Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Idea Village Nurtures Local Culinary Entrepreneurs

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

Emily Vanlandingham of Locally Preserved showcases her preserves and jams as part of The Idea Village's 9-week culinary competition.
In an attempt to reinforce and grow New Orleans strong food and drink tradition, The Idea Village recently launched a nine-week coaching program designed to help nurture the next wave of local entrepreneurs. The competition culminated on December 17th as the five culinary entrepreneurs ran kiosks showcasing their products at the NOLA Brewing Company, a fitting destination for the competition given it is also a recent food and drink start-up.

The participants in the competition included:
The following judges participated in the review:
  • Ti Martin, Proprietor at Commander's Palace Restaurant
  • John Elstrott, Chairman of Whole Foods Markets
  • Allison Rouse, Executive at Rouses's Supermarkets
  • Robbie Vitrano, Co-Founder of Naked Pizza
  • David Darragh, CEO of Reily Foods Company
  • Sandy Whann, President of Leidenheimer Baking Company
The formidable panel of judges inquired about how the participants source their raw ingredients, plan to package and distribute their products, approach to ensuring freshness and safety, what their marketing idea are and finally a thorough exploration of their costs breakdown. And although only one winner emerged from the competition, all participants likely benefited from the exposure and counsel from some of the area's leading culinary experts.

And although the panel of judges and public were impressed by all participants, one winner had to be declared. The top nod went to Vanlandingham, a chef that sources local fruits for a variety of jams, jellies, syrups, and preserves. The top prize includes $2,500 cash and a slot to participate in the Big Idea business pitch competition during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in March (with a top prize of $50,000). Vanlandingham says she plans to use the prize and notoriety to expand her locally-themed jarred products in other cities.

According to the recent post on | The Times-Picayune:
The judges awarded two second-place prizes, each worth $2,500 in cash. One went to Winner, who plans for his business to become an online bakery delivering freshly baked pies and other goods. The other second-place winner was Davis, whose bottled cocktails are aimed in part at gift shoppers, starting with an introductory product she calls the "Garden District Bloody Mary."
And as noted, ultimately all the participants seemed to benefit from the competition and ongoing counsel. Vanlandingham said she re-branded her products, got organized, and set new priorities based on her experience. 

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

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