Northwestern State University’s Hospitality Management and Tourism program honored Natchitoches chef/restaurateur Angela Lasyone and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser as the first inductees into the New Hall of Distinguished Hospitalitarians Friday.
The distinction acknowledges the contributions to Natchitoches cuisine, culture and tourism of the Lasyone family and Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant, an institution in the state, and Nungesser’s many accomplishments in promoting Louisiana as a tourist destination, particularly Natchitoches and NSU.
They were recognized during a reception hosted by NSU’s HMT department.
Lasyone earned a degree in business administration at NSU in 1986 and was a member of Phi Mu Fraternity. She has spent her career working in her family’s business that began as a meat market and evolved to become a landmark restaurant in north Louisiana and a catering business recognized throughout Louisiana and the U.S. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant marked its 52nd year in October. Their world-famous meat pies have drawn attention to Natchitoches through magazine and book articles, national and international newspapers features, radio and television highlights, appearing in Southern Living, The New Yorker, Gourmet Magazine, Calvin Trillin’s Third Helpings book, The Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, papers from France, Italy and Spain, On the Road with Charles Kuralt and Good Morning America.
Angela Lasyone and her sister Tina have been strong supporters of NSU over the years and established two scholarships in memory of their parents, Jo Ann and James Lasyone, awarded to students seeking careers in travel/tourism and culinary arts.
Lasyone said anyone in the restaurant business has to have a passion for the work.
“The meat pie has been very, very good to us,” she said. “You have to have a niche and this has been ours.”
Nungesser is no stranger to NSU, having been instrumental in establishing the university’s partnership with the Louisiana Seafood Board in presenting NSU’s largest and most popular annual spring fundraiser, Flavor of Louisiana. Nungesser has been especially effective in promoting Louisiana destinations and attractions above I-10, encouraging Louisiana residents to treat themselves to stay-cations in their home state.
“We are recognizing the lieutenant governor for many of his accomplishments, but primarily for what he has accomplished for northern Louisiana in terms of tourism, his strong dedication to Northwestern State University and his support of our program,” said Connie Jones, HMT coordinator.
“I love this city and this university,” Nungesser said. “It’s the people here who welcome everyone like they are family. The best asset in Louisiana tourism is you.”
NSU’s HMT program is commemorating its 25th year in 2019. Housed within the School of Business, the program offers a four-year degree with concentrations of study in travel and tourism, hospitality services and culinary arts. The program is integrated with other disciplines, including business, social sciences, communications and public relations.
“Our program is a leader here at NSU in experiential learning,” Jones said. “We have a café run by students twice a month and cater multiple functions every month for our program, our college and the university.”
HMT’s mission statement is to foster a student-centered learning environment that empowers individuals and prepares them to be successful industry professionals. Coursework throughout the degree program emphasizes experiential learning and service-based involvement.
Nungesser said the hospitality and tourism industry is the fourth largest employer in Louisiana.
“The number of visitors to our state is growing, and much of that can be attributed to the work of hospitality management programs at our universities,” Nungesser said. “One of the most resonating themes I’ve heard from people who have visited Louisiana is about the way they were treated, that they didn’t feel like strangers but family. Nowhere else in the world does that happen but in Louisiana.”
Information on Northwestern State’s Hospitality Management and Tourism program can be accessed at https://hmt.nsula.edu.