Nearly 30 chefs from New Orleans and beyond served their take on boudin, sausage and other rustic Louisiana, pork-centric fare at Boudin & Beer, a unique food festival to benefit the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, in addition to charities chosen by event co-chairs Donald Link and Mario Batali.
"We wanted to stage a hip event where locals would get involved and be able to see some of the things we're doing," Kristen Shannon, the foundation's executive director, said in a recent quote. "Boudin & Beer seemed like a good way to do that."
The original planned attendance swelled from 1000 to 1500 before tickets, which started at $75, sold out.
The inaugural appearance of the one-night event was semi-casual (with a dress code stated as “Cajun cocktail” on the website) and included copious amounts of food, a live New Orleans and Cajun musical line-up, craft beers from presenting sponsor Abita Brewing Company, a Glenlivet tasting of five single-malt Scotches, ranging in age from 12 to 21 years, and a selection of cigars from Nat Sherman of New York.
Experts from the Southern Foodways Alliance were on hand to answer questions about the Louisiana version of boudin, a seasoned link sausage of pork, rice and spices that is iconic to state’s cuisine. Pieces from the traveling Boudin exhibit, to be installed at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFab) in New Orleans, were also on display.
Guests also had the opportunity to shake hands and rub elbows with celebrity chefs, who gamely posed for photographs, as well as watch them prepare and plate their dishes.
Not too bad for the price, considering the main event, the 7th annual Carnivale du Vin, has a $1000 entry fee and is rated among the top ten charity wine auctions in the U.S. by Wine Spectator.
Last year, the lavish Carnivale du Vin raised nearly $2 million and has invested more than $4 million in non-profits that support children's causes focusing on culinary arts, school food and nutrition, and arts and education programs.
Some of those beneficiary students were busily cooking, plating and serving at Boudin & Beer, under the watchful eyes of Chefs Dana D’anzi Touhy and Frank Brigsten, culinary faculty chair and Master Chef-in-residence at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). The young team prepared a crowd-pleasing sweet potato boudin crepinette on a cardamom pecan biscuit, topped with a house-made Abita Turbo Dog mustard and onion marmalade.
Earlier this year, NOCCA held the ribbon cutting for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Arts Studio, a teaching space outfitted with professional restaurant equipment for the school’s new four-year culinary arts program. The curriculum was developed in partnership with Johnson & Wales University.
For someone who launched a massive media career off the all-too-catchy, “BAM!” Lagasse himself is rather modest where fundraising is concerned.
“We’re excited for everyone to get a taste of the best boudin with great live music and some of Abita’s special brews,” he said. “But most importantly, we get to celebrate all of the children who benefit from our foundation’s work.”