Meet the Freshman Class: Louisiana

Meet the culinary students of the first Season of Cooking Channel's The Freshman Class.

Meet the Freshman Class   

Jasmine Simmons, Ben Mitchell, Tiffany Theriot and Jared Heine all had to make sacrifices to attend the Louisiana Culinary Institute, a school known for its fast pace and strict attendance policy. Will they persevere in the pursuit of their culinary dreams, or will they buckle under the pressure?

Three Strikes and You're Out

The school has a low tolerance for absences. If a student misses one day of classes, they're given a warning. Two classes, they're on probation. Three, they're out. Inevitably, three to five out of each group of 30 students fail out.

Meet Jasmine

Age: 22

Hometown: New Orleans

Jasmine Simmons is a stripper at the Hustler Club on Bourbon Street. When she was 15, her whole family evacuated from Hurricane Katrina, turning her once-stable life upside down. She became rebellious, got pregnant at 16 and dropped out of school.

A New Future

Jasmine's finally taking a big step to be able to provide a better life for herself and her daughter by going to LCI to become a chef (though she's never worked in a kitchen before). "Everything's riding on this," she says. "It's the future for me and my daughter."

Meet Jared

Age: 23

Hometown: St. Francisville, La.

Jared Heine fought in Afghanistan in the Marines. He'd take whatever he could get his hands on in the remote mountain outposts — from chickens from local Afghan coops to Doritos — and cook complicated recipes over an open fire. He and one of his fellow Marines made a pact: When they got home, they'd open a restaurant together.

A Miraculous Survival

But Jared nearly didn't make it home from Afghanistan. Three times he was "blown up" — he was within feet of a Taliban bomb that went off. The last time, the Marine standing next to him lost three limbs, and Jared was thrown nearly 100 feet into a tree. Jared thinks his survival was some kind of miracle, and that he must have been meant to accomplish something on this earth.

Overcoming Challenges

Now that he's 3 months out of the Marine Corps, he's set to chase his dream of opening a restaurant with his Marine friend, who lost both his legs to a Taliban bomb. But Jared also came home with a handicap — he struggles with memory and hearing loss as a result of the brain injuries he sustained from the bombs.

Meet Tiffany

Age: 41

Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.

Tiffany Theriot was once an ambitious high school student who planned to become a doctor. But her plans quickly changed when she got pregnant. By the time she was 22, she was a full-time mom with four kids, and her dream of becoming a doctor was long gone. She vowed that as soon as her youngest graduated from high school, she would go to college.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Tiffany comes from a long line of great Cajun cooks, and she always wanted to get a culinary degree and open her own restaurant ("Breakfast at Tiffany's").

Meet April

Age: 19

Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.

When Tiffany's daughter, April, decided to go to LCI, she encouraged her mom to finally follow her dream and attend culinary school, too. Now Tiffany and April plan to attend LCI together.

Mom-and-Daughter Time

Though April and her mom, Tiffany, have a "best friend" type of mother-daughter relationship, their LCI experience will test them: They haven't spent all-day-every-day together since Tiffany was a new mom.

Meet Ben

Age: 40

Hometown: Crowley, La.

Ben Mitchell is a taxidermist who's barely making ends meet, but Ben's determined to provide a more stable life for his wife and two kids. One day, he says, he'll leave a thriving Cajun restaurant for his kids to run.

An Unexpected Surprise

Ben signed up for LCI with his wife's blessing, but that was before they received a surprise: Ben's wife is pregnant with their third child, and she's due the week Ben's supposed to start classes.

Determined to Succeed

Now Ben has to succeed in culinary school, keep his taxidermy business running and help take care of a newborn all at the same time. "It's gonna be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," Ben says. "But being unsuccessful is not in my vocabulary. It's gonna be all-in. I'm determined."

About the Louisiana Culinary Institute

LCI is a small school with only 30 full-time culinary arts students in each entering class. It offers associate degrees in culinary arts that take 18 months to complete. Culinary arts classes are held Monday through Thursday from 8:00am to 1:45pm. At the end of each course, they take exams and either pass or fail.