Five Nicholls student chefs to learn from top French culinary institute

The five Chef John Folse Culinary Institute students chosen for this summer’s Institut Paul Bocuse. From left, seniors Meifung Liu of Columbus, Ohio, Austin Babineaux of Lafayette, Kyong Han of Gretna, Logan Boudreaux of Lockport and Ashlé Turnipseed of Baton Rouge. (Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — Five Chef John Folse Culinary Institute students will receive a once in a lifetime opportunity this summer to travel to France and learn from the culinary minds at Institute Paul Bocuse.

Seniors Meifung Liu of Columbus, Ohio, Austin Babineaux of Lafayette, Kyong Han of Gretna, Logan Boudreaux of Lockport and Ashlé Turnipseed of Baton Rouge will travel to Écully, France from May to August.

The Institut Paul Bocuse Worldwide Alliance, founded by the celebrated French chef, unites 14 universities from across the world in the pursuit of top-notch culinary education. Nicholls’ Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is the only school in the United States involved in this partnership and sends its top students to an intensive four-month training at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Écully, France each year.

Liu said she was thankful her professors selected her to represent the school in France. Liu is the Student Culinary Association vice president, has represented Nicholls at the Augusta Masters Golf Tournament, staged at Dakota’s of Covington and interned at Quaker Ridge Golf Club.

“It is very rare and I feel very thankful to have the opportunity because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to actually step anywhere around the Institut Paul Bocuse,” Liu said.

Babineaux said going to France and representing not only himself but also his professors and family, means a lot to him. Babineaux supervised the breakfast buffet, assisted with expediting dinner service at the 2016 Masters Tournament, received the Baton Rouge Epicurean Scholarship and has been a line cook at Restaurant August and Ruffino’s on the River.

“I am looking forward to a once in a lifetime experience — coming from where I am coming from and going to Europe,” he said. “Not only that but learning French cuisine from actual French chefs is an astounding experience for me.”

Han said he was looking forward to learning the classical techniques from where American cuisine grew. Han has served as the president of the Student Culinary Association, worked in the butcher and smokehouse departments at Rouses, staged at Kingfish, Johnny Sanchez and August, interned at Southern Hills Country Club and was a cook at Cafe Boloud.

“I get to see a new aspect of cooking,” Han said. “I get to learn from one of the top people in the industry and get to meet a lot more people and connect with other people from other regions in the world. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m happy for it.”

Boudreaux said he is looking forward to experiencing the cuisine and learning from some of the best French chefs from all over the world. Boudreaux won the 2015 Bayou Cook-off Competition, interned at John Besh’s Luke and is now executive co-chef at Cinclare.

“I have definitely been working really hard to get to get in this position for the last five years and now it has come to fruition and speaking for all of us, we are really ecstatic,” Boudreaux said. “We are going to learn cuisine that is completely out of our comfort zone. You really get to experience the best of the best and top-notch cuisine.”

Turnipseed said she has been working toward this trip to France since she was a freshman and is both excited and overwhelmed to see that hard work come together. Turnipseed has worked at Fleming’s Steakhouse and Winebar, the Baton Rouge Country Club, Le Bistro, interned at the Tuxedo Club and represented Nicholls at the Masters Tournament.

“I think the biggest thing I am looking forward to is really pastry because I didn’t really get the chance to explore that while I was here,” Turnipseed said. “And that is kind of where pastries are really big and booming.”