Why New Orleans Needs to Protect Its Culinary Culture

April 21, 2016
By: Matthew Zuras, Vice

Mere minutes after I sit down with him, chef John Besh interrupts our lunch to get up and pose for a selfie with a nearby diner. Standing with him and chef Aarón Sánchez, the star-struck woman is suddenly in tears. Besh beams and drapes a reassuring arm around her as she snaps a photo.

Such is the magnetism and magnanimity of New Orleans’ lauded chef and restaurateur.

It’s the day before Besh kicks off Fêtes des Chefs, a series of fundraising dinners held in private homes across the city by an all-star lineup of chefs. I’ve joined him at Johnny Sánchez, his Mexican restaurant in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, to talk about the charitable foundation that those dinners will benefit.

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Innovators Changing the South

April 2016
By: Southern Living Magazine

Caroline Rosen

When Caroline Nabors Rosen graduated from Tulane University shortly after Hurricane Katrina, she knew she couldn’t stay away from her beloved city of New Orleans for long. She was right. In 2015, she came back to the Crescent City as the Executive Director of famed New Orleans Chef John Besh's Foundation. Today Caroline oversees a program, Chefs Move, that sends trained minority candidates from New Orleans to culinary school in New York City and in Northern California. She also manages a “Milk Money” micro-loan program that helps food producers within 200 miles of New Orleans grow their business and become valued suppliers for grocery stores and restaurants in South Louisiana. 

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Dine in the home of John Besh or James Carville at Fetes des Chefs

February 2016
By: Todd A. Price, Times-Picayune

What does it take to snag an invitation to a private dinner with Gail Simmons of Bravo's "Top Chef" at John Besh's Slidell home? To attend an intimate party atop the new Ace hotel with food from Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston? Or to spend an evening at James Carville and Mary Matalin's mansion for a meal from celebrated Italian chef Marc Vetri?

At Fêtes des Chefs on Saturday, March 19, all it takes is a $1,000 to $1,500 ticket.

The fundraising dinners, which are limited to 30 guests, benefit the foundation of John Besh, the celebrity chef behind AugustLüke,La Provence and many other local restaurants.

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John Besh's charitable foundation grows, chef adds new downtown bash

February 2016
By: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate

It’s hard to miss that chef John Besh’s restaurant company is growing.

His group has 12 high-profile restaurants, and he has a major new project on the way in the Pontchartrain Hotel, now being redeveloped.

Behind the scenes, the chef’s charitable foundation has been growing apace too. Its programs are expanding their reach and next month the foundation’s annual fundraiser returns with a new approach intended to open things up further.

The John Besh Foundation, now in its fifth year, primarily funds scholarships for minorities in New Orleans to attend culinary school and funds micro loans for local food producers.

For its Fêtes des Chefs event, Besh invites high profile chefs from around the country to host private dinners in local homes. The event is March 19. The list of hosts includes the likes of Aarón Sánchez, Sean Brock, Edward Lee and “Top Chef” star Gail Simmons, and tickets are $1,000.

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Avenue Pub Is This Weekend's Hot Spot For Parades & Awesome Tasting Events

January 2016
By: Nora McGunnigle, Eater Nola

Although the second floor Balcony Bar at the Avenue Pub is rented out for private parties for the most high profile parades, this weekend, not only is it open to the public, but there will be amazing beers debuted by Louisiana breweries to boot.

On Saturday, January 30NOLA Brewing's sour beer will be flowing - sour beers are great for marathon drinking, because they're refreshing and low ABV. New ones on tap are: Desire, a raspberry sour aged in white wine barrels; Out Tequila, a sour with kafir lime leaves, pineapple, and coconut aged in tequila barrels; and although not new, it's been tough to find on tap - NOLA and 7eventh Sun's sour collaboration, House of the Rising, which uses mayhaw and strawberries. There will also be several other sour and non-sour offerings on hand.

The balcony opens at 11 a.m., the first parade (Pontchartrain) kicks off uptown at 1pm, and should arrive at the pub by 2 p.m. or so. Other parades following in the afternoon are Choctaw and Freret, with Sparta and Pygmalion kicking off later on, around 6pm.

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The 8 Best Breweries of 2015

January 2016
By: Gramham Averill, Paste Magazine

During the last month, we’ve already talked about the best new beers of 2015, and rounded up the winning beers from all of our massive blind taste tests. In the process, we’ve detailed some amazing beers, and all that’s left as we rapidly approach 2016, is to talk about the breweries themselves—those mad scientist/artists that actually create all these amazing beers. So we asked our beer writers to pick their favorite breweries—the shops that knocked it out of the park in 2015. Here’s the completely subjective, but totally incredible list that they came up with, in no particular order.

Great Raft Brewing

It’s roughly two years old, but Great Raft Brewing already feels like the undisputed champ of the Louisiana craft scene. Evidence certainly continues to mount with things like Chef John Besh wanting these folks as collaborators. That resulting line of beers, Provisions and Traditions, pairs Great Raft with a specific Besh restaurant and challenges the brewery to use local ingredients, create a perfect pairing for varying cuisines, and keep things appropriately seasonal. (It’s all done in the name of culinary charity to boot.)

The results? This year’s Edition II was a summer Gose that used Avery Island salt and complimented Mexican dishes, and Edition III was an Oktoberfest with the state’s famous cane syrup to compliment your fall brats. If these one-offs are any indication, people beyond Shreveport should be counting down the days until the brewery’s other experimental offerings—say, it’s Christmas-seasonal, an 8.0% ABV Belgian Dark Strong Ale called Awkward Uncle—are delivered far and wide. Luckily in the meantime, fans around Louisiana have Great Raft’s unparalleled standard lineup to tide them over: Southern Drawl (Pale lager), Reasonably Corrupt (Black lager), and Commotion APA (American pale ale). Naturally, each is well above average for its style.—Nathan Mattise 

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Culinary Masters 2016: Charities

January 2016
By: Michalene Busico, Robb Report

 Community of Cooks

Rebuilding and preserving New Orleans’s culinary heritage has been a mission for John Besh since the early days after Hurricane Katrina, and he is quick to note the recovery’s successes. “We have nearly 50 percent more restaurants than we had prior to Hurricane Katrina, if you can believe that, with a smaller population,” he says. “Truly, our hospitality industry is more responsible for bringing New Orleans back than just about anything.” 

Yet Besh also sees that many of those in the inner city are not making the same strong comeback. He and a friend, the food blogger Jessica Bride, spent several years studying the problem, and in 2011 he established the John Besh Foundation, which he chose as his beneficiary for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition. The nonprofit group mentors young culinary talent in New Orleans and provides microloans to farmers and artisanal food producers within 200 miles of the city. 

Its scholarship program, cofounded with Bride, is called Chefs Move! It is open to minority applicants from New Orleans and provides full tuition to the International Culinary Center in New York City, including supplies and housing, as well as a paid internship in a top New York kitchen, such as Gramercy Tavern. Afterward, the students are required to return to New Orleans, where they work for Besh for six months and then move on to another elite kitchen in the city for at least two years. “I set them up with somebody who can be a mentor to them,” Besh says. “Susan Spicer and Emeril Lagasse and the Brennans have stepped up. And I would like to call upon Justin too, to see if he will take in one of our returning students. If we’re going to truly sustain this beautiful culture, people of every race, color, and creed have to participate in it.” 

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John Besh Foundation Events and a High End Beer Festival

December 2015
By: Nora McGunnigle, Eater Nola

istmas is this week, New Year's next week, then Twelfth Night, then Mardi Gras. After the city catches a collective breath and rests for a couple weeks, check out these events in February and March.

Nuit-Belge is a high-end food and beer pairing event that debuted in Nashville last year and is coming to New Orleans on February 26, 2016 at Generations Hall. Polly Watts from the Avenue Pub is assisting event organizer Rhizome Productions with beer selections and restaurants lined up to participate include Angeline, Balise, Boucherie, Cochon Butcher, NOLA by Emeril, MoPho, Milkfish, Primitivo, Purloo, Root, Shaya, and Toups Meatery.

Chefs from every restaurant will create a dish to complement the Belgian style beer assigned to them, and will serve the pairing in an intimate setting. In addition, there will be a chocolate pairing, a cheese pairing from St. James Cheese Company, and a raw oyster bar. Regular priced tickets are $129 but a limited number of tickets are available for $99 with the discount code"noladotcom"

The John Besh Foundation is adding a more casual event on the night before its signature fundraiser, Fêtes des Chefs, called Fêtes Fest. Fêtes Fest will take place at the Civic on March 18 with live music, local food vendors, and booze. Tickets are $80.

Fêtes des Chefs, in its second year, consists of chefs (including Sean Brock, Michelle Bernstein, Edward Lee, and Aarón Sánchez) cooking for dinner parties (30 people maximum per party) at private homes around the city. John Besh himself will be hosting a dinner party at his home with Gail Simmons of Top Chef.

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Billy Reid and Chef John Besh Cook Up a Collaboration

By Lisa Lockwood

COOKING UP A COLLABORATION: Billy Reid, the Alabama-based designer, has joined forces with chef John Besh to release their first collaborative project — a specialty apron.

 

The apron, which retails for $95, is available in conjunction with the launch of Besh’s latest cookbook, “Besh Big Easy,” which features New Orleans cuisine, that’s being released today. A portion of the proceeds from each apron will benefit Besh’s nonprofit, the John Besh Foundation, which invests in local food producers and provides scholarships to minority city youth in the community.

The apron will be sold on Reid’s Web site, beginning at noon today, as well as all Billy Reid stores, Besh’s Web site and all 12 of his restaurants.

Reid, who operates a design studio in Manhattan near its Bond Street shop and at its Alabama headquarters, sells to boutiques worldwide and operates 12 stores domestically and an e-commerce site. It makes men’s, women’s, footwear and accessories.

BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH COOKING

August 31, 2015
By: Saveur.com 

Edward Lee and John Besh sat down with us to talk about their philanthropic efforts.

Since 2011, John Besh's Chefs Move initiative has provided aspiring minority chefs from New Orleans with a cooking school scholarship, a chef-mentor, and a kitchen internship. This month, Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky, kicks off the Smoke & Soul Pop-Up Dinner Series, a restaurant program staffed by underprivileged kids.

Besh: I remember that! I think what it really comes down to is creating a mentorship process that never ends. We set them up, so once they come to New York they have guidance from chefs like Michael Anthony at Gramercy Tavern. Kids from underprivileged backgrounds sometimes don't know that the possibilities are endless when you find your passion.

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The Gulf Coast's resilient spirit is the star of Robin Roberts' Katrina-anniversary ABC special

August 21, 2015
By: Dave Walker, Nola.com

ABC's "Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm WithRobin Roberts," which airs Sunday (Aug. 23) at 9:01 p.m. on WGNO-TV, played well on Wednesday (Aug. 19) to a highly invested New Orleans screening audience, many of whom appear in the special. The invited viewers gave it a standing ovation.

"I mean this respectfully: It was difficult to watch with this audience, because they lived that," Roberts said, pointing to the screen during an interview after the audience had departed the theater. "Other people, when we were showing it in New York or to people who weren't from the area, they were just seeing the pictures. But to hear the gasps, to feel the emotion, knowing that I was bringing them back to something they would rather forget. I'm like that, too. It was hard for me to see myself 10 years ago, crying like a baby on national television because I'd just found my mom in Biloxi.

"But it was important. It was very important to show it here first. I didn't want them to see it for the first time on Sunday with everybody else. It's their story, and I was very appreciative of their reaction."

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How Cooking Helped Change the Life of a New Orleans Katrina Survivor

August 21, 2015
By: Andrea Israel and Alexa Valiente, ABC News
Photo:AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

After Hurricane Katrina made its way through the Gulf coast, a million people were displaced and scattered across the country. For some who eventually came back home, the Big Easy's food community not only fed them, but gave hope to those struggling to rebuild their lives.

Syrena Johnson was 15 years old when Katrina left her and her family stranded in the unbearable heat for three days at their home in New Orleans.

“We all wanted help. That’s all we wanted was help, and nobody came to our aid for a long time. And that’s what makes me mad,” Johnson, now 25, said in an interview with “Good Morning America” anchor and Pass Christian, Mississippi, native Robin Roberts for the ABC News special “Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm,” which airs on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 10 p.m. ET.

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Robin Roberts examines storm's aftermath in 'Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm

August 21, 2015
By:Kimberly C. Roberts, Philadelphia Tribune

Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, returns to the region to host “Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm,” airing at 10 p.m., Aug. 23 on ABC.

Ten years after “the most devastating natural disaster in United States history,” Roberts explores Hurricane Katrina’s legacy, examines the remarkable recovery, where it has fallen short, and celebrates “the indomitable spirit that runs through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.”

Also, in a “moving portrait of courage and fortitude,” Roberts uncovers the story of two lives intersected because of the storm. A tale of an unlikely friendship between a tenacious girl named Syrena — rescued from the rooftop of her inner-city house — and celebrated chef John Besh, who vowed to help New Orleans recover. Chef Besh became the force to help Syrena as she journeyed from an at-risk youth program to attending culinary school and becoming a chef in the city’s most esteemed restaurants. 

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Rising Up: Meet New Orleans’ Next Great Pastry Chef

August 10, 2015
By: Nick Weldon, Go Nola
Photo: Rush Gajoe

Christian LeBlanc’s road to becoming one of New Orleans’ most promising young pastry chefs started inauspiciously. It was a Saturday night, he had just showered before bedtime, and he was making his way to his room when he caught a sweet scent emanating from the kitchen across the hall. His mother, an administrative assistant and hobbyist baker, had prepped cinnamon rolls for the morning. With the coast clear, he and his brother crept into the kitchen. “We made a total mess of ourselves playing in the dough and flour,” he says.

In hindsight, LeBlanc, 18, ought to be forgiven for the pastry massacre that survives as one of his earliest and fondest kitchen memories; he was “four or five years old,” after all, and the curiosity has served him well in the years since.

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