The New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) breaks ground Jan. 16 on its $32 million training center at 725 Howard Ave. The institution acquired the former Louisiana ArtWorks building, and in January 2019 will open a five-story school that will offer professional culinary and workforce training, classes for amateur cooks and more. Ti Martin of the Commander's Family of Restaurants, restaurateur Dickie Brennan and developer George Brower launched NOCHI in 2013. Martin spoke to Gambit about the project.
Is NOCHI primarily an educational institute?
Martin: Yes. That is the direction culinary education is going. Right now, you can go to major ones like The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) or Johnson & Wales (University), and it's $35,000 a year — you go for two years or four years — and you come and work at a restaurant for $14 an hour. The math's not really working there. So there's been a shift. People are looking at a certificate that takes six months at a much lower price level.
We have a culinary program and baking and pastry programs that are six months, so there will be two sessions a year. The next layer would be for culinary enthusiasts. If you want to come have a one-hour class on cocktails and then have drinks on our patio, you can do that. We haven't had enough of that available to locals or visitors. Or you can take a one-week class on baking or butchering.
Tulane (University's Freeman School of Business) is going to be on a floor and a half of the building teaching culinary entrepreneurship as well as some of their regular business and continuing education courses. They want to move into this area because the hospitality industry is the second largest employer in the U.S., and a major industry in New Orleans. It's ripe for disruption in terms of hospitality tech. They're teaching some of these programs already.
On the fifth floor is going to be an events center for people to have events.
The school also is going to be a convener for symposiums and other things. We want it to be a thought leader in the industry, because New Orleans has always been a leader in the culinary world.
What will the professional program cost?
M: The 13-month culinary arts program will be in the $13,000 range. That's not the workforce program; that will be more affordable. This is much less expensive than major culinary institutes. We had consulting from CIA, Johnson & Wales and Harvard (University) to develop the programs.
It's a formal structure. It's 650 hours of instruction in 20 weeks. It's very intense. It doesn't have other levels of general education. If we expand into a full associates degree, that's down the road.
What will be offered for hospitality education?
M: There are amazing opportunities in our industry. We want to teach people to be a cook or a manager. A lot of people in the hotel industry started in restaurants. We want to help people move up.
There will be workforce-level training, so in a matter of weeks people can learn how to get into the industry. We'll be training people for the (Ernest N. Morial) Convention Center, which is a partner in this. We're going to walk before we run, but it will evolve, and my dream is that we teach hospitality, from an entry level up to CEOs in different industries. New Orleans has hospitality in our DNA. I get asked to speak all the time to banks and hospitals and insurance companies. We're going to formalize that.