NOCCA Launches A Four-Year Culinary Arts Program For High School Students

By the fourth day of the summer session, everyone from NOCCA was in the kitchen.  (It was pastry day!)  It hasn’t taken long for Culinary Arts to become part of NOCCA’s heart and soul.

We — NOCCA, The NOCCA Institute, Chef Emeril Lagasse and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation (ELF) — have dreamed about this moment for the past five years.  In March, our dream became reality with the ribbon-cutting on the new Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Arts Studio at NOCCA.  Thirty-two students have successfully auditioned into this fall’s inaugural class.

The new curriculum, designed with Johnson & Wales University, is rich, layered, intense and unique, just like the region’s cultural heritage.  “If any city and state in the country is going to have the first comprehensive high school culinary arts-training conservatory, it should be New Orleans and Louisiana,” believes NOCCA President and CEO Kyle Wedberg.  “And now we do.”

The program is led by Chef Dana D’Anzi Tuohy (above in black chef’s hat), who joins NOCCA after serving as Director of Culinary for Emeril’s Las Vegas restaurants since 2007.  A native New Orleanian and graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and Johnson & Wales University, Dana oversees a program that will provide high school students with aggressive, professional culinary training over four years.  She will be joined by Chef Frank Brigsten as Master Chef-in-Residence who will teach once a week.

The curriculum will cover core skills; history; regional, national and international cuisine; nutrition; kitchen and house management; critique and communications skills; creative and personal aesthetics; presentation; real-world applications and expectations; and a thorough understanding of excellence in the culinary arts.

“Culinary is a unique art,” explains Chef Dana.  “Students must learn to take an idea from inception to plate, always with an eye towards the ability to consistently execute and teach the recipe.  Moreover, food is personal and immediate.  It is important to learn to balance your own creative vision with what the customer wants.  My goal is for students to be not just technically strong, but giving, aware, and possessing enough creative confidence to become the next great chef.”

“Emeril is passionate about seeing more young people like NOCCA’s Culinary Arts students enter and succeed in this field.  Education, mentorship,  creativity, self-discipline and pride are the core values he has brought to all of his enterprises,” says Kristin Shannon, Executive Director of ELF.  “It is why this project and partnership with NOCCA is a perfect pairing.”

NOCCA’s first-of-its-kind Culinary Arts program will link intensive culinary instruction with other arts; with math, science and the humanities; and with a visiting chefs program unprecedented anywhere.  What a recipe for success!

The development of the Culinary Arts program is made possible by Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Macy’s, Gustaf W. McIlhenny Family Foundation, Selley Foundation, Target, Galatoire Foundation and the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience.

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