Over bowls of gumbo at Lafitte’s Landing in Donaldsonville, La., the idea for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute was born in a discussion between former Nicholls President Donald Ayo and Chef John Folse. Both envisioned a way to preserve Louisiana culture and cuisine by teaching chefs, students and community members to master the art of Cajun and Creole cooking. Emphasis would be placed on the influences of Cajun-Creole cuisine: Native American, Spanish, French, African, German, English and Italian.
CJFCI began offering courses for college credit in 1995. The institute accepted its inaugural academic class in January 1996, offering an associate of science degree. The Board of Regents authorized Nicholls to offer a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts in 1997, making it the first four-year culinary degree program at a U.S. public university.
Today, CJFCI has an enrollment of approximately 300 students and serves as one of the university’s areas of excellence. This area is rich in cultural heritage and is known for its hospitality and fine cuisine. The unique cuisine attracts renowned international chefs to the Thibodaux campus to learn Southern cooking and culture each year.