By Tara Bennett
The Baton Rouge Epicurean Society (BRES), is offering locals a chance to taste culinary delights from several chefs under one roof. The non-profit celebrates nine years this year with its annual Fête Rouge, a two-day culinary festival.
“We love seeing Baton Rouge people get together and socializing and networking over good food and wine because that’s the culture of Louisiana,” said BRES Executive Director Renée Dugas-Molbert.
BRES is an organization that celebrates the restaurant industry in Baton Rouge gives money back to the community by donating to related charities. One of the primary goals of the BRES is to highlight Baton Rouge as a culinary destination on par with cities such as New Orleans. Inspired by the success of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, the group decided to create Baton Rouge’s own premiere wine and food-tasting event, which challenges the chefs each year to test their culinary techniques.
“My biggest goal was to make Baton Rouge a culinary destination,” said Dugas-Molbert. “That’s my favorite part, making people in Louisiana aware we have a lot to offer in the culinary scene as well.”
The events kick off on Thursday, Aug. 27 from 6-10 p.m. with the ninth annual Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Dinner, honoring Robert ‘Bobby’ Yarborough, CEO of Manda Meats. Fête Rouge will be hosted for a second time at the L’Auberge Casino.
“We love it,” said Dugas-Molbert. “The staff have been incredible…You feel like you’re in another world. I feel like I’m in a resort in Florida or something. You just feel like you’re in a whole other country when you’re really right around the corner from your house.”
The culinary festivities will resume on Friday, Aug. 28, during Food & Wine Fête at 7 p.m. Throughout the evening, attendees will be treated to samples of food and a wine tasting of over 250 wines from around the world. A silent auction and raffle will also be held, benefitting the Boys & Girls Club of Baton Rouge. Each raffle participant will have a chance to win a bottle of each wine featured at the event.
The highlight of Friday’s event will be the Fête Rouge Chefs Competition, where 40 local chefs will compete for the chance at winning the Gold Medal, People’s Choice or Best in Show. The competition will be emceed by Chef Jay Ducote, who recently finished second in Food Network Star.
“He’s always been a part of our big events and a big supporter,” said Dugas-Molbert. “We just wanted to have him representing the chefs of Baton Rouge and Louisiana in the competition.”
Categories for the competition include meat, seafood, dessert and “Louisiana Lagniappe,” in which 90 percent of the ingredients must be local Louisiana fare. Some of the foods include Cajun pork candy and crawfish bisque. The chefs look forward to the competition each year, enjoying the spice it brings to their professional lives.
“They really like that,” said Dugas-Molbert. “They love to get out of the box and do their own thing and kind of compete with their friends. It definitely adds a sense of comradery.”
Returning to Fête Rouge this year is the Fête du Vin, a wine tasting event for 100 wine enthusiasts to sample wines from around the world. The tasting will be held in the VIP Lounge at L’Auberge Casino Baton Rouge on Friday, Aug. 28 from 6-8 p.m. and will feature over 50 revered and highly rated wines. Each guest will also be admitted to the Food and Wine Fête Tasting.
Dugas explained all the money raised at the event will go toward benefiting the youth of the Baton Rouge area. This year’s beneficiaries for BRES are Girls on the Run and the Boys and Girls Club.
“We really wanted something where we knew the money would stay in our area and affect the youth of our city,” said Dugas. “This year our big beneficiary is going to be the Boys and Girls Club. Last year it was Girls on the Run and we raised over $37,000 at the silent auction for those groups. We give to the food bank, and we specifically fund the backpack program, which is for kids who don’t have food when they get home. The parents aren’t taking care of them, or the parents are working, so the Baton Rouge Food Bank fills backpacks with sustainable items like peanut butter, jelly, a loaf of bread, cereal, things they can eat on their own.”
Tickets for Food & Wine Fête are $75 per person. Currently, tickets are sold out for Fête du Vin, and the Lifetime Achievement Dinner. All tickets are available by visiting Fêterougebr.com.