Slow Food Fall Heat highlights local chefs, produce

Area talents impress with fresh dishes in Sunday cook-off

By Sunday evening, Slow Food Baton Rouge board member Elton Hyndman was all smiles—and he had every right to be.

Hyndman had just wrapped the second Slow Food Fall Heat at the LSU AgCenter’s newly renovated pavilion at the Burden Center. Locals came in droves to enjoy food from local chefs, music from The Retro Dukes and an evening bonfire. Hyndman says this year’s event was an improvement over Slow Food’s inaugural cook-off last year.

“We all got better and smarter about how to throw this event,” he says. “We got a couple more chefs involved, and it was a success. It’s an excuse for all of us to get together and raise a bit of money for a good cause.”

Proceeds from the event went toward the organization’s Greauxing Healthy Baton Rouge initiative, a comprehensive farm-to-school program that emphasizes nutrition, gardening and more in a few area elementary schools. Just as important, Hyndman, who is chef/co-owner of Nino’s Italian Restaurant and co-owner of Oscar’s Pizza Joint, says the event teaches patrons about where their foods come from.

“So often, we go to restaurants or shop in grocery stores, and we don’t read the ingredients,” he says. “All the food [Sunday], each chef could tell you what was in those dishes, and all those ingredients were real, raw and fresh. To me, as a chef, that’s the stuff that makes the best food. We’re here to raise awareness of what we’re putting in our bodies.”

Slow Food Baton Rouge President Dr. Carl Motsenbocker says the event also shows off the array of Capital City talent. He says this year was an improvement and is looking forward to the next events for the organization.

“This is a good event to show how we are trying to support local food systems, bringing people together and displaying the chefs we have here in Baton Rouge,” Motsenbocker says. “We need support for our farm-to-school program, but at the same time, we’re looking to March for another dinner and to expand on our farm tours.”

The cook-off pitted eight Baton Rouge chefs against each other. The challenge was to use fresh, farm-to-table ingredients, provided by Indie Plate, to create a dish that would pair well with Gnarly Barley Brewing Co.’s Radical Rye IPA.

Aaron Brown from Spice Bistro & Bar was the judges’ pick for best overall for his take on a cracklin and dressing, topped with a butternut squash sauce.

Alan Neimand and Ben Triola of Oscar’s Pizza Joint took home the People’s Choice Award for their crostini topped with green onion sausage and goat cheese.

Other competing chefs included John Breaux of Camelot Club, who used the event as a platform to make pho, which was ambitious and deliciously spicy. Jay Ducote of Bite and Booze delivered a bite-sized butternut squash waffle topped with duck confit that had a good balance of fat and crunch.

Ryan André of City Pork brought a complex rabbit ragu with pork meatball and a Swamp Pop-infused sugarcane stick. A fellow judge couldn’t put her fork down when eating André’s dish.

Mary Koehler and Jenny Cornelius of Nino’s served a succulent lamb boudin with couscous that made me realize I don’t visit that restaurant often enough. Jimmy Le of ProStart brought some of his students to prepare a pumpkin tart that was easily the best pairing with the beer of the night.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Colt Patin of the Louisiana Culinary Institute. His boudin ball stuffed with goat cheese atop a bed of creamed corn maque choux was piping hot and featured a delicate balance of textures that was unmatched.

For more on Slow Food Fall Heat, check out 225‘s video below or visit slowfoodbr.org.