NEW ORLEANS (press release) – New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) will host Cooking for a Cause, an all-out fundraiser tailored to the times, Sept. 30–Oct. 14. The two-week event will take place entirely online, where auctiongoers can bid on unparalleled private classes with some of the top names in hospitality, including Emeril Lagasse, Danny Meyer, Donald Link, and Nina Compton, as well as high-end kitchenware. On Oct. 14, the event will culminate in a live-streamed “grand finale” in conjunction with Commander’s Palace’s wildly popular wine and cheese Zoom classes. Ian McNulty of NOLA.com | The Advocate and Dan Davis of Commander’s Palace will co-host the virtual party.

All proceeds from Cooking for a Cause will support NOCHI’s flagship hospitality programs, as well as continuing education and community initiatives for the Greater New Orleans region.

In a time when in-person celebrations have all but come to a halt, Cooking for a Cause aims to do two things: provide memorable (and safe) experiences to a global community of cooks and raise money to support the nonprofit culinary school’s students and programs. It is the school’s first annual fundraiser. With eye-catching offerings targeted to everyone from budding home cooks to industry professionals, the only “entry” requirement is a love of food and New Orleans.

The curated offerings will take place in NOCHI’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchens or via Zoom and will be scheduled at the winning bidder’s convenience within one calendar year. In just a taste of the auction offerings, Nina Compton, chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro, will lead a hands-on pasta workshop, while Emeril Lagasse will lead guests in cooking their own feast with his signature recipes. Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace fame offers a contemporary take on Creole, while Eater Young Gun Serigne Mbaye presents a Senegalese reimagining of the signature New Orleans cuisine. Donald Link, Sue Zemanick, Dickie Brennan, Toya Boudy, and NOCHI’s own chefs are also on the roster of small, socially distanced culinary romps. Those opting to stay home will be tempted by an interactive five- course dinner party catered by NOCHI Executive Chef Scott Nesbitt.

Cooking for a Cause also features a tiki-inspired mixology class led by Deniseea Taylor, founder of Cocktails by POP, who has curated pop-up experiences for clients like W Hotels, L’Oréal, and Gucci across the country. For wine lovers, three-time Wine Spectator Grand Award recipient and Commander’s Palace “Wine Guy” Dan Davis will curate the Grape Fight, a live showdown between two winemaking heavyweights where guests choose the winner.

Seasoned chefs and hospitality entrepreneurs won’t want to miss a never-before-seen coaching experience with Danny Meyer (Founder, Union Square Hospitality Group), Randy Garutti (CEO, Shake Shack), and Mark Leavitt (CIO, Enlightened Hospitality). The trio will offer their undivided attention and business acumen with a jam-packed professional consulting hour, hosted on Zoom and catered to the winning bidder’s organization.

“Since NOCHI opened in January 2019, we’ve been planning for our first big fundraiser. Cooking for a Cause looks a little different than we originally thought—and may well be even better,” says NOCHI Executive Director Leah Sarris. “We’re honored to showcase the best culinary talent Louisiana has to offer, and excited to bring truly priceless experiences to our supporters. The online platform allows that community to only grow bigger. Like so many in hospitality, we’ve faced extreme challenges in the wake of COVID-19. All proceeds from Cooking for a Cause will support our flagship certificate programs as well as continuing education and community initiatives so that we can continue to serve as a hospitality hub in New Orleans and beyond.”

Online bidding opens at 12:01am CT on Wednesday, Sept. 30 and closes during the livestreamed grand finale, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

To learn more and see the full auction line-up, visit nochi.org/cfac.