By Nick BeJeaux
Get ready to take a bite out of BR’s slow food movement at Gourmet in the Garden, the highly anticipated fundraiser supporting the Louisiana Culinary Institute and LSU Agricultural Center’s botanical gardens.
Held on Friday, May 1, Gourmet in the Garden will provide donors with an elegant meal highlighting local ingredients and chefs set within the beautiful Botanic Gardens off Essen Lane from 7 to 10 p.m.
Charles Ruffolo, Director of Public Affairs at the LCI, says that all patrons can count on is a dazzling variety of food and flavors.
“We have a total of 20 chefs, restaurants and LCI students that will be cooking at Gourmet in the Garden, so it’s going to be a culmination of a ton of food and flavors,” he said.
Restaurants and chefs that will be contributing to the fundraiser include LSU Dining, Hook and Boil, Barcadia, 18 Steak, Tiger Deaux-Nuts, Bistro Byronz, ACF Baton Rouge Chapter, Pat’s of Henderson, Jimmy Le from ProStart, Troy Deano from Brackish, and Erik Castelar from The Cabin. These local chefs will have at their disposal the finest proteins and produce harvested right here in Louisiana, keeping with the fundraisers mission to promote sustainable deliciousness.
“We are working with a lot of local vendors and farmers,” he said. “For example, we will be getting our produce from Covey Rise; our strawberries will come from Blahut Farms. Iverstine farms will be helping out with some of the proteins featured in the dinner. Now there are bigger sponsors, like Sysco, that will be providing the paper products, but all of the produce and protein we’ll be cooking with will be coming from local, sustainable farmers.
“We want to support local, promote Louisiana, and keep those dollars here; that’s why LCI and and LSU Ag Center have partnered up for Gourmet in the Garden. All of the proceeds will go to the LCI Foundation, which creates need-based scholarships for our students and funds programs to help feed the homeless, and the Ag Center’s research and development programs. That is the drive behind this.”
Local beer and spirits will also be front and center, namely beers from the Tin Roof Brewery in Baton Rouge and Donna-Pelletier from Thibodeaux. And what is good food without entertainment? In addition to live music by local favorite The Rusty Yates band, there will also be a cooking competition for the people’s choice awards and a baking competition called the Petit Fours Wars to be waged by LCI students.
“There isn’t anything that’s not Louisiana,” said Ruffolo.
Chef and Director of Triumph Kitchen Chris Wadsworth is one of the 20 chefs offering his talents at the fundraiser, but he won’t be going in alone. Triumph Kitchen is a non-profit organization that teaches culinary, hospitality and life skills to at risk youth. Wadsworth says that many of his students will be joining him in the Garden.
“We’re actually in between classes right now, but we will have some graduates on hand that will be involved there in the preparation and serving side of our involvement there,” he said.
For his contribution to the fundraiser, Wadsworth has chosen to put a delicious spin on a popular breakfast pastry. And yes, all of the ingredients are sourced locally.
“We’re doing a crawfish corn waffle,” he said. “It’s basically a traditional corn-based waffle stuffed with Louisiana crawfish tails, topped with crawfish au gratin and Louisiana molasses. The crawfish are actually coming from Eunice (I’m a Lafayette boy) and the syrup is coming from Abbeville. All of our vegetables are coming from Indie Plate, which is right here in Baton Rouge.”
Wadsworth said he jumped at the chance to help support the LCI, as many of the students that graduate from the TK program end up furthering the culinary career there.
“We’re huge fans of LCI, many of our students that want to further their career often end up there,” he said. “We try very hard to get them there, and we very much enjoy the partnership we have with them.”
Tickets for Gourmet in the Garden, sponsored by Visit Baton Rouge, Sysco, Whitney Bank and DIG Magazine, are available on eventbrite.com. Tickets will also be on sale at the door for $70, if available. You must be 21 years or older to attend.