Delgado A - Z: Culinary Arts

by: Hilton Guidry
Only a handful of programs that were offered at Delgado 90 years ago are still in existence today. Architecture is one program that has stood the test of time.  Another is the very popular Culinary Arts program. In the 1920s the program was called Commercial Cooking and Stewardship and one of the first teachers to stand out was Chef John Henry Breland. Chef Breland taught culinary arts at Delgado for decades and even published a number of cookbooks over the years.

Chef Breland had been a teacher at Delgado for 20 years when this book was published in 1947

The 1960s produced another famous graduate, Chef Buster Ambrosia. In 1962 Chef Ambrosia graduated from the Culinary Arts program and began his apprenticeship with the Hotel Corporation of America. By the 1980s he became the night chef at Commander’s Palace and then became the Executive Chef at Mr. B’s Bistro. Chef Ambrosia went on to open his own restaurant, made many television and radio appearances, published books, taught classes at Delgado and in 2004 was honored by Delgado with his first Circles of Excellence award.

Chef Ambrosia graduated from Delgado in 1962

One 1970s student, Carmen Bazile, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from the Culinary Arts program. In a field mostly dominated by men, Chef Bazile’s career is still going strong. When she graduated from Delgado she became a chef at a local restaurant called Café Brulot. She then became an instructor at Nunez Community College for 24 years and won the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002. Chef Bazile is also the creator of "Miss Ruth's All-Natural Seasonings" that can be found in local grocery stores and throughout the world.

Chef Bazile was the first African-American woman to graduate from Delgado

In the 1980s during the oil field industry bust, one nontraditional student decided to make a career change and enrolled in Delgado’s Culinary Arts program. Jon Petrie was worried about his career and wanted some stability. Facing a bad job market, like many of the students are today, he looked for career where he wouldn’t have to struggle in the marketplace for a job. After graduation Chef Petrie immediately found a job and was on the path to a successful career. What he didn’t know at the time was he would later come back to Delgado and teach Culinary Arts. “I was one of the winners of WWL’s Spirit of Excellence. In the interview I said I wanted to give back to the community some of what it shared with me. So I feel like I am fulfilling that mission statement here at Delgado.”

Chef Petrie is a Delgado graduate and current teacher
When Chef Petrie graduated in the 1980s, his graduating class was only 10 students. Today, the program has 40 students enrolled in Pastry Arts, eight in Catering Management and 110 in Culinary Arts. Many recent graduates have gone on to successful careers: Chef Gason Nelson is the personal chef to Reggie Bush, Chef Patrick Henry is the personal chef to Chris Paul and Chef Charles Talley was the executive chef for the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Chef Nelson is a Delgado Graduate and personal chef to Reggie Bush
Two current students, Josh Williams and Erin Williams, were finalists in the 2011 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition. What Chef Petrie didn’t know is that the two students made a pact that whoever won between the two, the winner would take the other to the next round as their assistant (guaranteeing that both of them would advance). Josh finished second with pan roasted quail stuffed with boudin and Erin finished third with a pan seared red snapper with pesto gnocchi. Other students recently placed first in the 2011 Louisiana Seafood Cook Off. And according to Chef Petrie, Delgado has always placed in the competition coming in first or second on many occasions.

Students at the Louisiana Seafood Cook Off
With New Orleans being one of the culinary centers of America, the program is also involved in hosting many competitions involving professional chefs, students and teachers. Delgado hosted the 2011 Tabasco Brand Hottest Chef Contest and also had the opportunity to host the American Culinary Federation’s Central Regional Competition when the association held their convention here in New Orleans.

Judges from the 2011 Tabasco Hottest Chef contest that was hosted by Delgado
The Delgado Culinary Arts program also reaches out to future chefs on the high school level. With Pro Start, high school students can tour the kitchen and meet Delgado instructors to see if they are interested in becoming a chef. The program is also involved with Café Reconcile and Liberty Kitchen to provide at risk youth with the opportunity to build a better future by learning culinary skills. Dr. Mary Bartholomew, Director of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program, is one of the board members of Liberty Kitchen. Chef Petrie said, “We open our kitchen to these groups and offer assistance and training. And if I am in the kitchen, I try and feed them”.

Chef Petrie is a proponent of service learning and likes to work culinary into different projects. One recent project involved pastry students making ginger bread houses and bringing them to Oschner Hospital’s pediatric ward. “Students do a reflection on it and it gets pretty intense. Some of the students get pretty emotional.,” Petrie said.

Students with their giner bread houses at the pediatric ward
One of the more distinguished and recognizable students to come through the program was former Attorney General Charles Foti, who had a memorable experience building gingerbread houses. Mr. Foti had retired and his family had owned a catering business during the World’s Fair so he wanted to learn some culinary skills and it “seemed like fun.”

Former Attorney General Charles Foti and his ginger bread house

“When we were in the elevator you could see his roof was starting to slip a little bit. By the time we got to the hallway of the pediatric ward the roof fell off. I could just see it in his face; he was heartbroken. The students felt so bad for him because they knew how hard he worked on it. The first patient who came out to choose a house wanted Mr. Foti’s house. That just made him feel so much better. He had failed, yet he still had the first house chosen over all the other students.”

In his 1947 book, Chef’s Guide To Quantity Cookery, Chef Breland referred to the catering business as “developing rapidly with modern labor-saving equipment and scientific methods of food productions are eliminating the drudgery formerly involved in the this profession”.  More than 60 years later, technology is still playing a major role in the industry.

This oven can cook a pizza in two minutes and can reach up to 900 degree heat
According to Chef Petrie, “Deep frying is still deep frying, poaching is still poaching. That is why we still teach that. But there has been a lot of advancement in flavor profiles and techniques. New technology is happening so fast we have to try and keep up with it. They have hot or room temperature ice cream now. But when you put it in your mouth it is just like cold ice cream. And you can achieve that by adding different chemicals and additives to achieve all kinds of neat things.”

Who knows what future generations of Delagdo culinary students will be creating! I am sure 90 years ago the students would have never envisioned eating hot ice cream that tasted cold. One can only image what will be taught to Delgado students in the year 2101.


Like Father, Like Son: Marvin Thames Jr. remembers Director Marvin Thames Sr.

By: Dee Shedrick
Marvin Thames Jr. had humble beginnings, struggling to receive his associate degree from Delgado Community College. However, he still managed to follow in his father's footsteps and worked in higher education for 35 years at Delgado. "I was more of a jock. I had hopes of playing at LSU, but I injured myself and couldn't play anymore. If it wasn't for my father, I wouldn't have gotten this far," said Thames. His father always told him that he could do it if he applied himself. Thames admits that he wasn't strong academically, but his father encouraged him, like he encouraged most people.
Why do you think your father was chosen to be chancellor at Delgado?
Chep Morrison (mayor of New Orleans 1946-1961) asked him to head up Delgado's trade school, but I just think it was because he had personality and he was very politically savvy. He was very active in politics in the state of Louisiana. He knew a lot of politicians and legislators that could help him get city and state finances to fund the school. My dad was a diplomat. He was aggressive and he was a good Christian man. He was never mean or angry. He was just a great guy. And I know I'm being biased by saying that, but anyone who came in contact with my dad would say that.
Your father served as director of Delgado for 26 years. What was it like to be raised by an educator?
My father encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do and be whatever I wanted to be. He helped me. He tried all kind of different avenues to get me through school. He was very supportive.

Director Thames was the only director to live in the president's house. Did you live in the house? If so, what was it like to live on campus?
It was fun. I had the run of the whole campus on the weekends. I would ride my bike and play football on the lawn and I got to meet all kinds of people. We moved there when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Back then the grounds only had our house, a maintenance facility and Building 1. My friends were always welcome to come over. The house was very warm and inviting.
President's home that was torn down where Director Marvin Thames Sr. and his family lived on the City Park Campus.
Can you think of a funny or interesting story?
Yes. We always had visitors and my father forgot to tell my mother that he would be bringing six or seven international visitors from Uganda to the house for a reception. Even though we always had people over, my mother wasn't even dressed for the occasion.
Did your father's career choices influence yours?
Definitely, my father always wanted to be in the classroom. So every year he would teach a sociology class to keep a pulse on the students and the changes in society. I started out teaching music apperception and human development classes and later I became a counselor. I also received a Ph.D. like my father in sociology. 
Dedication ceremony in honor of Director Marvin Thames Sr. on the site of the old president's house
When you hear the word Delgado, what one word comes to mind?
What does Delgado mean to you?
Delgado has always been an integral part of my life as well as my dad's life and I would always promote and be loyal to the institution until my dying day.
Do you think Delgado has a positive effect on the New Orleans community?
Absolutely, if it wasn't for Delgado hundreds of thousands of people in the community wouldn't have the chance to advance their education or get into a certain field of work.
Anything else you want to share?
I certainly enjoyed my tenure [at Delgado] and I hope that I was helpful to certain students and that I encouraged them like my dad encouraged me. But, I want people to know that without my dad's efforts and without his dedication, I don't think Delgado would be where it is now. He was the instrument to develop Delgado into a community college. That doesn't take away anything from all of the chancellors that have come after him, because they did marvelous work. But, I think that he was the cornerstone for developing the community college system for Louisiana. Today, we have community colleges all over the state; in the beginning, Delgado was the only community college.


A- Z: Business

by: Hilton Guidry

Isaac Delgado was one of the most successful local businessman and entrepreneurs of his time. He enjoyed providing help and guidance to young men who were looking to start their own careers. By donating a great deal of his wealth after his death, the building of the Delgado Central Trades School in 1921 made it possible for him to provide an education to generations of young New Orleanians. In the early days of the school, young men learned trades such as carpentry, tailoring, drafting, welding, electrical and machine work.

Although Delgado was intended to be a school for men, it was the women of New Orleans who looked to Delgado to further their careers in the 1960s. In fact, the first woman graduate of Delgado, Mrs. Doris M. Guthrie in 1964, received a degree in Secretarial Studies. By the 1960s, Delgado started offering two-year associate degree programs and the business program in three areas: basic business studies, computer technology and secretarial science. With more women entering into the workforce and with businesses needing training for their secretaries, the school expanded the program and started developing a broader curriculum that included accounting, bookkeeping, word processing and business law. The computer technology program was not quite what it is today. The early days of computer programming classes were on bulky IBM punch card machines.

Mrs. Doris Guthrie was the first woman to earn a degree in secretarial studies.

Delgado students working on business computer console.
According to Jere Crago, a retired business professor and former department head, by the late 1970s and early 1980s Delgado started offering more courses in computer technology as businesses started to rely more on the personal computer. Crago said many local employers would send their secretaries to Delgado to take courses such as advanced word processing and other computer related courses. Mr. Crago (whose father taught painting and decorating at Delgado in the 1950s) credits Ruby Holiday and Penny Ferguson with having the vision to lead Delgado into the computer age and to offer courses in business computer technology, which was growing in the 1980s. By the middle of the decade, Microsoft Windows became the main platform for business computers. Former Delgado professor Ernie Fitzgerald recalls the instant change at the school when students went from “typing and shorthand to Wordperfect and Microsoft Word.” Microsoft programs were being used everywhere, so the school started implementing training on programs such as Lotus 123, Microsoft Excel and later on Quickbooks and Peachtree for their accounting students.

Students practicing stenography
Delgado offered online courses through Blackboard way before other larger local universities came on board. In fact, Jere Crago who had been with Delgado for 35 years, was one of the first online instructors. When hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Delgado had no choice but to embrace online courses, as most of the school was flooded and badly damaged. Patrick Conroy, current chair of Delgado’s business programs, said students back then and now are able to complete all three degrees (business administration, accounting and business management) online. With most of the current students working a full or part time job, the flexibility of online courses is very attractive. Mr. Conroy says the College has over 2,600 students in the program, a lot more than they had anticipated.

Students who earn their two-year associate degree often move on to a university to get their four- year degree. However, many students in the business program are now taking job related courses such as retail management, real estate and music business that can help them find careers in a concentrated business field. One of the more popular courses, entrepreneurship, is a class that students from different programs (such as culinary arts) are taking to help them achieve their business goals. Many of these students have an idea or a skill that they want to sell or they are taking over a family business. This course will help them learn marketing basics, coming up with a business plan and how to put together information for a SBA loan.

One of the more popular business courses offered is music business management
Delgado’s business program has been recognized as one of the top 50 associate degrees in business, management, marketing and related support services by Community College Weekly. The program also has won a Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) Regional Competition in 2004. The competition tests educational outreach projects of two-year colleges. More recently, the business department partnered with the Goldman Sachs initiative to help small businesses in the New Orleans area to grow and create jobs.  The initiative provides small business owners with access to coursework, business advising, and other services that will help them grow their firms. With so many local area students who end up staying in the New Orleans area, the business program provides a workforce for the local community who will graduate with the training they need to be successful businessmen and women.

2004 SIFE award-winning team

Delgado business students' impact on the New Orleans Area Gross Domestic Product (from The Greater New Orleans Inc. Regional Economic Alliance)
From the early days as a trade school, to the 1960s and 1970s when women were entering the workforce, to today where small to mid-size businesses make up most the New Orleans business community, students are recognizing the opportunities that are available in business. And thanks to a philanthropic business man some 90 years ago, students now have the tools they need to be a successful entrepreneur, music manager or small business owner.