The LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) kicked off its Summer Educator Training at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) on June 12. LRAEF Program Manager Mistica Maples-Adams was pleased with the large turnout, and welcomed a handful of returning ProStart Educators who will be re-entering the program this upcoming school year. Six new educators will begin teaching Louisiana ProStart, and participating schools have jumped from 49 to 58. Day 1 featured special programming designed for the new educators, giving them a base line of knowledge prior to the full cohort joining in on Day 2. The new and seasoned educators had industry interactions and training beyond the traditional presentations, offering hands-on culinary and hospitality knowledge.
NOCHI introduced the ProStart Educators to their campus, plus the culinary education tools available to their students upon graduating. Molly Kimball of EatFit NOLA spoke to the educators about plant based foods, and ways to engage their students with healthier eating habits. Day 2 activities continued with a trip to The Commissary, a market, kitchen and bar from Dickie Brennan & Co. This unique property has an onsite kitchen attached to Wetlands Sake, the first ever sake brewery in the state using Louisiana rice to brew their sake. Chef Jeremy Barlow is a ProStart alumnus from Grace King High School and has been employed by Dickie Brennan & Co. for almost 10 years now. Chef Barlow demonstrated the breakdown of a ribeye cut, explaining to the educators about the importance of portioning to help keep food costs stable.
While attending Grace King High School in early 2005, Chef Barlow enrolled in the ProStart program. He says being a part of Louisiana ProStart helped pave the road for a successful culinary career.
“ProStart opened up a lot of doors,” said Chef Barlow. “My first year was year before Hurricane Katrina. Our mentors were Tommy Cvitanovich from Drago’s and Greg Reggio from Zea’s. When we moved back into the city after Hurricane Katrina, Tommy offered us jobs, so basically, I was at school in the morning and Drago’s at night. So, between both of them, they opened up a lot of doors for me.”
The educators received a tour of the kitchen from Chef Lewis Smith, for a sneak peek into the making of duck & andouille gumbo. Chef Lewis demonstrated the de-boning of a duck, explaining no part of the duck goes to waste. He uses the carcass to make stock for the gumbo, served at Dickie Brennan’s Tableau.
The Commissary acts as a prep kitchen for all the restaurants under the Dickie Brennan & Co. group. Here, meats are smoked and cured, fresh bread and pastries are produced daily and the grab-n-go market offers restaurant quality foods to take home. The Commissary team provided a lunch buffet for the educators which featured an abundance of house cured charcuterie, sandwiches, soups and salads.
Day 2 finished on a high note with a six-course tasting menu and wine paring at Restaurant August, part of BRG Hospitality Group. Designed to illustrate, inspire and showcase elevated cuisine, Chef Corey Thomas and Sommelier Erin White narrated the evening’s decadent experience with LRA President & CEO Stan Harris. Sustainably sourced Louisiana seafood and local ingredients, plating, presentation and knife skills were discussed with the educators as each dish was presented. Starting with a yellowtail tiradito, using Louisiana citrus and mirliton, and ending with a key lime semifreddo, the Louisiana ProStart educators thoroughly enjoyed each course with plans to bring their experience back to their students.
“The summer training is an integral part of our continuing education experience as teachers in this ever-changing industry,” said Amiee Summerlin, teacher at Eunice Career & Technical Education Center. “Being able to network with other teachers and industry members allows us to stay in sync with trends in the restaurant industry. We are also able to make connections for our students interested in staking out a career. My favorite part was meeting teachers from various parts of the state and being able to discuss successful ways that they are reaching their students so that I can adapt and do the same. I look forward to summer training each year and this was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The nutrition portion was very informative and I can’t wait to begin to introduce the EatFit program into my curriculum.”
Stephanie White of Plaquemines Senior High School (above) feels very fortunate to have the LRAEF supporting her Louisiana ProStart program. The LRA member network gave memorable dining experiences and education presentations she will remember for years to come, and she plans on passing all the knowledge along to her students.
"The Ochsner EatFit Nola was so informative and I plan to bring a lot of what I learned about alternative foods back to the students, and introduce them to some really interesting food that can still taste awesome," said White. "The dining experience provided for us served some of the best dishes I've tasted."
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.