Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Bayou State!

Upon logging on this morning to Facebook, there were countless posts wishing Louisiana  a happy 200th Birthday, as today marks the date it was admitted to the Union as our 18th state. The Louisiana Restaurant Association also wished our state a resounding Happy Birthday.

To officially celebrate the occasion, the Office of the Lt. Governor held the Louisiana Family Homecoming Celebration Festival on the State Capitol grounds in Baton Rouge, April 28. Hundreds gathered to celebrate Louisiana’s food, music and history in honor of Louisiana’s Bicentennial.  

Naturally, food was central to the celebration as our cuisine marks one of the most notable traditions our state offers. Fare included cracklins, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee and even deep-fried king cake. While this celebration was underway, so was the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans and the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette. It was all about the food and music this past weekend in Louisiana.

For more than a year, many projects and events have been planned for Louisiana residents to celebrate all that our beloved state has to offer and importantly, what we have to share with the world. The LRA was a member of the Commission’s Foodways Committee, which created a series of banners that will travel the state spreading the historic value of our cuisine.

Also, Southern Food and Beverage Museum Founder and President Liz Williams will be penning a series of articles for a la carte magazine, the association’s official publication for Louisiana’s foodservice professional, the first—Coffee, Louisiana’s Gateway, appears here. The second installment in our spring issue will share the history of Louisiana’s agricultural offerings, followed by Louisiana seafood in the summer. The final installment, just in time for the holidays, will cover the state’s many confections.

A tree-planting ceremony was held this morning at A.Z. Young park at the corner of Third and Lafayette Streets in Baton Rouge and this afternoon, the Bicentennial Commission, headed by General Russell Honore, will unveil a new U.S. Postal Stamp featuring a photograph depicting Flat Lake cypress trees adorned with Spanish Moss in the Atchafalaya Basin.

What will you do to commemorate Louisiana’s statehood?

Restaurant philanthrophy at all-time high

A look at your local entertainment publication or newspaper’s lifestyle section will reveal a multitude of charity events an individual has the opportunity to attend. Restaurateurs, and even employees at the Louisiana Restaurant Association, are constantly solicited to donate gift certificates, serve food at an event or perform a cooking demonstration.  Just this morning, the LRA received a request to sponsor a golf tournament benefiting a battered women’s shelter. While this is a great cause, it was nothing more than a cold call solicitation via email.

During a drive down to a recent press conference, LRA President/CEO Stan Harris shared his own philosophies on determining what charities to support.  As a self-professed “reformed restaurateur” of Ruth’s Chris Steak House he became quite familiar with the volume of requests a business receives to contribute to charitable causes.

“People give to people,” Harris said. “If the charity was one that had helped, supported or impacted the life of an employee, more than likely we’d support the charity. The level at which we contributed varied depending on the situation of course, but that was one criterion.”

Phil's Grill owner Phil de Gruy hosts the annual
Burgerpalooza which benefits the Miracle League
of Greater New Orleans, May 18 from 8-11 p.m.
at Southport Hall, advanced tickets
are $35 and $40 at the door.
Choosing a cause with an emotional connection is important to most restaurateurs. Given that your participation may be difficult to calculate on a balance sheet, trust that over time the financial benefits will be felt. When possible, include your customers. It fosters goodwill and lets your customers know that helping others is important to you and your business.  

“The more you participate in charitable events, the more you are asked,” said Phil de Gruy of Phil’s Grill in Metairie. “The requests are at an all-time high for me.”

In five years of business, de Gruy’s marketing strategy has included the creation of his own fundraising campaigns. May is National Burger Month and in 2008 he started Burgerpalooza as both a celebration of that and as a way of giving back to our community.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thirsty Thursday's second installment features Absinthe

We are on an absinthe kick. The licorice liquor is an acquired taste for many, including us. When we first tried it several years ago, we weren’t a fan. However, here’s a tasty way to ease your way into what we’ve discovered is quite refreshing and perfect for spring.

This recipe is from memory as we were unable to find reference to it online. The Sir Saint cocktail was a finalist in the 2009 Tales of the Cocktail/Times PicayuneDrink Like a Saint” contest to celebrate the New Orleans Saints making their debut in the 2009 Super Bowl.
Sir Saint Cocktail
Think of this as a mojito, but instead of rum, use absinthe.

1 oz. Absinthe (we like Herbsaint)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 oz. ginger ale or ginger beer
raw sugar

Muddle mint in the bottom of a shaker with a touch of raw sugar; add absinthe, lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice and shake it baby! Then pour into a double old fashioned glass over ice and top with ginger ale/beer. Garnish with mint and lime. Enjoy!

We’re hoping Mickey Loomis’ press conference today means that Drew Brees’ contract is a done deal. Fingers crossed.  

On a side note, LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren and her husband were the runners-up for originality in the Drink Like a Saint contest with the “Black and Gold Air Raid.” With a generous measure of Cruzan Black Strap Rum and honey liqueur Barenjager, a touch of orange flower water and club soda, the strength was tamed and it tasted almost like chocolate.

Jazz Fest cuisine worth pining in line for

For two weekends of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the lines for the soft shell crab poboys is nothing short of ridiculous. While in ample supply at the Fairgrounds, soft shell crabs may be scarce from restaurant menus during Jazz Fest, as we’ve experienced in previous years.

Soft shell crab poboy, crawfish Monica, crawfish
enchiladas and the cochon de lait poboy.
With headliners like the Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, Tom Petty, Bruce Springstein, the Beach Boys and the Foo Fighters, you can expect hundreds of thousands of people—both locals and tourists alike—to pack the track for a chance to hear national artists that rarely play New Orleans otherwise.
But, let’s admit it—we come for the food. No doubt. The music is great, but secondary. We look forward to the smorgasbord of Prejean’s crawfish enchiladas, seafood stuffed mushrooms and the quail, pheasant and Andouille gumbo—no matter how scorching the sun.  The crawfish bread, the oyster patties, rose mint iced tea and let’s not forgot WWOZ’s Mango Freeze—topped with rum or vodka—is just the ticket. And that’s just the first day.
Cochon de Lait poboy’s are another hot item at Jazz Fest. We’ll stand in line for one of those too. With more than 70 restaurants and caterers serving everything from Ya Ka Mein to Cajun duck poboys, grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly and oyster Rockefellar bisque and Tagine of lamb and the renowned crawfish Monica, you may just think you’ve died and gone to food lovers’ heaven.
Oh wait, we just remembered the Natchitoches meat and crawfish pies. How could we forget? And the list goes on…

Food Porn, "too much? or "Bring it on!"

The pervasive nature of social media has allowed your Facebook friends to include you in any and all aspects of their life—including when they go out to dinner. When we log onto Facebook at any point during the day, we see tons of food posts, or “food porn,” but, hey, we actually love it. Do you?

Common complaints lie with people who post too much—everything they eat, whether it be a gourmet meal or a snack from the gas station. Many foodies genuinely like to share their experience in a great restaurant, but posting ad nauseum can seem like pretentious boasting: “Look at me, eating this delicious porcini mushroom risotto at fabulous and expensive Restaurant X , while you’re at home nibbling on your sad turkey sandwich.” These posts have unintended benefits for restaurants, however. The photos may entice people to eat at the restaurant because the photos are instant publicity. But how much is too much?

While doing our morning reading, we came across this really hilarious three-minute video on NPR’s Food Blog, that’s a catchy music video based on the notion that “food porn” has reached the extreme.

So what’s the problem? There is a dining room etiquette diners should abide by before you break out the camera and the flashes start lighting up the dining room.  Snapping away with your camera can be intrusive and disruptive to your fellow patrons, not to mention disrespectful to the chef. The food is meant to be eaten the moment it gets to you. If you’re too busy setting up your tripod and getting the right angle, you may end up with a dish not up to par. So, if you must take a picture, make it quick and with no flash.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Louisiana's Festival Season is underway

Today marks the start of the 26th Annual Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette and the weather promises clear skies. Festival International was formed in 1986 to produce an annual visual and performing arts festival celebrating the French cultural heritage of Southern Louisiana—primarily a combination of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences. The festival, unlike the competing New Orleans Jazz and HeritageFestival is free to attend.

A diverse array of culinary offerings is found throughout downtown Lafayette from April 25-29 in seven pavilions, named for festival sponsors Popeyes, Chevron and Malibu Rum among others.
Fezzo's Restaurant will serve 5,000 portions of it's signature
Festival International de Louisiane
fried catfish with seafod etouffee.
If you have a craving for traditional Cajun fare like crawfish etouffee, shrimp and tasso pasta, alligator sauce piquante, boudin and more, this five day feast is for you.

“We’ve been participating in Festival International for nine years,” said Phil Faul, Louisiana Restaurant Association member and owner of Fezzo’s. “We didn’t expect to make any money. We just wanted people to try our food when we were just starting out.”
During the five-day festival, Fezzo’s will serve more than 5,000 portions of its signature fried catfish topped with seafood etouffee. The response in the early years was so good, he had to add it to the menu at Fezzo’s due to the volume of requests for what he served at the festival.

Lafayette’s Middle Eastern restaurants will offer hummus, pitas, gyros, falafel, biryani and Indian samosas to name just a glimpse at what one can enjoy while taken in the sounds of more than 100 world music acts including Cajun and Zydeco.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Louisiana Seafood Showdown at NOWFE

Marking its fifth year as part of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE), the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off is back May 26 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
Great American Seafood Cook-off. Photo by David Gallent.
With a slate of 12 chef contenders, each are determined to walk away with the title of King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood. Only one chef will rise to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off at the Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO August 11, also at the Convention Center, to vie for the King or Queen of American Seafood.

“We have steep competition every year at the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off,” said Ewell Smith, Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. “But this year, the broader geographic diversity represented by the chefs will surely inspire their signature dishes.”

From New Orleans and New Roads to Shreveport, Thibodaux, Covington and Baton Rouge, the opportunity for these chefs to make their mark is huge. The chance to compete on an national stage provides rising chefs a platform to show, speak and serve some of their most inspired Louisiana seafood creations.

Alice Glenn named LRAEF Executive Director

As you can imagine, Alice Glenn is excited to be named the new Executive Director of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Glenn joined the LRAEF April 23 with previous experience as the director of the office of alumni and development for Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Previous political campaign fundraising experience has also shaped her career.
Alice Glenn joins the LRA
Education Foundation as its
new Executive Director.
"The LRAEF addresses key needs of our state, such as better training for our workforce, providing opportunities for higher education to our high school graduates and encouraging economic development through entrepreneurship and management training,” said Glenn.  “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead a foundation with such relevance and unlimited potential for growth and impact."

During her first two weeks, she will travel to the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Maryland with Hammond and Rayne High Schools who will compete on behalf of Louisiana.
“I look forward to seeing our ProStart students in action,” she said. “Also to see how the students and teachers interact and how they feel about LRAEF training, tools and resources, and the mentors we seek out for their programs will be invaluable.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Best Chefs of Louisiana benefits Children's Hospital

It’s known far and wide that chefs are a charitable group, and that fact was made loud and clear at the American Culinary Federation’s Best Chefs of Louisiana event, April 16. Generations Hall was packed with industry professionals and the public alike, sampling cuisine like Café Adelaide Chef Barbato’s seafood salad with lemon and parmesan short bread, Ye Olde College Inn Chef McGehee’s Boudin stuffed chicken breast  and 5 Fifty 5 Chef Quitney’s  Bananas Foster poboy with a scoop of ice cream.

“I need to take a picture of this to share on Facebook,” said Lauren Thom, owner of Fleurty Girl. “It was my favorite dessert of the whole event.”  
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
Po Boy by Chef Mark Quitney.
Photo courtesy of Frank Stansbury.
Her Facebook status with the photo, “Bread Pudding po-boy. My favorite dessert at the American Culinary Federation’s ‘Best Chefs’ event tonight in NOLA was shared by 30 individuals, amassed 224 likes and 45 comments.

Event organizer Nina Camacho’s involvement stems from her industry connection as the National Events Director of Jazzmen Rice. She quickly realized that joining the industry’s trade associations was where she needed to be to help further the reputation and brand of her product.
 “Working with all these philanthropic chefs, restaurant owners and industry professionals to create a special event that benefits such a wonderful cause is truly rewarding,” said Camacho.

Event organizer Nina Camacho, Chefs Mark Quitney
and Paul Prudhomme, April 16.
Everyone was in great spirits given the specialty cocktails, one in an apple shaped sippy cup with a straw. Every step throughout the event offered one more bit of a chef’s specialty and also something just for the event.

Le Meritage Chef Farrell’s short ribs, Grill Room Chef Dzejak’s seared loin of Nimin Ranch lamb, St. Charles Hospital Chef Guillot’s crawfish enchiladas with tasso and crawfish cream sauce and Restaurant R’evolution Chef Lusk’s blue crab pho were hits of the event. K-Paul Louisiana Kitchen Chef Paul Prudhomme was roaming around the event and provided each guest with a signed copy of Kitchen Expedition.

Proceeds from the event benefited Children’s Hospital, the only full-service hospital in Louisiana exclusively for children.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thirsty Thursday series celebrates the Sazerac

It’s only fitting that the first installment of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s “Thirsty Thursday” series features the Sazerac. The three main ingredients of this cocktail—Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint and Peychaud Bitters—have deep roots in the tradition and culture of New Orleans.

The Sazerac is a remarkably simple cocktail and was created in New Orleans. It has been credited to Antoine Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who hailed from the West Indies and lived in New Orleans in the 1800s.

According to legend, Peychaud served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that in French was a coquetier. The American pronunciation of coquetier is cocktail, however evidence indicates that the cocktail predates Peychaud’s creation.

Vintage Herbsaint Ad calls for Herbsaint when Absinthe
is called for following U.S. Government ban dues to
absinthe health concerns.
May 12 is the birthday of J. Marion Legendre, an apothecary-turned-entrepreneur and the creator of the anise-flavored liqueur brand Herbsaint—a staple in the Sazerac, but only by a rinse of the glass. Legendre learned about absinthe and pastis while stationed in France during WWI. Upon his return to New Orleans after the war, he secretly made absinthe in his Uptown home during Prohibition.

His launch of Legendre Absinthe was a dream come true for him. Sadly though, just months after launching his product, the U.S. Government forced him to remove the word absinthe from his brand name amid concerns that absinthe could have detrimental effects on people’s health. Legendre quickly re-named his product Herbsaint and launched an aggressive marketing campaign that called on people to “Drink Herbsaint Wherever Absinthe is Called For.”
The ingredients for a Sazerac cocktail are Sazerac Rye,
Herbsaint, Peychaud's bitters, simple syrup and lemon!
To commemorate Legendre’s birthday (a little early), we broke out the Sazerac and Herbsaint and invited a few friends for a tasting.

We referenced the Imbibe magazine recipe which calls for:

2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Absinthe or Herbsaint
Ice cubes
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: cocktail or rocks
Garnish: lemon twist

Give chilled glass an absinthe or Herbsaint rinse and set aside. Stir other ingredients in a mixing glass, strain into the chilled glass and garnish.

Louisiana's restaurant industry to add jobs in coming years

Food is big business in Louisiana. Restaurants in Louisiana are projected to top $6.5 billion in annual sales and that number has been on the upswing in the last three years. While we’ll see a modest increase of three percent over 2011 sales, the number of jobs, and careers for that matter, is expected to increase by 17,000 by the year 2022.

“The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation administers the ProStart program in 50 high schools statewide to help meet the demand,” said James Blanchard, ProStart Coordinator. “The two year dynamic curriculum focuses on culinary arts and restaurant management and gives young people an opportunity to see what the industry is all about.”

As the largest private sector employer in Louisiana with nearly 200,000 employees, there are many advantages to working in restaurants. Those advantages include upward mobility into management positions for those who want it and want to work for it, provides flexible schedules for students, working parents and those who have a passion for the industry and have made it their career choice.

Currently, there are nearly 17,000 restaurant locations in Louisiana and 80 percent of those establishments are small independently owned businesses. The restaurant business is enticing to many individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and wish to be their own boss.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Queen of Creole Cuisine Leah Chase, receives national American Dream Award

Seeing Mrs. Leah Chase in action at Dooky Chase restaurant is quite amazing. Recently celebrating her 89th birthday, Chase has an oral history of events unlike any you will find in text books. Often, when the Louisiana Restaurant Association staff stops by the restaurant, she’s either in the kitchen, hard at work preparing gumbos, crawfish etouffee, fried chicken and catfish and an array of traditional Creole delicacies she’s been soulfully preparing for some 70 years.
Chase was honored by the National Restaurant Association April 17 in DC as one to celebrate for achieving the American Dream in the restaurant industry.  Overcoming extreme obstacles through the Civil Rights Movement, many people of different ethnicities found solace, a hot meal and kind words at Leah’s Dooky Chase Restaurant.
Leah Chase and daughter Stella Reese
following Chase's American Dream
Award acceptance speech April 17.
“We’ve come such a long way in this country,” said Chase in her acceptance speech. “I have always followed my father’s advice, ‘Pray, work and do for others,’ in that order and it’s never failed me.”

During her career, she has fed U.S. Presidents, dignitaries and served her community on countless boards to further education, arts and the restaurant industry. She’s come to the aid of others during their time of need and the industry has rallied around her during her time of struggle.
“Katrina really did a number on the restaurant and the community that surrounds it,” she recalls. “The number of restaurateurs, chefs and companies that came to my aid was truly remarkable. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to repay them for their generosity and kindness.”

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond presented Chase with the American Dream Award at the Gala during the 2012 NRA Public Affairs Conference. In addition to the award, a $2,500 scholarship was given to a student in her honor.
“Look at Cedric,” Chase said during her speech. “I’ve known him since he was a little boy and it’s amazing to see the success he’s had with helping the people of New Orleans be heard in Washington.”

Her tell it like it is style has only gotten more pointed as she’s gracefully aged. During a call with NRA Senior Director of Community Relations Alyssa Prince following the evening’s events, she laughed as she shared Chase’s comments during the Gala rehearsal.
“We were on stage and I asked her if she’d like a podium, a handheld or a lavaliere microphone,” said Prince. “She looked at me seriously and said, ‘what’s all the fuss? It’s not like I’m giving a sermon’.”

Louisiana restaurateurs honored in DC for community service

Restaurateurs are widely-recognized as charitable individuals and Greg Reggio, of the Taste Buds Restaurant Group, is an example of one that has taken his philanthropy to the masses. Specifically, he and his business partners in Semolina and Zea Rotisserie & Grill restaurants, Gary Darling and Hans Limburg created “Three Chefs, One Mission,” an effort they coordinated to bring hope and reprieve to those affected by natural disasters.

Reggio and his “buds” as he likes to he calls Darling and Limburg, we’re honored by the National Restaurant Association April 17 with the Restaurant Neighbor Award. The award recognizes restaurateurs who have gone above and beyond in giving back to their communities.
“Restaurateurs are some of the most philanthropic business owners on earth.” said Stan Harris, Louisiana Restaurant Association President & CEO. “Greg and his partners, Hans and Gary, are an excellent example of how ‘paying it forward’ can change lives, one plate of food at a time. We are thrilled that Taste Buds Management has been recognized for its community service efforts.”

In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas and inundated Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish coastal town of Lafitte with water. Reggio and fellow members of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Greater New Orleans Chapter served hot meals to more than 1,200 residents at the Lafitte Town Hall only three days after the community was re-opened to its citizens.

Since then, he’s found a calling, specifically named, “Three Chefs, One Mission,” along with Darling and Limburg.

“Although Katrina was six or so years prior, it was still very much in our minds and memories,” said Reggio. “We said, ‘We know what they are going through and we are going to bring them some Louisiana love’.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Louisiana Kitchen magazine premiere issue out now

Louisiana Kitchen Inaugural Edition
May/June 2012.Photo by David Gallent
Gracing the first cover of the new magazine, Louisiana Kitchen, is world renowned Chef John Folse and Chicago’s Chef Rick Tramonto, a James Beard Award winner, holding a gorgeous plate of grilled shrimp with chorizo hominy stew. In the inaugural issue, more than 90 recipes from chefs spanning Louisiana are featured, but we noticed Louisiana crawfish ruled.

“Last fall when I had to choose between moving back to the West Coast or launching a magazine here, Our Kitchen and Culture, LLC was born,” said Publisher Susan Ford. “Louisiana Kitchen will give you a cultural experience through intelligent, informed commentary, lush photography, cutting-edge design, and provide you recipes for meals you can produce to share in that experience.”
The theme that carries through the 96-page Louisiana Kitchen is deeper than just the food we eat. It’s the bond we share over the restaurant table, at the dining room buffet during a holiday or standing around the table at a crawfish boil. The authentic and evolutionary marriage of the seven nations that create a wonderful, imaginative Louisiana smorgasbord is only what it is because of the cultural influences of the people that created it and continue the traditions.

“Louisiana’s kitchens are crowded places,” said Jyl Benson, Editor in Chief. “We keep our ancestors, generations and generations of them, at our sides as we perform those culinary rituals that are ours alone. We share with others, very often strangers, because we are generous people.”
The issue is full of beautiful photography that captures the brilliant color and succulence of Louisiana’s world-renowned cuisine. Prepare to mark recipes that you’ll no doubt want to share with your family and friends.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association is pleased to have a publication as unique as Louisiana Kitchen available to individuals near and far to further the Bayou State's brand. This publication will take you on a journey across the state while bringing you stories of people that, in their own way, have made an indelible mark on those around them and help weave the fabric of our beautiful state.

Fruit trees find a home in Louisiana's ProStart program

While on Facebook one evening, an LRA staff member saw a post from the Southern Food and Beverage Museum announcing that in partnership with the New Orleans Food and Farm Network it will distribute 1,000 fruit trees to residents, organizations and programs to those interested. A quick response resulted in the LRA Education Foundation landing 50 lime, key lime, pink grapefruit, lemon and blood orange trees.
ProStart Students at East St. John High School plant five
fruit trees on campus, made possible by the LRAEF
and the New Orleans Food and Farm Network.
“We had an overwhelming response to our tree offer,” said Sanjay Kharod, NOFF Executive Director. “We look forward to working with the LRAEF to bring more edible programs to ProStart schools.”
Just days prior, ProStart Coordinator James Blanchard and VP of Communications Wendy Waren were discussing the edible garden concept and how the LRAEF could help get them going in ProStart programs.”

The two jumped on the opportunity. Blanchard contacted the teachers and Waren handled logistics. She has a history of coordinating tree and edible garden plantings with Home Depot, Hands On New Orleans, Parkway Partners, Hike for KaTreena for New Orleans two schools, parks and neutral grounds.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tourism industry rallies to defend budget from pass throughs

It’s that time again, when the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee hears testimony from numerous industries and groups in danger of cuts to programs and initiatives. In the crosshairs again this year is the Louisiana tourism budget which is now overrun with “pass throughs” which in previous years were covered through the state’s general fund.

“We are asking to reduce the pass throughs by half at a minimum,” said Marion Fox, President, Louisiana Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. “During the past three sessions, these pass throughs have greatly increased by 67 perecent. In Fiscal Year 2010-2011, pass throughs totaled $3.5 million and this year, more than $10.5 million is proposed.”
Michael Boudreaux, owner
of Juban's Restaurant and
LRA member testifies in
the House Appropriations
Committee defending the
tourism budget from
pass throughs.
Given Louisiana’s budget deficit, events like Essence Festival, the All State Sugar Bowl and the 2013 Women’s Final Four and the 2013 Super Bowl and others have been moved to the tourism budget to the tune of a proposed $10.5 million in Fiscal Year 2012-13. The tourism budget is currently funded exclusively through a statutorily dedicated $.003 percent of the state’s sales tax which was passed in 1990 and led by a coalition of tourism industry officials. The statutorily dedicated funds total roughly $23 million annually.

"Tourism funding is extremely important to the success of the restaurant industry in Louisiana,” said Michael Boudreaux, owner of Juban’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge and Louisiana Restaurant Association Board Member. “The more visitors we attract, the more jobs our industry can add. Pass throughs are detrimental to the purpose of the dedicated funding for tourism.”

Two in Louisiana affected by yellowfin tuna Salmonella Bareilly

Moon Marine USA Corporation voluntarily recalls frozen raw yellowfin tuna product

“Nakaochi Scrape” associated with a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly infections

Moon Marine USA Corporation (also known as MMI) of Cupertino, Calif. is voluntarily recalling 58,828 lbs of a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, labeled as Nakaochi Scrape AA or AAA. Nakaochi Scrape is tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product.

The Nakaochi Scrape is associated with an outbreak of 116 cases of Salmonella Bareilly in multiple states: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (5), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), Georgia (5), Illinois (10), Louisiana (2), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (8), Mississippi (1), Missouri (2), New Jersey (7), New York (24), North Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (5), Rhode Island (5), South Carolina (3), Texas (3), Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (12).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Restaurateurs, food entrepreneurs seek shelf space

Take a walk through any grocery store these days and you may notice that the shelves are lined with products created by a restaurant chef or food entrepreneur. Particularly in the salad dressing and seasoning aisles, familiar faces like Zea Rotisserie & Grill, Slap Ya Mama, Ms. Sally’s Praline Sauce and others are becoming more commonplace.

Sal & Judy’s Restaurant in Lacombe has been turning out their salad dressings for nearly 15 years.
“I started with tomato sauce, then dressings and moved on to BBQ sauce,” said owner Sal Impastato. “Our products are available in the Gulf Coast Region through Rouses Supermarkets and Wal-Mart primarily. Demand has increased so much we bought a new and bigger location to ramp up production.”

How does one go about taking their recipe, producing, packaging and distributing it? A Louisiana Restaurant Association member—EdibleEnterprises—is designed to do just that. If you are an aspiring food entrepreneur looking to make your homemade specialty for the masses, this Norco-based facility can meet your needs.
“Currently we have 23 tenants and operate seven days a week,” said Gaye Morrison Sandoz, Marketing Director of Edible Enterprises. “We are the only incubator in the state and every month we bring on more tenants.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can I see the menu?

As you can imagine, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) staff sees their fair share of menus as they go about their work and social lives. Since 2004, the LRA has been collecting menus for the Southern Food andBeverage Museum’s (SoFab) Menu Project for use in research and archiving Louisiana’s and fellow Southern state's food culture, traditions and innovations.

“The LRA has contributed hundreds menus to the archive,” said Wendy Waren, VP of Communications. “At every restaurant I ask for a menu for the archive and the restaurateurs are more than happy to have their menu live at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.”
To jump start the Menu Project, the LRA EXPO featured the Magnificant Menu Contest in 2009 and asked members to submit their menus in three categories—quick service, casual dining and fine dining. The menus were judged on imagination, design and merchandising power, by members of the SoFab board in advance of the EXPO and they were displayed in a special area for attendees to view.

Menus are also collected from special dinners and LRA functions with the end goal being that this collection will be used by food historians, journalists and culinary students. Several menus are soon-to-be shared with SoFab from the Irish House, Superior Seafood and the Hudson Whiskey Dinner at the Bourbon House.
 “Menus are by their nature ephemeral, as restaurants change them daily or seasonally, printing them on material not meant to last,” said Liz Williams, President and Founder of SoFab. “People rarely save menus, unless they are marking a particularly important, celebratory meal.”

This is unfortunate as menus are often the only physical remains of a restaurant’s past. Some menus serve to remind us of dishes we will never eat again at restaurants whose doors have long been shuttered. Others serve to mark a change in a restaurant’s life, particularly those who have reopened after Hurricane Katrina.

“Their limited, but still tasty fare, mirrors the dogged determination of the citizens of New Orleans to face loss of support and lack of supplies with grace, tenacity and an unwavering appetite for good food,” said Elizabeth Pearce, Senior Curator, commenting on the menus in the exhibit, Missing New Orleans, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. “That exhibit contained menus from the SoFAB Collection from before and after Hurricane Katrina.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Follow me on Twitter, find me on Facebook

The 411 on the most popular Social Media Channels and how the LRA has found a home, all over the web.

The domination of Social Media in the dialogue of marketing shows no signs of slowing. The restaurant industry is increasingly challenged with keeping pace with this growing trend and many have yet to take advantage of these free tools. In Louisiana, given the number of independent operators, few have the financial resources to hire social media firms to handle these various channels.
The LRA determined in 2010 that it needed to be much more active with its Social Media and launched its Twitter and Facebook pages. Currently, the LRA has more than 1,000 followers on Twitter and a growing Facebook fan base approaching 800 fans.
Every Friday, the LRA finds its new members and welcomes them with a post on Facebook. Prior to the post, the LRA’s Social Media Director seeks out new members to tag them in the post.
“There are still so many restaurants that have yet to join the online community,” said Erica Papillion, LRA Social Media Director. “With a few committed minutes a day, restaurants could expand their brand’s reach to potential customers.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ProStart Mentor Profile--Isaac Pappion

ProStart Mentor Profile—Isaac Pappion, Associate Team Leader
Prepared Foods, Whole Foods Market, Metairie

Experienced enough to lead them, respect drives his style

On a recent Friday, Chef Isaac Pappion found himself in the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen at Grace King High School for his first mentoring session with the Louisiana ProStart program. His first impression was amazement at the size and range of equipment in the kitchen, which was funded through a Community Development Block Grant following Hurricane Katrina.

“I didn’t realize that the kitchen would be so huge or I would’ve have prepared something more elaborate for the students,” Pappion said. “I prepared two dishes, a broccoli crunch and a julienne vegetable medley, both they could easily prepare for their families or friends.”

Pappion has had many mentors along the way and he credits their willingness to share their trials with him in an effort to help him grow in his chosen profession. Although, he found himself in a restaurant kitchen in high school, he stated that the ProStart program would have definitely helped him have a greater understanding of what a chef’s lifestyle is all about.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about working with the ProStart students,” he added. “I see a lot of myself in many of them, an eagerness to learn more and be the best.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kids LiveWell important for restaurants of all sizes

About two years ago, Ype Von Hengst began to notice an uptick in orders of healthful children’s meals at his Silver Diner restaurants. Previously, one in 10 children’s orders was for healthful options; today healthful items represent four of 10 children’s meal orders.

“This is a trend that’s here to stay,” says Von Hengst, chef and founder of the 16-location company based in Rockville, Md. “Even if you have one little diner, one little deli, one little restaurant, you have to give mom and dad options to give their kids healthy food.”

Silver Diner is among the smaller restaurant companies participating in Kids LiveWell, the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) new initiative to promote healthful children’s options.

Kids LiveWell showcases restaurants that offer children’s menu items that meet nutrition criteria. Participating companies appear on the NRA’s website at, and consumers can search the companies and their offerings at

The NRA launched the initiative last July with Healthy Dining, a California-based nutrition-analysis company. At the launch, more than 15,000 restaurant locations were represented; since then, several thousand more outlets are in the pipeline to join the initiative.

Kids LiveWell recognizes the importance of giving parents and children more healthful options and information so they can make choices that are right for their families.

Silver Diner’s Von Hengst says the Kids LiveWell initiative appealed to him because he feels a moral obligation to offer healthful options for children and adults, which is why his restaurants have been offering nutritious food for 21 years.

To qualify for Kids LiveWell, restaurants must offer full children’s meals that include an entrée, side and beverage for no more than 600 calories. Meals must consist of nutrient-rich food, including two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy. They also must limit sodium, fat and sugar.

Participating restaurants must offer at least one other side dish that follows similar criteria. They also must provide nutrition information about the meal and promote the items so they are easily identifiable.

The nutrition criteria for Kids LiveWell meals is based on scientific recommendations from the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Institute of Medicine, government guidance for school nutrition and other leading health organizations.

Learn more about Kids LiveWell and how restaurants can get involved at