
As a startup, Markowitz says there are myriad challenges ahead, but that she wants to be strategic about the institute’s goals (“enrollment, job placement, and career success for our students … establishing policies and procedures that will instill a spirit of hospitality and strong foundation of professionalism in our students”) and “map out our growth when there is so much enthusiasm and demand for everything we’ll be able to offer.”
As the inaugural class (six pastry and 15 culinary arts students from all over the U.S.) get settled in and begin their coursework, Markowitz hopes they are struck by the “wow factor” of the design, which is one of her favorite things about the building.
“That helps to enhance every person’s unique experience at NOCHI, whether you are a student, a guest, a partner, a staff member,” she says. “ ... I mentioned earlier that part of our mission is to inspire people and our physical space helps us do that in spades.”
At a Glance: New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute
Location: 725 Howard Ave.
Date of Opening: January 2019
Size: 90,000 square feet
Number of Employees: 12
Person in Charge: Carol Markowitz, executive director
The 90,000-square-foot New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, designed by Eskew + Dumez + Ripple, is comprised of several buildings that connect via the Ecolab Courtyard. The NOCHI Café by Gracious Bakery is located on the ground floor. The café, which offers pastries, desserts, breads, sandwiches and other light dishes, along with a full bar, is open to students and the public Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (closed on Sundays).
The inaugural class includes six pastry and 15 culinary arts students from throughout the U.S. The Republic National Distributing Company Beverage Lab (top right) will be used for wine and mixology classes and, like many of the spaces, is available for private events. The two Emeril Lagasse Culinary Labs (bottom right and far right) have four, two-person stations on each side and include video monitors to provide detailed shots of the instructor.