Gary Solomon Jr. and chef Emeril Lagasse and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation (www.emeril.org) announced a grant of $2 million to New Orleans Center for Creative Arts' (NOCCA) capital campaign for its new NOCCA Forum building, which will house an expanded culinary arts program and provide space for a full day of classes.
"The NOCCA Forum will allow for expanded academic curricula," Solomon said during a press conference Nov. 10. "It will give the school's integrated sciences and humanities room to fully develop. It will allow for engaging school-year and summer workshops in arts, humanities and the important STEM subjects for regional sixth through 12th grade students."
Solomon talked about the inconvenience of students having to attend two schools, since NOCCA programs have always been supplementary and students attended other high schools for core academic programs. "For many young people, going back and forth between two schools during the day was a hurdle to overcome," he said.
Solomon said the success of his entertainment design and production company, Solomon Group (www.solomongroup.com), could be largely attributed to the love of arts that NOCCA sparked in him. He also acknowledged support of his family in making the gift.
Lagasse told Gambit, "This is very exciting, this program, especially in our field, which is so important in the city of New Orleans, culinary arts. This facility is going to bring this whole new layer, not only to New Orleans, not only to Louisiana, but it's going to bring this whole new layer to the world."
Lagasse also said he received a postcard Nov. 7 from a recent graduate of NOCCA's culinary arts program, who secured a scholarship to Johnson & Wales University (which Lagasse attended). Janee Taylor, who won the Emeril Lagasse Foundation's A Dish that Makes a Difference challenge, wrote Lagasse from Italy, where she is currently studying.
"She said, 'Grazie. See you soon,'" he said.
NOCCA celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.