Seminar on the Side

NOCHI develops new educational seminar series for hospitality workers


The hospitality industry is known as a sector where you start at the bottom and work your way up. The dishwasher earns her spot at food prep and tries to impress chef to get promoted to the salad station. Even those who have culinary degrees need to prove themselves in a kitchen. Career growth into management and ownership can be especially challenging. With this in mind, the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) has created a free educational seminar series called Extra Helpings.

NOCHI takes a different approach to culinary training than a traditional culinary school, offering 100-day certificate programs in both Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts. To enhance its academic programs, the new Extra Helpings seminars are designed for students, and anyone working in the hospitality industry in New Orleans, upon whom our tourism industry relies heavily.

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“NOCHI developed Extra Helpings as an opportunity for professional development and networking, not only for our students and alums but also for the hospitality industry at large,” said Leah Sarris, executive director at New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. “The hospitality community is passionate, driven and innovative; it’s also notoriously a challenging industry to grow in. Extra Helpings promotes access and upward growth by sharing key resources and industry contacts. We welcome and have something for everyone, from chefs to servers and dishwashers—all you need is curiosity.”

Sarris said the series was planned with a wide range of topics to share relevant and practical information with participants. She cited financial planning, healthcare and business skills for entrepreneurs as topics that students often request additional resources.

“These are basic needs that can be challenging for hospitality workers to access, and Extra Helpings offers an opportunity to bridge the gap,” said Sarris. “Then there are hot-button issues that chefs and restaurants face, such as building sustainability into a business model and evolving menus to suit changing customer demands. Our goal is to bring it all under one roof and, week by week, to raise up the industry as a whole.”

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NOCHI identified speakers from its network of industry leaders with wide-ranging backgrounds. Representatives from 504HealthNet, Healthy Gulf, New York Life Insurance, Grow Dat and even The New York Times will lead the free educational conversations. The program also invites speakers who are interested in participating to contact them directly at

By the end of this year, NOCHI will have graduated its first two cohorts of students in Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts. These students, who are 55 percent female and range in age from 18 to 58, come from a wide array of backgrounds; some are starting their second or third career, and others are taking the next step in their culinary careers. The Extra Helpings seminars enhance the professional and personal growth hospitality workers seek.

“We’re proud to offer them world-class education here in New Orleans, to empower them as skilled cooks and entrepreneurs, and to support them financially with scholarships and paid work opportunities. In our first term alone, we met 100 percent of stated financial need,” said Sarris.

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Extra Helpings are planned on Mondays from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to be as accessible as possible for hospitality schedules. Advance registration is required. Hospitality workers who want to register for a free seminar can do so online.

The Extra Helpings series will continue through 2020. The following are currently scheduled:

Sept. 23 – Sustainable Seafood and Sourcing

Oct. 7 – Entrepreneurship for Hospitality Workers

Oct. 21 – Menu Planning for Health-Minded Customers

Nov. 4 – Financial Planning for Hospitality Workers

Nov. 11 – Careers and Advocacy in Local Agriculture

Nov. 18 – Food Media and Brand-Building

Dec. 9 – Tools for Professional Negotiations


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