Two New Orleans restaurateurs and a developer say they have the $32 million in financing needed to turn a failed visual arts center into a nonprofit restaurant and hotel school, and construction has begun.
The New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute should open next year, with classes at levels from tourist to professional, a news release Wednesday said. It says courses at all levels from tourist to professional are planned, with those for student certification to be developed with consultation from the famed Culinary Institute of America.
“This is what the New Orleans hospitality industry has always dreamt of,” Board Co-Chair Ti Adelaide Martin, co-owner of the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants, said in the news release. “NOCHI is where culinary and hospitality careers will begin, where business minds will be nourished, and where we’ll teach the New Orleans brand of hospitality and fun.”
The school’s other founders are restauranteur Dickie Brennan, and developer George Brower, who was behind the Saenger Theater’s renovation.
The building was erected with $25 million in public and private money, opening in 2004, closing again, reopening in 2008, and closing for good in 2011. School founders bought it in 2014 for $6.2 million, saying they hoped to open the school in 2016.
Last February, the convention center’s governing body bought the building for $12 million and signed a 40-year lease agreement with the school.
The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers is to provide equipment for the facility; and Tulane University’s business school plans hospitality entrepreneurship programs there.
School officials say they got additional financing in late December from Fidelity Bank, IBERIABANK, Enhanced Capital, and United Fund Advisors to bring the total to $32 million.