Nicholls breaks ground on culinary facility

THIBODAUX — To continue expanding its unique culinary arts program, Nicholls State University broke ground on a new 33,000-square-foot facility for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute March 4. An impressive group of supporters — including Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne Jr., Chef John Folse, legislators, community leaders, accomplished chefs and culinary students participated in the festivities.

“For many of us affiliated with the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, it’s a long-awaited, eagerly anticipated, dream-come-true day,” said Chef Randy Cheramie, executive director of the institute. “As of right now, our faculty teach about 300 culinary majors in about 9,000 square feet of space. This new facility will afford us 33,000 square feet of state-of-the art teaching kitchens and classrooms along with a beautiful restaurant kitchen, dining room and demonstration center.”

The $12.6 million facility, which will be located on the corner of Highway 1 and Bowie Road, will allow the program to grow in size — by accommodating about 500 students — and in scope — by expanding its course offerings. Construction on the commercial-style building is expected to begin in May with the facility opening within two years.

The project is being funded through a public-private partnership with $8.1 million coming from state funds and Nicholls generating the remaining $4.5 million through private donations. Jindal said the state committed its support because of the institute’s potential to help grow the economy and carry on Louisiana’s rich culinary heritage.

“This new facility will help us in our mission to teach future generations about the art of Cajun and Creole cooking,” Jindal said. “At the same time, we’ll give students the tools to find job opportunities in the hospitality industry. This institute also benefits companies within the hospitality industry who need a pipeline of skilled workers to fill their jobs. Today’s groundbreaking is truly a win-win-win for our students, our restaurant industry and our state.”

The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute was an idea born over bowls of gumbo at Lafitte’s Landing in Donaldsonville, where Folse and former Nicholls president Donald Ayo envisioned a program that would preserve and advance Louisiana cuisine. The institute began offering classes in 1995 and became the first four-year culinary degree program in a U.S. public university in 1997.

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