BAM! While Chef Emeril Lagasse’s catchphrase may not have started at Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts, Lagasse did graduate in 1978 from J&W and go on to become a professional chef and television host. The Portuguese and French-Canadian restauranteur was born in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, but launched his career in New Orleans, where he mastered his signature Creole and Cajun cuisine.
The culinary arts program had only recently started when Emeril attended. While the university was founded in 1914 as a business school, what is now known as the College of Culinary Arts opened in 1973 and became more formally established in 1992.
The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University is a teaching museum that preserves and interprets culinary and hospitality heritage. Connected to the university, the museum features work and materials by and for students attending the College of Culinary Arts while also operating exhibits for regular museum visitors.
In 1979, Johnson & Wales accepted industrialist Paul Fritzsche’s donation of 7,500 rare historical cookbooks, followed a decade later by a donation from educator and restaurateur Louis Szathmary of 64,000 items, including books, artifacts, menus, silver, matchbooks, pots, pans, appliances, artwork, correspondence, autographs, antiques, and advertisements spanning five hundred years. These two collections led the university to create the Culinary Archives & Museum in 1989 to highlight culinary history and culture.
More recently, Zack Hanle of Bon Appetit magazine donated over 4,000 menus from around the world, and the museum has also accepted donations from Earle MacAusland of Gourmet Magazine, New York Times columnist and cookbook author Jean Hewitt, McCalls editor Mary Norton, and author and chef Julia Child, who received an honorary doctorate degree from the university in 1995.
The renamed Culinary Arts Museum tells stories about food trends, traditions, and innovations, including the significant impact of the College of Culinary Arts on the Rhode Island food scene.
The College of Culinary Arts has served as a catalyst for the culinary arts in the state, especially in Providence. Johnson & Wales alumni have established numerous restaurants in Rhode Island and significantly shape local food culture and the culinary arts. As Emeril would say, “Feel the love.”