Entrepreneur Week Celebrates NOLA’s Workforce and Culture

The 2023 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week was recently held in the Crescent City to celebrate the city’s focus on entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, and culture. According to this article from NOLA.com, the panel titled “Third Wave Industries and Climate Leadership,” highlighted just how New Orleans culture helps to draw in startups and clean energy.

The week-long series of workshops, speeches, panels, discussions, and live music that made up the 2023 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week drew in nearly 1,400 attendees, according to event organizers. One of the ways this year’s NOEW was different from previous years was that the event’s final three days included ticketed items such as concerts and entertainment offerings.

Producer Liz Maxwell of Idea Village, the small business accelerator program that created NOEW said, “NOEW has become a really important event for this community. It shows what is possible here in New Orleans and Louisiana and that we can create and innovate together.”

This year’s theme for NOEW was innovation and culture, which included speeches and sessions built around eight subthemes. These subthemes included: Climate tech, Culture tech, EATrepreneurs, Future of local business, Health innovation, Investing in innovation, Software as service engineers, and Startups for impact. In terms of guest speakers for the weeklong event, dozens of local and national speakers made it out to New Orleans, including keynoter Mary Landrieu, the former U.S. senator from Louisiana, and AOL founder Steve Case.

One of the talks for the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week focused on the fact that the Louisiana government’s climate policies were responsible for creating several economic development opportunities. This talk from the Louisiana Governor took place in Gallier Hall, where he announced that a key update will be coming to Louisiana’s renewable energy sector. This update is expected to offer a boost to those local companies that are racing to develop new types of carbon-capture technologies.

This update will come as a result of new federal regulations that are set to arrive later this spring, and it’s expected that these regulations from the federal government will give the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources the primary authority over wells needed to inject carbon underground, instead of this authority going to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If this update is finalized later this year, the new rules that will be in place will essentially speed up the permitting process and as a result make carbon capture and sequestration a reality in Louisiana ahead of the next gubernatorial election.

The speaker was quoted as saying, “we have to embrace things like carbon capture and sequestration because we cannot be successful and the world cannot be successful if we keep just emitting it the way we have. The science is there. The safety is there. I know we have to demonstrate that, but carbon capture is going to be very important moving forward.”

The Louisiana Government’s Climate Action Plan focuses heavily on carbon capture as one of its key planks, as it seeks to reduce the state of Louisiana’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. In addition to this goal, the plan also calls for developing purely renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar power, and cleaner fuels like hydrogen.

One of the key takeaways from the presentation was that Louisiana has several economic development strengths that are aided by New Orleans attracting more startup companies and talent to the state of Louisiana. The Governor spoke about how this attraction of businesses could continue by saying that the state continues to “have more of these kinds of events.

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18th Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off Crowns Queen of American Seafood

The 18th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off was held in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in early August. The event was a humongous success, as it attracted 14 culinary master chefs from across the United States who competed to earn a royal title, as per this feature article from Nola.com.

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off served as the primary attraction of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s 18th annual showcase for dozens upon dozens of vendors displaying and distributing their products and services for the general public to enjoy. Hundreds of people attended the event and made up the crowd at the main event where each competing chef was given only 30 minutes to produce a seafood dish that would be judged by a team of judges against the 13 other contenders.

The executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Samantha Carroll, commented on the 14 chefs who participated in the cook-off, calling them among the most “competitive and qualified” in the history of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.

After the judges of the event had sampled all 14 entries, Erin Miller of Cambridge, Massachusetts was crowned the “Queen of American Seafood.” Miller won the cookoff by preparing a dish, the Cape Ann Tide Pool, which was complemented by a consommé of lobster tails as well as dune rose pits. As reported, “the winning creation included a scallop custard with corn and a sauté of sweet margarine, corn, mussels, and scallops, finished with a butter-poached lobster tail and scallops with sea beans.”

Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser commented on the event and crowning, saying, “what an outstanding competition we had today with one of the best lineups of competing chefs in the history of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. It went great, the dishes are incredible. The personalities of each chef from each state from each state. This was definitely a tough decision for our judges.”

This year’s judges of the event included Louisiana Celebrity Chef John Folse, California Chef Shirley Chung, Two-time Chopped Champion and Florida Chef James Briscione, and Kentucky-based Sri Lankan-American Chef Sam Fore.

Competition winner, Chef Erin Miller had trained at the French Culinary Institute of New York, and she is reportedly proud to count her restaurant, Urban Hearth, “among the small number of acclaimed woman-owned and led restaurants in the Boston area.” Coming in second place was Floridian Chef Al Massa from Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer in Destin, Florida, and Ohioan Chef Christian Gill from Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey in Cincinnati, Ohiowas awarded third place.

Chef Erin Miller, who was crowned as the first-ever Queen of American Seafood, commented on her winning dish by saying, “we wanted to really focus-in on the breadth of seafood available in Massachusetts, not only the fish and shellfish we know really well but also the things that grow along the shore. So the dish is built around multiple layers of seafood and multiple layers of textures integrated with the sea beans and the garnishes that grow in the rocky shoals in Massachusetts. I’m in probably my favorite city in the world right now. It just means so much to represent my state and be here with these extraordinarily creative chefs. It just makes this mean so much more.”

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off, which just finished its 18th year of competitions and crownings, was initially started by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board in 2004. The Cook-Off was purposeful in its origins, as it aimed to promote domestic, sustainable seafood.

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Footage of the 1898 Rex Parade is Believed to be Oldest Existing Footage

Recently, a two-minute film clip of the 1898 Rex parade was discovered and screened in New Orleans, and according to this article from Nola.com, it’s believed to be the oldest existing movie footage shot in New Orleans.

The film clip, which was discovered in a Dutch museum in March, was also screened at the Presbytère overlooking Jackson Square in June 2022 and followed by a lively discussion. After the event, the film was incorporated into the Presbytère museum’s show that celebrates the Rex organization’s 150th birthday, an exhibit that will be able to be viewed through December 11th. Wayne Phillips, the Louisiana State Museum’s curator of Carnival collections, revealed that the film might become part of the Presbytère’s permanent Mardi Gras exhibit. Wayne Phillips said, “it’s just too important to lay aside and not share with our visitors.”

The film footage of the 1898 Rex parade included 6 total floats, including one with a live ox, and the reported theme was “Harvest Queens.” The film itself was a project of American Mutoscope Co., an entity that sent crews across America to make movies about working-class people. For the film, Frank Armitage, one of the best cameramen for American Mutoscope, was sent to New Orleans to document the Rex parade, two Navy ships that were docked at the port, a crew loading a steamboat, a project called “Way Down South,” and archival footage of the New Orleans City Hall, then Gallier Hall. Armitage and his film crew left New Orleans to document the aftermath of the sinking of the USS Maine, which had blown up in the harbor of Havana, Cuba on February 15, 1898, a week before that year’s Mardi Gras.

According to Will French, the Rex organization’s historian and archivist, Frank Armitage was located at Gallier Hall during the filming. He had looked down St. Charles Avenue toward Poydras Street for the footage. The Dutch Museum exported the film into a crisp, digitized, high-definition version, which (according to French) is so rich with detail that it’s like an active hunt for “100 little Easter eggs,” as each new viewing reveals a new aspect of not only the city of New Orleans but Mardi Gras traditions.

Some of these details include that all the attendants and bystanders of the Rex parade are standing still, which is much different from the jubilant, chaotic crowds of present-day Mardi Gras parades. Additionally, there is no visible police presence in the clip as well as no beads, objects, or anything else being thrown from the floats. According to Wayne Phillips, “we think that Rex started throwing in 1920, in the first parade after World War I. We know there were occasional opportunities during parades when trinkets might be tossed from one person to another, but it wasn’t anything that people expected.”

The rumor of the film’s existence had long-plagued Mardi Gras fans and specifically the Rex organization and its historian and archivist Will French. French was the person who formally requested the film’s footage be found by Mackenzie Roberts Beasley, an audiovisual researcher. French is a corporate lawyer who is involved in financing film production, and he revealed that wanted to find the footage so that he could build the krewe’s video holdings. Mackenzie Roberts Beasley was able to track down the film, which was located at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.

Charles A. Farwell had reigned 124 years ago as Rex, the king of Carnival, and he is present in Armitage’s footage of the 1898 parade. Because of the retrieval and screening of the footage, Farwell’s granddaughter, Lynne Farwell White was able to see one-of-a-kind footage of her grandfather, who had passed away 26 years before she was born, in 1917. After donating a sword that had been a part of Farwell’s Rex costume to the krewe’s archive, White commented on the discovery by saying, “I got a chance for the first time in my life to see my grandfather alive and as a real person. That is very special!”

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Habitat for Humanity to Provide New Home for New Orleans Family

The New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity recently broke ground on a much-needed new three-bedroom, two-bathroom house for a family of three in the Lower 9th Ward, according to Nola.com.

The New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity is constructing the home for Tririce Collins and her 10-year-old twin boys, who currently live in a cramped apartment where the three family members sleep in beds that are positioned on opposite walls of the same bedroom. After the home is complete, they will move into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on Tennessee Street that has more than enough ample space to accommodate the family in their present and future years.

The home will have high, vaulted ceilings, separate bedrooms for each of the twins with a shared bathroom, and a master bedroom and bathroom for Collins in the back of the home. Additionally, the house will come with a large outdoor porch, both in the back and the front yard. The front porch will be ideal for Tririce to watch her boys bike down the quiet Tennessee Street without worry, and the back porch and yard space will be perfect for the family to host familial get-togethers in a similar vein that Tririce’s great-grandmother used to do. When Tririce Collins was growing up, her great-grandmother would host the entire family for a meal in a backyard that became famous for the delicious sweet-potato pies and stuffed bell peppers that would be enjoyed at the festivities.

Tririce Collins commented on the new home with appreciation by saying, “I’m so thankful to have my home,” she said. “I am so thankful and so happy that my sons will have space of their own in the house and a yard to play in.”

The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity implemented their designs on Tennessee Street after consulting with and creating the plans in conjunction with local architects Michael Bell and J.C. Carroll. These new Habitat designs are reportedly quite different from what they would have been a few years prior due to a change in philosophy that has taken place within Habitat for Humanity. This is due to both a pandemic-era necessitating more open indoor spaces, but it’s also due to the chapter adopting the idea that “workforce housing can look different.” As a result, they have left behind outdated designs like clunky outdoor window and door frames and a reliance on overly basic floor plans. As per the local executive director for the Habitat chapter,  Marguerite Oestreicher, the Collins household will instead feature spacious indoor areas that are made possible by the vaulted ceilings, accessible attic storage overhead,  and front and back porches with ceiling fans and lighting to invite community and conversation.

The construction of the home for Tririce Collins and her 10-year-old twin boys took place in June 2022, and it involved the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity hosting its first-ever Pride Build. This type of building event brought togetherlocal members of the LGBTQ community and allies to collaborate on building the Collins’ family’s new home. A spokesperson for the organization commented on the importance of such an event by saying, “decades of systemic discrimination have barred LGBTQ families and individuals from homeownership. Through Pride Build, we hope to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing for all and its power to transform lives for the better.”

Habitat for Humanity homeowners qualify if they earn between 30% and 80% of the average local income and if they agree to partner with their local chapter to take classes in basic home repair or volunteer at the Habitat’s ReStore retail store as well as take classes in financial literacy.

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Nicholls Culinary Grad Opens Restaurant in Former Cabaret Venue

A New Orleans venue that once hosted its fair share of local and traveling cabaret performances from 1999 to 2011 has now reopened as Le Chat Noir, a casual, upscale restaurant that showcases its unique take on New Orleans cuisine, according to this article from Nola.com. The debut of Le Chat Noir is indebted to its culinary vision set forth by Seth Temple, a Lake Charles native and Nicholls culinary grad. Temple earned a scholarship from Nicholls’s John Folse Culinary Institute to attend the elite Institut Paul Bocuse in France, and upon his return to New Orleans, he worked in local kitchens that included Kenton’s and Couvant before he traveled to London and cooked at the Michelin-starred restaurant Lyle’s.

Debuting in December 2021 at 715 St. Charles Avenue, Le Chat Noir opened its doors in a space that had previously been the Italian restaurant Marcello’s, which closed due to the pandemic. Although before the building housed Marcello’s, it was known over a 12-year span as the home of the cabaret venue Le Chat Noir. But now thanks to a commercial vision from James Reuter, the founder of Bearcat Café off Freret Street, the building has reopened under its old name and as a different genre.

The Nicholls culinary grad  told The Gambit that it was at Lyle’s that his perspective of ingredients, how he liked to eat, and the relationship between the two began to completely shift. Gambit writer Beth D’Addono said of the cuisine, “Temple’s artful food commands the spotlight, the star of the show that went curtains up in early December. Temple is an alchemist as much as he is a chef, coaxing big flavors out of farm-fresh ingredients. What he does with hakurei turnips is brilliantly simple — a sauté of the small, crunchy vegetable, greens attached, in a miso-fueled umami sauce studded with candied kumquats and fronds of bronze fennel. Twirl the turnips like linguine, being sure to get the hybrid citrus in every bite, and the depth of clean flavor is worth a standing ovation.”

Temple’s menu at the restaurant is approximately 70% locally-sourced, and at least 50% of the total meals are either vegan or vegetarian thanks to his connections with local vendors such as West Feliciana Parish’s Mushroom Maggie’s Farm, Kenner’s JV Foods, and Belle Chase’s Matt Ranatza Farms and Saxon Becnel & Sons citrus.

James Reuter, the founder of Bearcat Café and Bearcat CBD, just around the corner on Carondelet Street., brings with him a particular style that is indicative of other Bearcat restaurants, specifically in that they often defy simplistic categorization and feature a menu that’s representative of both a health-conscious California cafe and a permissive chef-forward tavern. While Le Chat Noir already appears to be sharing some of those characteristics like its wide array of vegetarian, paleo, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, the restaurant also seems like a more ambitious undertaking, given the history of the location.

The recent history of the Le Chat Noir cabaret is ever-present in the restaurant as the kitchen is exactly where the old theatrical stage once stood, the dining room is set in the old theatre space, and the restaurant’s lounge and impressive oyster bar are located beside the window-lined front bar, which used to feature performers mixing and mingling after post-show.

As of the time of writing, the restaurant is open for dinner with plans to serve lunch and happy hour on the horizon. The cuisine is vibrant and delicious without reinventing traditional New Orleans dishes, and with it being set in the spotlight of an old-New Orleans performance venue, the restaurant is able to satisfy the show-stopping spectacle of classic Crescent City flavor, life, and culture with every bite.

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King Cake Returns in 2022

With the christening of a new year comes a new Mardi Gras season, and while the state of the 2022 Carnival season is facing uncertainty amidst COVID-19 surges, Louisiana’s passion for the king cake is as strong as ever according to this nola.com profile.

Last year when many Mardi Gras parades, balls, and parties had been canceled or significantly limited due to the pandemic, Louisiana citizens proved that the spirit of the season wasn’t going to disappear along with the celebratory events. This was seen in the steady king cake sales seen by bakeries during the 2021 Carnival season; in fact, some bakeries even saw an increase in profits in the year despite many traditional festivities being canceled.

So it stands to reason that as the calendar has transitioned into 2022, the interest in king cakes will not have been subsidized in the least, even as the prospects for the 2022 parade season are masked in uncertainty. With king cakes becoming available during the first week of January on Twelfth Night (January 5th), the start of Mardi Gras season is officially underway, and this year’s Carnival will be nearly two weeks longer than last year’s. The 2022 Mardi Gras season is held between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras Day, which lands on March 1st, giving the public over seven weeks or 55 days of delicious king cakes to enjoy.

Many Louisiana bakeries are seeing the lengthier season as an opportunity to be more competitive in the name of the Carnival spirit and thus more inventive with their king cakes. This inventiveness is coming in the form of new flavors, textures, and partnerships. In a traditional year, New Orleans bakeries can showcase a competitive spirit due to the limited window of king cake availability despite the ever-growing public demand, but this year is shaping up to showcase a new cooperative spirit as various collaborations have already begun.

One such collaboration is the King Cake Hub which stands as a centralized location that houses several king cakes from various restaurants and bakeries in one spot. At the King Cake Hub, one can survey a variety of flavors, textures, and confections all in a single location, allowing you to truly compare different bakers’ approaches to the opulent dessert. Originally created in 2019 by Will Samuels, who was a notable community leader in New Orleans known for his previous forays into the Crescent City food and music world.

This year, the King Cake Hub has returned to New Orleans through the help of Samuel’s wife, Jennifer, who has brought back the celebrated and innovative king cake epicenter in accordance with her husband’s wishes. Will Samuels passed away from cancer at the age of 52 this past September, but his dream lives on in 2022 in two locations: the Zony Mash Beer Project on Thalia Street and The Historic New Orleans Collection in the French Quarter, which is accessible through the museum and cultural center’s gift shop on Royal Street.

In a similar spirit of Mardi Gras resilience, Steve Himelfarb, the founder of the Marigny Bakery and Restaurantpartnered with his neighbors at the NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) to bring back his legendary king cake to benefit a local high school’s culinary program. Himelfarb’s bakery had closed in 2020, but that didn’t stop him from returning in 2022 at the King Cake Hub and offering king cake preorders online as well.

Speaking of online sales, one of the areas of king cake commerce that saw tremendous growth in 2021 was the shipping of king cakes around the country. Because king cakes travel well and serve as a great way to share the holiday spirit with loved ones, 2022 is projected to similarly be a successful year in terms of king cakes sales and shipping. Now’s the time to conduct your research and support your favorite small bakery with a king cake shipment, allowing you to start the Mardi Gras season in spectacular style.

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