The Solomon family and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation announce $2 million gift to NOCCA


Emeril Lagasse and Gary Solomon, Jr. at a press conference held today at the NOCCA Forum building. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Emeril Lagasse and Gary Solomon, Jr. at a press conference held today at the NOCCA Forum building.

The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and today one of its alumni, partnering with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, gave the school a hearty gift to say congratulations. Gary Solomon Jr., with the support of the Solomon family, teamed up with Lagasse to grant $2 million to the new NOCCA Forum building, which will house an expanded culinary arts program and a full-day academic curriculum.

The gift will fund not only the building, but the programming that will happen inside. "The NOCCA Forum will allow for expanded academic curricula," Solomon said during a press conference today. "It will give the school's integrated sciences and humanities room to fully develop. And it will allow for engaging school-year and summer workshops in arts, humanities and the important STEM subjects for regional 6th through 12th grade students."

Solomon talked about the inconvenience of having to go to two schools to attend NOCCA, since the arts program has always been a supplementary high school without a core academic curriculum. "For many young people, going back and forth between two schools during the day was a hurdle to overcome," he said. "NOCCA is a free school, and its doors are open to young people from all types of backgrounds."

Solomon added that the success of his entertainment design and production company, Solomon Group, could be largely attributed to the love of arts that NOCCA sparked in him. 

Emeril Lagasse, who was coming off of a long weekend of Boudin, Bourbon and Beer, told Gambit, "This is very, very exciting, this program, especially in our field, which is so important in the city of New Orleans, culinary arts. This facility is going to bring this whole new layer, not only to New Orleans, not only to Louisiana, but it's going to bring this whole new layer to the world."

Lagasse told Gambit he was motivated again Friday, when he received a postcard from a recent graduate of NOCCA's culinary arts program, who secured a scholarship to Johnson Wales University (the same university that Emeril attended). Janee Taylor, who won the Emeril Lagasse Foundation's "A Dish that Makes a Difference" challenge, wrote Lagasse from Italy, where she is currently studying.

"She said, 'Grazie, see you soon,''" he said. 

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