JPMorgan Chase Commercial - What Makes Nola
2015 has been an exciting year for the New Orleans School of Cooking. In January, we were one of twenty recipients of a Chase Mission Main Street Grant, a program designed to help small businesses grow. The grant itself has been instrumental in helping us to further our mission of sharing the fun, food and folklore of New Orleans with the world! Furthermore, Chase has been unbelievably supportive in ways we could not have imagined. Most recently, they have included us in their #WhatMakesNOLA campaign. We had an absolute blast filming this video, and the spirit of the campaign led us to reflect on what makes New Orleans such a special place. Everyone has their own unique story here in Nola, so today we will illustrate what a day at the New Orleans School of Cooking is like from the perspective of someone who has lived in the Crescent City for exactly one year, almost to the date - me, NOSOC's Marketing Director.
The Holy Trinity
I wake up, hop on my bike and head from the Marigny to the French Quarter. It's unbearably hot, until I gain some speed and start to feel a bit of the breeze, every few blocks I catch an extra cool breeze rolling off the Mississippi River, a refreshing relief from the morning heat. Although I take the same route every day, a brightly colored house with impeccable detail catches my eye - always something new to discover in New Orleans. As I ride down Royal street, deliveries are being made, ferns on balconies are being watered, and the city is starting to wake up. I roll onto St. Louis Street, notice that the plants on the balcony across the street are looking particularly lush today, and walk into the school. Immediately, I take in the intoxicating aroma of the Holy Trinity being sauteed. Even though I grew up in Cajun Country, I only knew of the Holy Trinity in a religious aspect, but the New Orleans School of Cooking opened my eyes to the Holy Trinity of cooking - bell peppers, celery, onions and garlic. I say hello to Chef Anne, small talk about the weekend as she preps for her 10 am class, and as usual she has a one liner that brings a smile to my face. I leave her to finish prepping her ingredients, and head up to my office.
The New Orleans School of Cooking is located in an old molasses warehouse that was built in the 1800’s, this lends itself to exposed beams, brick walls, and windows overlooking the courtyard…not a bad office environment. My morning ritual consists of catching up on emails, reviewing what events we have in the coming week, and reading our latest online reviews. Online reviews can be tricky, everyone who works here takes pride in the business, so we want our reviews to be reflective of the authentic experience we all work hard to create. Luckily for me, we receive mostly great reviews from our patrons. As I catch up on the latest ones from the weekend, I appreciate how much of a connection people feel with the chefs that taught their class:
"Loved the hands on class - The 3-1/2 hours class just flew by. Austin was a great instructor and our meal turned out perfect. I like the hands on because you will remember what you made so you can recreate it at home. I also spent a lot of money in the store because I felt so inspired after we were done. I highly recommend this cooking experience."
"Highly recommended - I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the New Orleans School of Cooking. Chef Toya was friendly, engaging, funny and an excellent teacher. We saw Gumbo, Jambalaya, Bread Pudding & Pralines demonstrated and all were delicious. I can't wait to get home and try the recipes myself. A must-do for aspiring chefs, amateur cooks and foodies alike."
Red Beans & Rice, yes please!
It's Monday, or as New Orleanians know it, Red Beans and Rice day, so I head downstairs to partake in the weekly tradition of eating the school's batch of Red Beans and Corn Bread. I can hear Anne teaching her class, and laughter coming from the classroom. As I look across the courtyard, I see that her class is captivated by her performance. I finish my (delicious) lunch, and head to the Louisiana General Store to see what's going on. Everyone is in a chipper mood, fresh pralines are being made and the retail employees are steadily checking customers out. A customer asks for my recommendation on what seasoning to bring home to her grand daughter, and of course, I direct her to Joe's Stuff. A man next to us chimes in saying that she's bought Joe's Stuff for 20 years and loves it - a much appreciated endorsement. After speaking with the woman for a while, she informs me that she's from Missouri, and vacationing with her sisters. I ask about her trip here, how she's liking New Orleans, and of course, where she's eaten. She’s a friendly woman, and I enjoy speaking with her about her experience in Nola. As our conversation comes to an end, and she’s got her Joe’s Stuff in hand, I head back upstairs to my office to get some more work done. 12:30 rolls around, and I hear a familiar roar of clapping from beneath me. I have come to anticipate this sound around 12:30 and 4 pm every day, as our daily classes end. My office is located directly above our main classroom…and if daily clapping and cheering isn't motivation during your workday, I don't know what is.
Fun, Food & Folklore
Around 2, I decide to take a break. As I step outside of our building, there is a horse and buggy style carriage tour passing in front of the school. Pointing to the building across from us, I hear the tour guide say, “If you want a fantastic poboy, eat here, at Johnny’s Poboys.” Good advice. I walk to Jackson Square and listen to the brass band playing. Tourists are circled around the music, some are dancing, some are just watching and smiling, and many are taking photos. The vibe is laid back, yet electric...a feeling that I doubt is found in many cities on a Monday afternoon. I start on my walk back to the school as a Segway tour group wizzes by....which always makes me laugh.
We have a final afternoon meeting discussing the implementation of our new logo, and the branding or our product line. These are projects that have been expedited by the help of the Chase Mission Main Street Grant. While these projects are detail-oriented, and have a surprising amount of logistical factors, we always circle back to the same conversation. Who are we? What do we do? Who are our customers? We are the New Orleans School of Cooking. We share the fun, food and folklore of New Orleans with the world through our classes, our chefs and our products. Our customers are people from around the world who crave the nostalgia, the spirit and the unique flavor of New Orleans.
With all the change our company has experienced in the past year, staying true to our roots is a time-tested compass for navigating our future.
As the day comes to an end, I head downstairs and give Chef Kevin a quick goodbye as he prepares for a special evening class. He has on his signature "I love bacon" t-shirt, which is pretty hilarious coupled with his 6'9 stature. I hop on my bike and start pedaling through the quarter. I pass Royal Street, listening to the sweet sounds of the guitar and violin perfectly harmonizing, the instruments being skillfully and soulfully played by two of the best street performers I've ever seen. I then pass Bourbon and hear the music blasting and see people enjoying their late afternoon drinks. I make my way home, noticing yet another house I hadn't before which has that unique Nola charm.
So what makes Nola? The New Orleans School of Cooking is a huge part of what makes MY Nola, because even the most mundane of Mondays is filled with discovery, laughter, tradition, growth, flavor, music, good eating and great people. #WhatMakesNOLA