Over 300 guests crowded the Hotel Eventi in New York to witness some of the country’s most renowned chefs compete in what’s become an annual event for D’Artagnan. The renowned purveyor of all-natural and organic poultry and game, free-range meat, foie gras, charcuterie, wild mushrooms and truffles has just sponsored its Fourth Annual Cassoulet Wars. Ariane Daguin, D’Artagnan’s Founder and Owner, presided over the proceedings which benefited Action Against Hunger. The charity, whose mission is to take action against global hunger, reached 14.9 million people in 47 countries in 2015 alone.
Hunger was not exactly top of mind for guests at this year's Cassoulet War. While quaffing wines from Chateau Peyros, Georges Vigouroux and Chateau de Laubade, guests availed themselves of every Cassoulet on offer. Twenty-three competitors held forth at tables lining the two rooms where the contest took place, each one dishing out samples of their take on the French Classic. Cassoulet, in case you've forgotten, is a rich, slow-cooked ‘casserole’ created first in the south of France. The dish has many variations. The constant is white beans, “haricots blancs", but after that almost anything goes. There are versions containing pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes even mutton. When the dish is served on Haute Cuisine menus, the meats are cooked separately then added to beans that have been simmered separately with aromatic vegetables. The classic version, with its peasant roots, runs counter to the Fine Dining approach. In making the dish, it’s traditional to deglaze the ‘cassoule’ from the previous cassoulet to make a base for the next one. The variety of ingredients and permission to use them however the chefs wanted produced outstanding Cassoulets. This gave great leeway to the Cassoulet Warriors whose entries included highly individual takes on the dish.
All 300 guests participated in voting for their personal favorites. An expert panel of bold-faced names made a more professional assessment of each dish. The judges included such well-known names as Chef Andre Soltner (French chef and author), Chef Sara Moulton (host of Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS), Chef Laurent Tourondel (L’Amico, The Vine), Daniel Boulud (Daniel, Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud), Elizabeth Falkner (of Top Chef fame) and luminaries including Anne-Claire Legendre (Madame le Consul General de France a New York) and Chef Philippe Bertineau (chef & ambassador of L’Academie Universelle de Cassoulet), Benjamin Bragard (CEO, Bragard), Chef Jean-Louis Dumonet (chef, president Maitres Cuisiniers de France).
And the winners are….The blind taste test produced winners in 3 categories: Best Authentic Cassoulet went to Chef Alexander Burger of Bar Boulud in NYC, Best Daring Cassoulet, Chef Kiran Verma of Kiran’s in Houston TX, and Most Popular Cassoulet went to Chef Guillaume Ginther of Le Coq Rico in New York, NY
The real winner of this wonderful event was Action Against Hunger: More than $10,000 was raised in support of their noble efforts.