Celeb chefs from the South promote seafood and raise money at annual fete
As the thick oil from the BP spill bubbles through the Gulf of Mexico, threatening sea life and wetlands, foodies are taking up knife, fork and wine glass to defend the equally vulnerable reputation of the coast’s seafood industry.
The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, an annual celebration of the city’s love of all things tasty, is pairing wines from around the world with the cooking of some of the city’s best chefs to help deliver the message:
Louisiana seafood is still safe, available and delicious.
“What’s at stake is a whole way of life,” said John Besh, a cookbook author and one of the city’s most celebrated chefs.
“It’s one of the richest ecosystems in the world. Anything that lives, swims, eats or breeds in the Gulf of Mexico starts out in the Louisiana wetlands,” he said. “We need to protect it, and we need to let the world know it’s still available.”
The festival, which opens Wednesday, is a bit more tony than the recent Jazz and Heritage Festival or French Quarter Festival — organizers say they expect attendees in the $100,000-plus income bracket. It traditionally provides a tourism boost as New Orleans’ begins its slide into summer, when visitors tend to avoid the city’s heat and high humidity.
And in the true spirit of New Orleans — where death is celebrated with jazz funerals — attendees will acknowledge the sadness of the spill with a party.
“It’s the same thing we found ourselves doing after Hurricane Katrina,” said Joyce Godbold, executive director of the festival. “The New Orleans spirit can mourn and celebrate at the same time. We don’t lose our appreciation of something just because it’s in danger.”
To help attract national attention, Besh and Paula Deen, the queen of southern cooking and Food Network star, are teaming up during the festival to hype local seafood and raise money for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.
The pair will put on a cooking demonstration and tasting of “Shrimp and Grits” on Saturday. Then they, and other chefs, will serve up Louisiana seafood at a $300-a-plate dinner at Besh’s flagship restaurant, August, that evening, with all proceeds going to the foundation.
“Paula wasn’t going to come to the Wine and Food Experience,” Besh said. “But I was talking to her and she wanted to help. She and her family understand what our fishermen do, what they go through. They want to help preserve that culture.”
In the waters of south Louisiana, about 30 minutes from the festival site, hundreds of shrimp and fishing boats sit dockside, idled by the closure of nearby waters because of the long strings of orange oil that are undulating through the area.
But the situation changes constantly. Officials monitor the water and oil movement, reopening areas as they can in an effort to keep as much of the seafood industry operating as possible. And some areas of state waters, away from the spill, have never been closed.
“We still have a significant amount of water open to fisheries,” said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board. “Those fishermen are bringing in seafood and the product that is on the market is safe. We need people to know that.”
Right now, Smith and Besh said, the perception that Louisiana seafood is unavailable or unsafe is hurting the industry more than the spill.
“That’s a major concern,” Smith said. “We’re hearing that some restaurants around the country are putting up signs saying they aren’t serving Gulf seafood. They are basing that on a perception that we are shut down or it’s not safe. That has to stop.”
Seafood reaching the market now is undergoing even more stringent testing — by a number of government and health agencies — Smith said, that it normally does.
Between 75 and 85 percent of Louisiana seafood comes from west of the Mississippi River, where the oil has not penetrated, Smith said.
The Wine and Food Experience has grown from a small gathering held in a hotel ball room to an event staged at several venues, including the Superdome, where there will be wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, restaurants serving up their specialties, and live music.
“Sometimes when we were working on this year’s event and saw stories on the spill we would just have to stop and cry,” Godbold said. “But you know, in New Orleans we always try to celebrate the positive, so we thought if we could do that and help our fishermen, we should do it.”
More Related Stories
- I'm not achieving my dreams!
- The most popular Tumblr porn
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Facebook's hate speech problem
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- When my home was destroyed
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- You are less beautiful than you think
- "Ghetto" tour lets you gawk at New York's poor
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice
- Why I tried to be a punk
- I'm terrified of the cicada onslaught
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- SAT's right answers are all wrong
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11