Reconcile Grad Wins Chefs Move! Scholarship
Chris Okorie, a 22 year-old Reconcile graduate from the 3rd Ward, will move to New York and enroll in The International Culinary Center (founded as the French Culinary Institute) this fall, all expenses paid. Chris was recently named the recipient of the Chefs Move! scholarship, a program co-founded by Chef John Besh and Jessica Bride to offer opportunities to diversify kitchen leadership. The award offers Chris the chance to train in the culinary arts while gaining perspective on national and international cuisine so that he can return to New Orleans and become a leader in the culinary field.
Chris has excelled in the kitchen from day one. After graduating high school in New Iberia, Louisiana, he moved to New Orleans with his grandmother where things were “very shaky” financially. A friend recommended the Reconcile program and Chris immediately soared to the top of his class. Described by his case manager as, “one of the best students Reconcile has ever had,” Chris interned at the cafe so he could continue taking computer networking classes at Delgado Community College.
In November 2009, Chris graduated the program and began working at the Loews Hotel soon after. A food runner to start, Chris was promoted to the dessert station at Cafe Adelaide and, later, garde manger. Last June, Chris was again promoted to sautee cook, where he still works today.
Chris speaks very highly of his time in the Reconcile program, crediting it with changing his career path from computer networking, which he’d be “doing for the paycheck,” to cooking, which he does because he “loves it.” Never having taken a culinary class, Chris is anxious to get to New York and learn as much as he can. He is most excited about experiencing “anything that is new or different” because, though he loves traditional New Orleans fare, he has a taste for the exotic. When he is the executive chef of his own restaurant, Chris promises to include a few Indian and Asian dishes on the menu.
Part of the Chefs Move! scholarship requires the winner to return to New Orleans for one year after the completion of culinary school. Chris is guaranteed an 8-week internship with Chef Brian Landry of Borgne Restaurant, something he is already talking about with excitement. He’s looking forward to learning from Chef Landry, and to helping Reconcile in any way he can.
Chris was inspired by “the fact that Reconcile changed so many kids’ lives, including [his] own” and he has embraced the desire to help others help themselves. He advises future Reconcile students, “get everything you can from it so you can give back any way you can” because he knows the joy of watching others succeed. We at Cafe Reconcile know that Chris will give back great things to this city and we are eager to watch it unfold. Good luck, Chris!