Susana Bravo and Ronald Green walked into John Besh’s downtown brasserie Lüke one recent morning expecting a sit-down interview with the celebrity chef. Instead, Besh and a collection of chefs and managers from his restaurants raised glasses to greet them with a hearty toast of congratulations, followed quickly by advice to start packing their bags.
As winners of this year’s Chefs Move scholarships Bravo and Green will soon depart for a nine-month hitch at the International Culinary Center in New York (formerly called the French Culinary Institute). That institutional training will be followed by a two-month paid internship at a Besh restaurant back in New Orleans, along with plenty of other support and mentoring along the way. Bravo will study culinary arts, while Green will focus on pastry arts.
The announcement was a surprise for the two budding culinary professionals, but within minutes of absorbing the news both were talking about the future.
“It’s about experiencing another culture, expanding your mind, then bringing that back to my city,” said Green, 28, a Chalmette native who previously worked at Loretta’s Pralines.
Bravo, 21, and a cook at the Hotel Monteleone’s restaurant Criollo, said she was most excited about “learning as much as I can and then paying that forward by sharing it with other people at home.”
Besh and local philanthropist Jessica Bride created Chefs Move in 2011 expressly with these sorts of experiences in mind. The scholarship program is aimed at minorities and it’s intended to prepare new leaders for the New Orleans restaurant business from a more diverse cross-section of the community. Green is African-American; Bravo is Mexican-American.
The scholarship’s goal struck a chord with Jose Munguia, executive sous chef at the Hotel Monteleone. He urged a number of young people on this staff to apply. The good news that Bravo won means Munguia now has to replace a valued employee, but he too is looking ahead.
“She’s on the way up, and this will really accelerate her career,” Munguia said. “A lot of people have the drive to do this, but they don’t have the means, so that’s what makes this so amazing. When you see someone with potential like this, you have to encourage them.”
The application process for the next Chefs Move scholarships opens in January. For more information, see chefsmove.org.