I have to admit that I had lost track of the status of the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, or NOCHI, which was announced in 2013. The institute took over the space at 732 Howard Ave. formerly planned as Louisiana ArtWorks, an arts workshop and gallery space that failed for lack of funding. NOCHI was initially slated to open in 2016, but also suffered funding issues and construction was delayed.

Earlier this month, however, there was a groundbreaking ceremony at the building, and it is now set to begin operation next year. When it was first announced, the idea seemed like a no-brainer, and assuming that all goes as planned, it should still be successful. Though in recent months it seems as if more restaurants are closing in New Orleans than opening – reversing a years-long trend – the industry still needs workers in just about all areas.

NOCHI will include teaching kitchens, classrooms, space for a beverage program, a ground-floor café and an event space and catering kitchen on the top floor. Kitchen equipment is being provided by the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, and industry trade group; Tulane University will operate programs in hospitality entrepreneurship in addition to classes taught by NOCHI staff.  The building is now owned by the Ernest M. Morial Exhibition Hall Authority, but NOCHI will operate the institute itself.

From a recent press release:

NOCHI is already licensed by the State of Louisiana’s Board of Regents to offer rigorous, hands-on post- secondary certificate programs in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts developed in conjunction with CIA Consulting. With 650 hours of instruction provided in just twenty weeks’ time, NOCHI’s programs are designed to provide a greater return on investment of time and money for aspiring chefs seeking higher wage jobs in the industry. Envisioned from its inception as a long-term platform for diverse partnerships that advance culinary and hospitality scholarship and training, NOCHI plans to announce additional training partnerships and programs after the institute opens.

The “CIA” in this instance is, of course, not the spy agency but the Culinary Institute of America, one of if not the premier cooking schools in the country. Plans include seminars for non-professionals and 20-week programs offering certificates in advanced studies for people already employed in the industry.

The big deal, and the reason NOCHI is getting attention at the moment, is that funding is in place to complete the construction, and work has begun. Delays are still possible, and thus no firm date has been set for the opening, but it does actually feel like this thing is going to get off the ground. New Orleans is already well-known as an incubator of culinary, beverage and hospitality talent, and adding NOCHI to the mix can only improve things. I expect to be covering NOCHI in more detail in the coming months and years, and will be happy to pass any questions you have on to the appropriate people, so as always feel free to leave comments below or to send me an email.

In the interim, I hope you are all having a pleasant 2018, and that the sub-freezing temperatures are behind us. I’d wish for a reprieve from “boil orders,” but that seems overly optimistic. (Please God no more boil orders).