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Celebrating Our Culinary Champions

Updated: May 31

We're excited to share the incredible adventures that our Class of 2024 scholarship recipients have embarked on in recent weeks. Their dedication, passion, and achievements have been nothing short of inspiring, and we are thrilled to share their stories with you.

Culinary Champions: Our Students Won Big!

Our Class of 2024 recipients were invited to participate in the annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown BBQ competition produced by Emeril Lagasse Foundation in South Walton County, Florida. The competition was fierce, including cooking against a team headed by Chef Emeril himself. The recipients competed on the inaugural Sánchez-Moonen BBQ Ballers team featuring chefs and mentors Aarón Sánchez and Rick Moonen. We saw their hard work, which all paid off—they were voted Throwdown Champs! Their victory is a testament to their talent and the exceptional guidance they received from their team mentors.

Group of Latino youth with Chef Aaron Sanchez dressed in basketball uniform costumes
The Sanchez-Moonen BBQ All Stars featuring Melvin Reyes, Meyauna Campbell, Christian Lopez, Aarón Sánchez, Jennifer Killian, Rick Moonen, and Melanie Londono

Melanie's Experience with a Street Food Legend

Melanie had the incredible opportunity to work with the esteemed Miss Linda the YakaMein Lady in her very popular food booth at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. YakaMein is a soup also referred to as "Old Sober" that Miss Linda has been preparing at local festivals and other events for decades, therefore keeping this street food tradition alive. This experience was not only a chance for Melanie to learn from a local stree food legend, but also to immerse herself in the rich cultural and culinary heritage of New Orleans. Melanie's time at the festival was filled with learning, excitement, and a deeper appreciation for the city's vibrant food scene. She was also rewarded with some free time and enjoyed the festival's cultural music and food exchange with Colombia, representing her family's Hispanic heritage.

BBQ Mondays Popup with Chef Sophina Uong at Mister Mao

Christian, Meyauna, and Melvin joined forces with James Beard Award nominated Chef Sophina Uong at Mister Mao for a special BBQ Mondays popup event. This collaboration allowed them to showcase their skills and creativity in a dynamic and supportive environment. The popup was a success, with attendees raving about the delicious and innovative dishes prepared by our talented recipients.

Latino culinary students in a restaurant kitchen
L to R: Christian Lopez, Meyauna Campbell, Melvin Reyes

Christian's Television Debut in New Orleans

Christian recently made his television debut on WVUE Fox 8, cooking paella alongside his culinary arts instructor Chef Kent LeVan to promote NOCHI's upcoming June popup restaurant Manolete (which is currently accepting reservations here.) This appearance was a fantastic opportunity for Christian to share his passion for cooking with a broader audience and gain valuable experience in the media spotlight.

Latino culinary student with chef instructor on TV kitchen set with paella
Christian Lopez and Chef Kent LeVan of NOCHI

Our Class of 2024 is less than a month away from graduating and starting the next chapter of their professional career. It is an adventurous and exciting time for these young Latinos.

We are grateful for your continued support, which makes these enriching experiences possible for our scholarship recipients. Their successes reflect the power of education, mentorship, and community in shaping the next generation of culinary leaders.


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