James Beard Foundation Taste America Tour Takes on New Orleans
There is no group more highly touted in the culinary world than the James Beard Foundation. When the Foundation takes off on a mission, culinary enthusiasts, chefs, and foodies unite for the cause. Recently, the James Beard Foundation completed the New Orleans leg of its annual Taste America tour. For the third consecutive year, the Foundation is traveling across the country, making stops in 10 cities over a six week period to showcase local cuisine and highlight JBF Award–winning chefs and culinary celebrities. Each city will host a fundraising dinner headlined by a visiting All-Star chef and a team of local celebrated chefs. In addition, a series of cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings, and artisanal tastings will surround the main dining event in each city.
Taste America New Orleans, held at the Hyatt Regency in the city’s Central Business District, began with a cocktail and tasting reception on Friday night, with dishes prepared by several celebrated New Orleans chefs including Slade Rushing (Brennan’s); Michael Gulotta (MOPHO); Isaac Toups (Toups Meatery); Nina Compton (Compere Lapin); and Philip Lopez (Square Root). The tasting menu included a Tabasco mash-spiked goat tamale with smoked corn chowchow and Louisiana hot cream by Toups and a crispy pig’s head with pickled vegetables by Compton.
Following the tasting reception, guests were led to the grand hall to be seated for the main event—a four-course dinner headlined by James Beard Award winner and Taste America All-Star chef, Alex Guarnaschelli (Butter, New York City). Local Star Chef and James Beard Award winner, Justin Devillier (Balise, La Petite Grocery), kicked off the dinner with a flavorful chilled corn and coconut broth with blue crab, finger lime, basil and chilies. Host Chef Eric Damidot took over the second course, plating a stunning display of Louisiana green onion and leek crusted smoked Norwegian halibut with late summer tender carrots two ways and coriander jus. Chef Guarnaschelli covered the third course, serving up braised and grilled boneless Creekstone Farms beef short ribs with Siberian kale salsa verde, and papaya chaco fingerlings. After her dish was served, Guarnaschelli took the stage to express her sentiments toward the Big Easy saying, “I have to say, I just love New Orleans. Period. I’m not going home. I don’t have to go. They can book me a plane ticket. They can tell me I have to go home, but I’m not going.” Pastry Chef Brett Gauthier (Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group) was on dessert duty, whipping up sabayon glace with saffron poached pear and almond.
On Saturday, the merriment continued with an in-store consumer event at Sur La Table in Baton Rouge’s Perkins Row. Included in the free event were cooking demonstrations by chef Guarnaschelli and Chef Jay Ducote, competitor on Food Network Star, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Masterchef. Attendees were able to taste the chefs’ finished products and have their cookbooks signed.
The James Beard Taste America tour will continue the next four weekends with stops in Chicago, Portland, Boston, Twin Cities, Charleston, and San Francisco. A portion of the proceeds from each event will benefit the Taste of America Scholarship Fund. Culinary students in the 10 visited states are eligible to apply for this culinary scholarship between April 1 and May 15, 2017.
Learn more about Taste America at jbftasteamerica.org and follow the tour at #JBFTasteAmerica on Twitter and Instagram.