When the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) opens its doors on January 7, the state of the art teaching facility will include training for students from across the region, reception areas, classrooms, wine and spirits labs and so much more. The 90,000 square foot, five-story building, and education system has been led from the near beginning in 2013 by executive director Carol Markowitz, who comes to the project with a clipboard fully loaded with business and creative ideas, and leadership skills honed by years in finance.
Q: What brought you to the NOCHI project initially, why did you want to be involved? I think if you were to have told any entrepreneurial-minded person who understands the importance of food to this city’s heritage, culture and brand that New Orleans needs a culinary school, you’d get their attention. If [Commander’s Palace proprietor] Ti Martin is the one who told you that and then asked for your help, I don’t know how one could refuse? Have you met the woman?
Q: What role do you see NOCHI playing in the New Orleans community? I see NOCHI being a game-changer for our community in so many critical ways. First and foremost, it will be a resource that creates access and opportunity through excellence in education and entrepreneurship. It will also be a demand generator for culinary tourism from all around the world by those who live to eat and drink like we do here in New Orleans. Longer term, I see NOCHI helping to redefine New Orleans as a global thought leader as “the” place where industry and academia convene and collaborate on all things food and hospitality.
Q: What kinds of students do you see NOCHI attracting and appealing to, and how can it help their careers? We are setting a new standard for culinary training and education that provides the highest quality curricula, instruction, and facilities in a world-renowned culinary city. I believe NOCHI will attract and appeal to some of the shrewdest and most driven students who will choose to jump-start their careers in a matter of 100 intensive days at NOCHI for a total cost of $14,775, instead of $30,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 at much longer programs. These students will also have the unique advantage of starting their careers in a region that boasts approximately 2,000 non fast-food restaurants with a huge demand for trained professionals.
Q: What experience do you bring to NOCHI as Executive Director? My background is in finance and strategy, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to invest all my professional training and experience into something that can have such a permanent and meaningful impact to our city and to the industry. Applying my business mindset and approach to starting and building a non-profit educational venture that serves the hospitality industry is this amazing opportunity to “pay it forward” for an industry I’ve fallen absolutely in love with.
Q: How have you seen the restaurant industry changing in recent years? One of the biggest trends I continue to see having impact on the restaurant industry is that people are cooking less at home in favor of every other old and new way to dine including meal delivery services, restaurant delivery services, food halls, food trucks, pop-ups. This signals great opportunity for our students and future graduates, as does the increasing passion and pursuit for unique and authentic dining experiences.
Q: Where do you see the city and the industry moving in the future? My vision for the future of the industry is that it advances the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion, and actively contributes to the ongoing development of a healthier, more equitable and sustainable food system. I see New Orleans being able to play a major leadership role in that vision and continuing to demonstrate that the hospitality industry is an industry that knows no limits.
AT A GLANCE
Born: Los Angeles
Education: Stanford University (BA, Economics) and Harvard Business School (MBA)
Favorite restaurant: I’d like to take the “fifth” on this one . . .
Favorite Cookbook: My go-to website sources for recipes include NYTCooking.com and Epicurious.com
Favorite Comfort Food: My mom’s Korean food
True Confession: I put hot sauce on pretty much everything I eat and even carry a bottle on me at most times.