Jessie Wightkin Gelini Culinary Arts!

Students currently in 8th-11th grades may apply for High School Arts Instruction. The Culinary Arts Department offers a four-year course of study for talented and disciplined students who aspire to be chefs and/or foresee a career within the broad scope of culinary. NOCCA’s Culinary Arts program, developed in collaboration with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, features the first of its kind curriculum for high school students. In classes concentrating on hands-on training and technique, students are provided the opportunity to work side by side with industry leading chefs who serve as professional mentors while delivering all aspects of curriculum. Students are treated like young professionals and held to high expectations in basic cooking techniques, uniform standards, sanitation and growth of skill set. Include with your completed application:

    • An essay explaining what culinary means to you, including your relationship with food and how culinary affects your daily life. You are welcome to upload a resume detailing any professional work experience, if applicable.
    • A short video (2 mins max) of you cooking and explaining your favorite dish.
    • A short video (1 min max) of you demonstrating your knife skills. Knife Skills Demo

During the audition:

    • You will be interviewed by one or more of the chef instructors who will ask you a series of questions about your experiences, expertise and commitment. Prepare to discuss your interest in culinary arts, what or who inspires you, and any experience or training. A second interview may be required.
    • Be prepared to be involved in an individual or group discussion which may include, but not be limited to, weights and measures, product identification, basic knowledge of cooking techniques, stock making. Weights and Measurements
    • Be prepared to get creative and provide menu or product ideas for thematic events.

In addition to individual department requirements, all applicants will:

    • Upload to the application a 1-2 minute video of the applicant answering the question, “Why do I want to train at NOCCA?”
    • Upload to the application a copy of the most recent report card. Applicants must have at least a 2.0 GPA.
    • Be prepared with the email of an adult who is not related to you to complete your recommendation. Your recommender will receive an email from Acceptd with a link to fill out a recommendation form online.


Photo of Jessie Wightkin Gelini

Jessie Wightkin Gelini

Chef Instructor Culinary Arts
Work Phone: 504-940-2858


Jessie is a native New Orleanian and a alumni of the Dance Department here at NOCCA. Jessie’s passion for food brought her to the University of Alabama where she studied Culinary Anthropology. She began her culinary education at the prestigious Commander’s Palace where she started at their shrimp peeler and after four years left as the Pastry Chef. Jessie also helped start the kitchen team at Bacchanal Wine and Taceaux Loceaux food truck. Passing on the traditions of her culinary roots is what Jessie is most passionate about. She left the kitchen to begin educating the youth of New Orleans on all things food. Her Culinary Teacher began at Edible Schoolyard and lead her back home to NOCCA. Jessie continues to cook as a private chef and events but her heart lies with education. A self proclaimed Food Explorer, she is enthusiastic about traveling the world through food. 


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