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    Shreveport chef headed to Morocco on culinary arts scholarship

    10 Apr 2018

    A Shreveport chef is heading to Morocco to learn authentic cooking styles of the north African country.

    Ernestine “Tootie” Morrison, formerly of Abby Singer’s Bistro, has been awarded a $2,000 scholarship from The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation to travel to Morocco May 7-18. She will join students from Montana State University studying agroecology and environmental science.

    Morrison will work alongside residents of a rural farming village, Zawiyat Ahansal, performing daily tasks, hiking the Atlas Mountains, experiencing local cultures and learning to cook local dishes.

    Cooking abroad and traveling to Africa have been longtime goals for Morrison.

    More: After children, Frierson native finds passion in kitchen

    “I’ve always said I wanted to go to Africa and the opportunity presented itself with a scholarship to go,” Morrison said. “With the cause of cooking and doing what I love, (it) seemed absolutely perfect to me.”

    Morrison will return as an ambassador sharing her experience with the local community.

    “Possibly doing a supper to showcase what I’ve learned over there — their methods, their recipes,' Morrison said. 'I’ll be journaling, taking notes.'

    She and the foundation will work together to craft events and programs designed to share Morrison's new techniques with the public — specifically with youth in Shreveport and Bossier City.

    “One thing that stood out about Tootie is she’s already seeing the importance of connecting young people to this art of cooking,” said Jane Watts, director of The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation.

    Morrison's volunteer work teaching students to cook at Renzi Education and Art Center stood out on her scholarship application.

    “While she’s very gifted in what she’s doing and has a joy of food, it wasn’t just about food a physical substance — but of food being a connector of people,” Watts said.

    The foundation will work with Morrison to continue encouraging youth to find a love for cooking and how it can be a tool in their lives, Watts said.

    The foundation’s mission is “Cultivating compassion in individuals, families and communities.” It was formed to continue the legacy of the late Ross Lynn, a local farmer, artist and philanthropist who Watts said “lived hisbest life.”

    The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation supports initiatives largely focused on art, outdoor adventure and healthy living through programs, scholarships and grants.

    It’s the first year for the foundation to offer the Moroccan culinary scholarship, which was open to female chefs in the Shreveport-Bossier City area. It was designed for women due to Morocco's customs and living and work conditions.

    The new adventure comes in a season of change for Morrison. She received news of her scholarship while at dinner with a friend — the same friend she credits for connecting her to Abby Singer’s Bistro, where worked as executive chef for the last six years.

    The two were discussing Morrison’s latest career plan to launch a private catering company. Being with the same friend at another life-altering moment brought it all “full circle,” she said.

    “To be sitting there with her when that phone call came, it’s like ‘This is where I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. Okay, God, I see You,’” Morrison said.

    Morrison’s culinary career began later in her adult life. After her children graduated from high school, she decided to act on her passion for cooking.

    “I decided to go back to something that I wanted to do and that led me to culinary school because I’ve always cooked,” she said. “I wanted it to be my profession.”

    In 2008, she graduated from culinary arts program at Bossier Parish Community College. She was 35.

    She landed her first job in the kitchen at Macaroni Grill, formerly in Shreveport, where she worked for two years. She later joined her brother’s barbecue restaurant in Frierson. A couple of years later, she was referred for a catering job at the Robinson Film Center, and that led to a full-time position as the food and beverage manager of the indie movie house’s restaurant.

    Morrison’s final day at Abby Singer’s Bistro was March 3. She’s launching a personal catering company called Earnestly Tootie’s Chef Services.

    The name is in honor of her given name, Ernestine, and her late father, Ernest.
    “It’s earnestly who I am,” she said.

    “I’ve always wanted to work for myself, so I established a business of my own,” she said. “I had to just step out and decide I needed to step away from being so comfortable and actually step out and take a chance.”

    She will cater private dinners and parties and provide meal prep services and public pop-up cooking gigs around town.

    Her food artistry has been recognized beyond the traditional kitchen.

    In 2015, Morrison won the inaugural Battle for the Golden Fork cook-off hosted by Louisiana Food Prize. Like Food Network’s “Chopped,” the competition placed local chefs at kitchen stations where they had to beat the clock whipping up exceptional dishes using “mystery” ingredients presented to them.

    Morrison impressed the panel of national celebrity chefs and won the trophy and $5,000 cash award.

    Morrison’s career was founded on sharing her love of food with others, taking risks and the ability to handle the heat in the kitchen. The chef's new ventures are testaments of her faith and willingness to try something new in the name of culinary arts.

    shreveporttimes

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