By Brad Jones
Slow Foods Baton Rouge knows how to throw a spectacular party. Their third annual Fall Heat cooking competition and celebration of local eating did not disappoint. The event, held at the LSU AgCenter Botanical Gardens on Sunday, featured local chefs and mixologists competing to create dishes and drinks utilizing local and seasonal ingredients. Along with the great food and drink, the event featured several local musicians, local beer from Gnarly Barley, and perfect Louisiana Fall weather.
On top of all that, all the proceeds went to Slow Food’s Greauxing Healthy Baton Rouge education program, which aims to educate students on healthy eating and sustainable food practices. Slow Food Board member Robert Munson stated, “This was the biggest Fall Heat yet and it was a huge hit.” With the event growing each year, Munson states that is was “nice to see so many new faces,” and Baton Rouge learning the importance of locally sourced food.
The main event of the night had chefs from several Baton Rouge restaurants creating small plates integrating ingredients from local sources. Among the chefs that competed were Tanner Purdum of Magpie’s Cafe, Andy Papson of Tallulah, Kevin Dragon from Table Kitchen, Celeste Gill of Chef Celeste’s Louisiana Treasures, Matthew Smith from The Haven at Windermere, Aaron Brown of Lasseigne’s Bar and Grill, and Marshall Dubois of Mahoney’s Irish Pub.
This year’s Fall Heat was the first to include a mixology contest, with mixologists serving up fresh, seasonal cocktails. The mixologists competing featured Jessica Torres of Beausoleil, Benjamin Moore of Lock and Key Whiskey Bar, and John Morris of Bin 77 Bistro and Sidebar.
Competitors in the food competition went head to head for two awards, the crowd favorite and the judge’s favorite. Notable judges included Rebecca Whyte of Yelp Baton Rouge!, Carla Poseno of WVLA NBC, food writer Teresa B. Day, and Chef Derrick Beverly, director of catering at the Louisiana Culinary Institute. Beverley stated that the judges would be looking for dishes that were creative and had character; he also said, “the dishes should reflect the season and location.”
Although all of the dishes highlighted the seasonal ingredients, two dishes stood out as the winners of the night’s competition. The crowd favorite was chef Andy Papson’s smoked duck taco on a homemade blue corn tortilla, with a pepper topping picked straight from chef Andy Papson’s backyard. Andy Papson of Tallulah’s stated that the best part of the evening for him was “meeting everyone and participating.” Winning the judge’s award was chef Celeste Gill’s pumpkin hash.
Winning the mixology competition was John Morris from Bin 77 Bistro and Sidebar. Morris, inspired by the classic fall drink, chai tea, created a chai cider cocktail with local Bayou Spiced Rum, local apple cider, and local apple garnish. A standout feature of the cocktail was the apple garnish, which invited people to mix bites of the apple slice with the cocktail. Morris stated, “I wanted the drink to be interactive and playful.”
Participants spent the evening outside enjoying the AgCenter Botanical Gardens, a bonfire supplied with hot dogs and marshmallows, face painting and games for the younger attendees, and music provided by Ben Bell, Denton Hatcher, Jodi James, and Clay Parker. The atmosphere reflected the “your neighbor’s backyard” welcoming sentiment.
Slow Foods Baton Rouge is a nonprofit organization aimed at educating and reconnecting people with the food they produce and consume. With events like this year’s Fall Heat, Slow Foods hopes to raise money for their Greauxing Healthy Baton Rouge education program and bring awareness to the local food system. Slow Foods Baton Rouge is a local chapter of Slow Foods USA. For more information on Slow Foods Baton Rouge or their upcoming events, visit their website at slowfoodbr.org. For more information on Greauxing Healthy Baton Rouge, visit slowfoodbr.org/greauxing-healthty-baton-rouge.