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Chef John Besh creating culinary leaders with Chefs Move! Scholarship 2014

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It may be that a conversation between New Orleanians is not complete without mentioning food in some way or another. And this ‘conversation’ will not stray away from that fact.
New Orleans is more than well known for its food…and not only the gumbo and po-boys, but also its fine dining for those particularly well-versed palates. You got your Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s as well as your Galatoire’s and Arnaud’s cooking up “truffled creole cream cheese gnocchi” and “speckled trout amandine.” And who can we thank for these dishes? None other than the incredibly talented chefs who enjoy filling our bellies.
But, who exactly are these chefs? How do they get these positions at these fine dining restaurants? And what may be one of the blaring questions…why does there seem to be a lack of diversity in the higher up positions in these restaurants?
Chef John Besh creating culinary leaders with Chefs Move! Scholarship 2014 | 
Well, local New Orleanian and famous chef John Besh had the same question…where is the diversity? But he didn’t only have a question; he also had a solution to it. Teaming up with co-founder Jessica Bride, Chef Besh and Bride created the Chefs Move! Scholarship. “The mission of Chefs Move! is to diversify kitchen leadership by providing minority applicants the opportunity to train up and become leaders in restaurant kitchens and in their communities.” Two young New Orleanian chefs will receive the opportunity of a lifetime: a yearlong fully-paid scholarship, one in Culinary Arts and one in Pastry Arts, to attend the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York followed by a two month internship with the Besh Restaurant Group."
“It’s incredibly humbling and such an honor to be providing this opportunity to the youth of New Orleans,” said Chef Besh. “What I hope to do is use the resources that God has given me and pass them on to somebody else that realizes they are valued. If we start to value people in the city, the youth, education, and community service, then we will pull ourselves out of the situation we were given – bad economics, inner city youth without much hope, failing schools, etc. The Creator didn’t just give me talent so that I could serve fancy food to people. He gave me talent to make a difference in people’s lives for the better.”
In its third year, them Chefs Move! Scholarship has given five New Orleanians a chance to have their wildest dreams come true. In 2011, Syrena Johnson, followed by Calvin Virgil and Chris Okorie in 2012, and Lashandra Robinson and Kieu Tran in 2013, both of whom are currently in the midst of their studies in New York City.
 Chef John Besh creating culinary leaders with ‘Chefs Move! Scholarship’ |
Chef Besh is looking forward to providing this awesome opportunity to two more young New Orleanians and recognizing what their success means for the New Orleans restaurant community as a whole. “The amazing thing is now, chefs throughout the community are saying, ‘I know that when these graduates come back, they’re working for you, but would you mind sending them to our kitchen, too? We could use the next person with this background.’ We want to make sure that our graduates are well prepared and we can put them in any kitchen where they can grow and reach their full potential.”
Recipients of the Chefs Move! Scholarship get all they need to ensure success. Let’s take a look: full uition, chef uniforms, kitchen equipment, accommodations, round-trip airfare, $200 grocery card, one month subway card, laptop computer and training, media (including social media) training, job placement assistance while in New York, an 8-week paid internship within the Besh Restaurant Group upon completion of the culinary program, job placement assistance while in New York, paid 8-week internship within the Besh Restaurant Group after completion of the program, and a year-long chef mentorship from the Besh Restaurant Group.
Chef John Besh creating culinary leaders with ‘Chefs Move! Scholarship’ | IntheNOLA.comNot surprisingly, Chef Besh’s decision to include “minority” as part of the scholarship has been a little controversial. “I caught a lot of flack about the minority component in this,” he said. “But plain and simple, New Orleans is a city of all sorts of races and ethnicities, which makes our city special. So if this makes us special, then why is it that very few minorities are enjoying the success at management levels? It really comes down to education.”

As a result, the scholarship is open to African America, Vietnamese, Hispanic, or another cultural minority applicants.

He continued, “When I look through the ranks of the hundreds of employees, I quickly see that many come from backgrounds just like mine and look a lot like me. This isn’t a bad thing; however, we’re also missing out on an opportunity to include everybody in our community of success. If you want to progress in the ranks of management, you have to have the college education to go with it and it’s a ton of money to acquire one of these educations. So again, why don’t more New Orleanians and in particular, why don’t more minority New Orleanians enjoy success in this? And that’s what I’m here to try to change. This scholarship has to be one that we continue to provide for and that we’re stewards of. That’s what I want my life’s work to be about, not just fancy recipes, but actually helping my community and her people.”

Chef Besh is truly committed to uplifting our community and providing our young people with an avenue to become successful members of society. “If we continue to get the right people to New York and invest in them, it’s going to pay incredible dividends to the entire community.”


For more information about the Chefs Move! Scholarship and to apply, please visit the website. Applications are due by April 30!
Last modified on Monday, 10 February 2014
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