Since 2006, high school students in New Orleans have had access to a great alternative to the summer job: an intensive culinary arts program developed through a partnership among the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Johnson & Wales University, The Ritz-Carlton and The Emeril Lagasse Foundation. Part pre-college program, part culinary boot camp, the three-week session put students through their culinary paces, giving them an incredibly well-rounded overview of what it takes to be a chef. With the professional kitchen at the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton serving as their classroom, the 20 students chopped, grated and collaborated their way through 15 days of fast-paced lessons. Along the way, they learned everything from knife and equipment skills and classic cooking techniques to menu development, plating skills and presentation. "We're able to do cuisines from all over the world," said attendee Alvin Noggerath Jr., 18. "This is the best program to learn a lot fast." For their “Iron Chef”-style final exam, students were presented with a mystery basket of various ingredients and given two hours to conceptualize, cook and present a signature dish. "Families come to taste the results," said Chef Michael Makuch, the Providence-based JWU chef-instructor who has taught the course for the past two years. The curriculum for NOCCA’s summer culinary program was developed at JWU’s College of Culinary Arts by university dean of culinary academics Paul McVety EdD, in collaboration with chefs Makuch, Peter Kelly and Professor Brad Ware, PhD. Tuition for the summer session is covered by a grant from Emeril’s foundation; students pay a nominal fee to register. NOCCA is a tuition-free arts conservatory offering professional training in creative writing, culinary arts, dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts for high school students across Louisiana.