Bill to establish world-class culinary school heads for final passage

Published: May. 28, 2013 at 8:40 PM CDT|Updated: May. 29, 2013 at 3:32 AM CDT
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New Orleans, La. - A bill to establish a world-class culinary school in downtown New Orleans is now waiting for final approval by the Louisiana Legislature.

The bill is part of a larger measure that would beef up community colleges across the state.

The Delgado Culinary School is a workhorse for New Orleans, providing trained cooks and kitchen managers in a city that may have more restaurants per capita than anywhere else.

"Our facility is maxed out to where we may be turning away students in the future," said school Director Vance Roux.

Each semester, 140 new culinary specialists are trained at Delgado, and they find work as soon as they start.

Now there's a bill to enhance what Delgado has done for 95 years.

"They've got a great school already. This would expand it, and other schools would play a part, including UNO and Tulane," said Sen. Ed Murray, whose bill would fund the $9 million culinary school at the site of the defunct Artists' Guild building on Howard Avenue.

The school is envisioned to capitalize on New Orleans' food reputation and draw in students who might otherwise go to world-famous cooking schools like the Culinary Institute or Cordon Bleu.

"We would put it downtown, and put Delgado's name on the map worldwide," said Murray.

The Howard Avenue building has been empty for nearly five years since the Artists' Guild ran out of money, and many are eager to see it put back into commerce.

"I think it's a fantastic idea," said John Keife, whose wine shop is just across the avenue. "This makes complete sense in a space that's gorgeous."

Though most agree a world-class culinary school would be a natural in a city like New Orleans, there's some disagreement over the funding mechanism.

Some worry that the Legislature may be writing checks it can't cash, with not just this project, but tens of millions of dollars worth of other projects tied to the Senate bill.

But proponents say private funds will also be used to help make the new Delgado Culinary School a reality.

The bill that includes the culinary school, as well as enhancements for other Delgado campuses, is expected to be voted on in the full House on Thursday.