Local flavors and more at Nochi

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The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Lab at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute.
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Lab at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. Photo Credit: Randy P. Schmidt

The New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (Nochi) opened this month, welcoming aspiring professionals and enthusiastic amateurs alike to hone their culinary skills within its five-story, 90,000-square-foot facility in the city's Central Business District.

On Jan. 8, 21 students began 100-day training programs, working toward certificates in culinary arts or baking and pastry arts.

"Our core mission is to train and educate the future talent and leaders of the culinary industry," said Carol Markowitz, Nochi's executive director. "But we'd be happy to host and provide hospitality to all the food and wine and cocktail enthusiasts that love our city."

To that end, on Jan. 10 the institute launched its "enthusiast courses" consisting of three-hour, hands-on sessions for "home cooks, food and wine enthusiasts and anyone wanting to better his or her skills in the kitchen" as well as shorter, demonstration-oriented classes.

Like its professional-training classes, Nochi's three-hour sessions are generally limited to 16 participants, while shorter classes can have about 30 participants, depending on topic. 

Subject matter ranges from the expected introductions to regional cuisine as well as topics designed to appeal to "the more serious food and wine and cocktail enthusiast," Markowitz said.

It's part of what distinguishes Nochi's courses from what other cooking classes in the city might offer, she added.

"There are some other boutique cooking schools that are geared toward visitors and focus predominantly on the iconic New Orleans dishes and recipes," Markowitz said. "The mandate we were given by our leadership and our founders was, 'Come up with classes locals would want to take and you'll hit gold.'"

Initial offerings include classes on the fundamentals of cheese, seasoning and knife skills, while regional cuisine gets a nod in the form of "The Louisiana Series: Into the Gumbo Pot," which offers students not merely a cooking lesson but "a deep dive into the ubiquitous Louisiana dish's heritage in French, Spanish, German and Choctaw foodways and [a] look at how it continues to evolve across cultures and seasons." The class is taught by Frank Brigtsen, a James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Brigtsen's Restaurant.

Coming March 28 is "The Louisiana Series: The Lost Restaurants of New Orleans." Taught by Poppy Tooker, author and host of the "Louisiana Eats!" radio program, the demonstration class will explore "300 years of brilliant cooks, beloved flavors and shared techniques" and teach guests "how to cook some of the fabled dishes that shaped our culinary legacy."

March will also see the debut session of "The Louisiana Series: A Seafood Boil for All Seasons," a two-hour course in which guests will "learn how to get the boil going and how to time it just right for perfectly cooked seafood and all your favorite add-ins, like andouille links, corn on the cob and other farm-fresh produce."

"For visitors that want the whole New Orleans experience, you really get to experience the joy of going to a crawfish boil, which you might not otherwise be able to experience," Markowitz said. 

Nochi's three-hour enthusiast courses start at $130, while shorter classes start at $65. For a class schedule and more information, visit www.nochi.org.

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