Culinary Graduates from Nicholls University have had a less than ideal post graduate year thanks to COVID-19, but many are finding inspiration to adapt and think creatively in spite of the challenges, as reported in an article from HoumaToday.
In a regular year graduates of the prestigious Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University have found great success in finding jobs in food business and culinary arts following graduation, but with the pandemic closing many doors and limiting the number of patrons a restaurant could serve, many graduates were laid off and found in need of a job.
Some chefs, like Breanna Bolden, owner of Baton Rouge’s Oven Bits and Pieces, found that the pandemic lit a fire beneath her as she began to adapt her business to suit the immediate needs of the times. Bolden said that she is thankful for COVID more “than anything else that’s happened this year, and I might be crazy but it’s allowed me to see things more differently, opened a lot more doors and gave me a lot more opportunities than I had a year ago. Right after graduation, we’re so ambitious, and you have so many dreams and so many things you want to accomplish and you don’t really understand the weight of that or the possibilities behind it until situations like this happen.”
When the orders began to come in for restaurants to close and Bolden was affected, she began doing contract work for a local bakery, but once a machine broke leaving her without work for a week, the signs became clear and she realized that it was high time to go into business for herself. Now, she works from home, hoping to open a bakery after the pandemic ends, but until then she keeps it present in her mind, keeping customers distanced and palettes satisfied.
In addition to Bolden, two other recent Nicholls University culinary graduates, Kyong Han and Meifung Liu, also started their Baton Rouge businesses amidst the pandemic. And while the couple had graduated together in 2018, they own separate businesses with Han doing Korean catering and Lie baking.
At the pandemic’s start, culinary graduate, Han was working as a sous chef and was consequently laid off as a result of the state’s closures. When he was offered his job back, he and Liu pivoted and instead decided to set out on their own back with catering. Liu remarked that about halfway through the pandemic, she assessed her work load and her life and decided that she wanted to make more than simply cakes every day. From that point onward, she began to dedicate more time to the “Two Plaid Aprons” blog, writing up more recipes.
At first, they were hesitant about beginning a local catering business, not knowing of Baton Rogue’s reception to korean cuisine, but after time passed, Han reports that business is pretty good. As of their post-pandemic plans, they hope to open a café in the future.
Another Nicholls culinary grad, Sous Chef Emily Johnson was working at the New Orleans School of Cooking where she taught hands-on private dinner classes when she had to file for unemployment as a result of the pandemic striking.
Left exhausted and amid unemployment paperwork, Johnson pivoted and began to volunteer her services. Johnson reported that she was “just feeling really down and not useful and not my normal level of energy, I decided to go and volunteer myself at a Second Harvest Food Bank,” where as many as 800-4,500 plates a night were served. Soon, as with other Nicholls grads, the pandemic began to show itself as an opportunity to recognize the importance of self reliance and sustainability when surrounded by unfamiliar times.
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