Monday, August 27, 2012

SE Louisiana restaurants prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) has been preparing for a weather-related event since early May, when it issued its first blog post on hurricane preparedness. This morning was spent conferring with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Louisiana Seafood Promotionand Marketing Board, sharing information about closures, supplies and return-to-work plans. We’ve also been glued to the news—both television and online.

To assist our members, the LRA reposted its Sample Hurricane Plan for Restaurants and shared on Facebook the May 1 blog post, "Do you have a game plan?" which contain five key points to prepare. Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association shared that post and the National Restaurant Association shared the points and some factors the Florida Hotel and Lodging Association provided its members. We also sent an e-mail blast to all members with important points for preparation this afternoon.

As the day progressed, we monitored and compiled a list of restaurant closures based on Twitter and Facebook updates and currently have them posted on our website. By no means is this list complete. As soon as we posted to, there were others announcing closures. The Gambit Weekly’s food writer Ian McNulty called earlier today and spoke with Erica Papillion, LRA Director of Communications, who said, “It looks like restaurants are choosing to close Tuesday and Wednesday, returning to normal business hours on Thursday, weather pending.”

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is standing by to re-inspect restaurants should it be necessary. has extensive information on power outages and hurricane food safety for both businesses and consumers. In addition, some businesses may require the DHH to document product loss and destruction of food products. Click here to contact a sanitarian in your area.

The DHH will make every effort to visit each establishment impacted by the storm as soon as they are cleared for re-entry, however, there are no current regulations in the Louisiana Administrative Code which restrict reopening a currently permitted retail food establishment following a storm.

The LRA will be virtually assessing the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center to assist where possible. We will continue to share relevant information as it becomes available and encourage you to monitor your local government and news for the latest on Tropical Storm Isaac.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Local & national restaurants weather lack of rainstorms

If you live in South Louisiana, you might not realize that other areas of Louisiana are in a drought. Many states and countries, including four parishes in Northeast Louisiana, have been designated natural disaster areas as a result of the severe lack of rain. This is the hottest summer on record globally.
“It’s unfortunate that our farmers need this type of assistance (low interest Farm Service Agency emergency loans), but we are grateful it exists,” said Mike Strain, Commissioner of Louisiana’s Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry. “You can’t control Mother Nature, but we are glad to see our farmers get the assistance they need to alleviate some of the hardship.”

The ongoing drought that is affecting crops in more than half of the United States will likely accelerate wholesale food price inflation, the National Restaurant Association says. According to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research and Knowledge Group, one-third of a restaurant’s sales typically go toward food purchases, so wholesale food costs are a big concern for many operators. In fact, he noted, restaurateurs rank food costs as the second biggest business challenge.

“With food costs rising, restaurant owners are adjusting their cost management strategies while managing consumer expectations of value at the same time,” Riehle said. “With a typical restaurant averaging pretax profit margins of three to five percent, operators will have to manager their escalating input costs to ensure those margins remain viable.”
LRA Communications
Director Erica Papillion
says the drought is adding
insult to injury given the
rise of food costs
in recent years.
WWL Radio interviewed Louisiana Restaurant Association Director of Communications Erica Papillion in early August, where she said, “Food prices are at an all-time high and have been for a few years now, but the drought is adding insult to injury. Restaurants try to absorb as much of the costs as they can, raising prices only as a last resort. But at some point they have to make a profit.”

In the CityBusiness article, New Orleans restaurants wither under drought-driven higher costs, restaurants are split on their tactics to deal with the rising costs. On one hand, Chophouse, a downtown steakhouse, has raised their menu prices given the alternative of reducing sizes of prime steaks or substituting choice steaks instead of prime. They’ve chosen quality and passed on the cost to the consumer.

Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group takes an entirely different approach. Corporate Executive Chef Haley Bittermann said that the restaurants will retool menu items if an element of a dish’s price has increased too drastically.

In the article she said, “If for some reason asparagus goes from $28 a case to $48 a case, we will ask if it is really that important to have asparagus on this dish, “ she said. “And if the product is an integral part of the dish, we’ll just change the dish instead of raising prices.”

To overcome a price hike, she added, some restaurants will opt for what’s affordable. For example, instead of a filet mignon on the menu, you may see hanger or skirt steak. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Louisiana seafood is not only delicious, but healthy

Hold the butter, batter and sauces! Louisiana seafood can be a stand-alone star of the plate. While a marinade or seasoning sprinkle complements the natural sweetness of the six species of Louisiana seafood—alligator, shrimp, crab, crawfish, finfish and oysters—the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board is challenging chefs to keep it healthy.

The contest Louisiana Seafood for Life is calling all restaurants! Chefs are invited to create a healthy menu item utilizing Louisiana seafood as the primary source of protein, then enter their recipe and information into the form here. Recipes must be under 600 calories and less than 20 grams of fat per serving.

“We take for granted the healthy benefits of Louisiana seafood,” said Ewell Smith, Executive Director of the LSPMB. “The bounty from our waters is an outstanding source of lean protein and omega-3’s.”

One might wonder, what is the incentive for a restaurant to create a healthy menu item using Louisiana seafood?

“Current trends point to diners seeking healthy options when eating out in restaurants,” said Wendy Waren, VP of Communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “Secondly, there’s a huge potential financial benefit from participating in the Louisiana Seafood for Life program—a $10,000 in media advertising for the winning restaurant.”

How does a restaurant become a winner? The LSPMB will continually promote the program and highlight the online restaurant listings along with their menu items. The public will then vote on their favorite Louisiana Seafood for Life healthy seafood dish and the winner will reap the great reward of recognition and advertising in their market.
The promotion starts now and runs through November 30, 2012. Visit to sign up and learn more!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top food trends from the 2012 LRA EXPO

Every year as we are making our way up and down aisles visiting exhibitors, restaurateurs and checking out the latest and greatest products and services, certain trends begin to emerge. Just a few short days ago, we closed out the 59th Annual Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO and we definitely noticed some common themes among exhibiting companies and topics of discussion in our first-ever IDEA ZONE.

The Times-Picayune's food writer Judy Walker gave an overview of her time on the EXPO floor in this morning Living Section, in the article, Flavor trends and food art at the state's restaurant trade show." 

In no particular order, here’s what we determined as the top trends based on our own observations and feedback from attendees:

Seasonings and sauces

How much hot sauce, sauces and seasonings can your pantry hold? Ours is overrun and we love it! It’s what keeps our creative culinary juices flowing and they were certainly prevalent at the EXPO. Launching a new seasoning blend or sauce at the EXPO is sure to garner a company a ton of exposure. The EXPO is a captive audience of restaurateurs and chefs seeking the latest greatest flavor profile to wow their guests. National trends point to diners wanting more exotic flavors. The easiest way to transform a customer’s palate is to use international spices, seasonings and sauces!

Seafood Sustainability

Harlon Pearce of Harlon's LA Fish features a chef demo
in his booth and invites his customers for a three-course meal
using fresh Gulf seafood. BBQ shrimp was on the menu
Sunday during the EXPO.
Between the Great American Seafood Cookoff, the exhibiting fisheries and the IDEA ZONE session, “Fish of the Gulf with Chef Brian Landry,” seafood sustainability is more important today than ever before in the restaurant industry. With more imports making their way into the supply chain, keeping Louisiana seafood top of mind for restaurateurs and consumers was evident by the many encounters we had with the topic during the EXPO. The LRA actually had a big hand in this being a trending topic and we encourage members, whenever possible, to utilize our greatest natural resource- local seafood- on their menus!

Eco-friendly disposables

While this is not a new trend nationally, at the LRA EXPO this year, those exhibitors with eco-friendly disposable plates, serving ware and utensils were swarmed with attendees. The look of bamboo disposables is modern and unique and if you are hosting an event for an eco-conscious client or just want to make it standout, these products might be just the ticket. Using eco-friendly products are a small way restaurants can reduce their carbon footprint.

The PeaceBaker joined Dianne Schafer during the
Gluten Free Idea Zone presentation with a variety of
gluten free desserts like the whoppie pies pictured here.
Gluten Free

It’s estimated that more than 10 million Americans are gluten intolerant. More and more restaurateurs are encountering diners that have such allergies and are intolerant of wheat products. An IDEA ZONE presentation by Dianne Schafer of the Celiac Sprue New Orleans Chapter drew a crowd of nearly 50 as she shared valuable information for restaurateurs and chefs about how gluten-free menus can be prepared for this incredibly loyal customer base. She was joined by the Peace Baker, a gluten free, dairy free and vegan baker who’s made a name for herself in the New Orleans area in the past few months. The bakery hasn’t even had its Grand Opening yet, and it can hardly close for the day, as gluten intolerant customers from across the metro area flock to the Peace Baker to purchase its wares.

Specialty meats/charcuterie

Nationally, specialty meats and charcuterie is hot right now, and it’s seeing a resurgence in Louisiana, where we’re known for boudin, sausages and smoked and cured meats. It was no wonder that exhibitors serving artisan beef, duck and procuitto had the attention of the crowds. Ian Barrilleaux with Cochon Butcher’s “Charcuterie Showdown” in the IDEA ZONE gave attendees a historical overview and information on profitability, taste, texture and popularity of various smoked and cured meats. Diners are looking for authenticity in their food, and what better way to pay homage to the past than to master the art of this ancient form of meat preservation?

Presentations that WOW

Capitol City Produce used their fresh
fruit and vegetables to capture their take
on the EXPO theme, "the Art of Hospitality."
The theme of the 2012 EXPO, “The Art of Hospitality” was visible from virtually every spot on the show floor. Many companies used the theme to inspire their booth designs which resembled art galleries and paintings. Presentation is a key component to the dining experience in the restaurant industry. In addition to these visual displays, Chef Tory McPhail commanded the attention of nearly 130 attendees in his IDEA ZONE session, “Eating with your Eyes: Presentations that Wow! And diners and restaurateurs alike value presentation, as McPhail’s session had the most attendees of the three-day IDEA ZONE. It’s important to remember that guests want an experience when they dine out at a restaurant. And with the prevalence of sharing “food porn” on social media platforms, how a plated dish looks is becoming as important as how it tastes.

Mixers and liquid flavorings

Plain old H20 just doesn’t have the same allure as mango peach vitamin water. It was evident that many companies are tapping into the popularity of kicked up beverages—alcoholic or not. From mixers inspired by popular alcoholic beverages to fruit flavored Moscato varieties, beverage companies are offering unique and flavorful ways to jazz up ordinary refreshments.

Community Coffee brings their Trolley to the EXPO every
year. This year, the Trolley was set up next to the first
Idea Zone, which made it a popular stop for attendees.

We noticed coffee at every turn during the EXPO. Coffee is certainly nothing new in Louisiana, but its popularity is certainly notable, as it’s mother’s milk for many of us, especially after an exciting three days at the EXPO, where a jolt of caffeine keeps you going. Given the long hours many of us put in daily serving others in our industry, the options seem to be growing as companies vie for loyalty. With the EXPO sitting right on the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana-based coffee producers view the EXPO as a must as they market their unique blends to a food centric crowd—many of which grew up drinking coffee milk.

Did you attend the EXPO? What were the stand out trends for you? Next year is the big 6-0, and we are already discussing EXPO themes!

A 1,725 gallon cocktail for Mother Earth

360 Vodka Got Down to Earth once again at Tales of the Cocktail 2012

For the fourth consecutive year, 360 Vodka made sure the biggest and best drink to come from the world’s premier cocktail festival went to Mother Earth.  The world’s only sustainable vodka was poised to quench her thirst this year by ensuring the 14,000 lemons and limes along with hundreds of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables used throughout the five-day cocktail extravaganza, were given back to Mother Earth and not to the trash cans.

“We recognize that collecting the otherwise wasted produce from Tales of the Cocktail 2012 and converting it into rich, healthy soil wasn’t the most glamorous role to play at Tales, but in our quest to leave the smallest footprint on earth, we believed this was one of the most important and rewarding roles we could play, and one we were delighted to lead,” said Vic Morrison, VP Marketing for 360 Vodka.

360 Vodka supplied green compost bins to all Tales of the Cocktail event sites where mixologists discarded their used produce, napkins, egg shells, vegetable peels, herb stems, seeds, pits, fruit peels and more.  Each compost bin featured instructions on what could be converted to compost and 360 Vodka ambassadors were on-site throughout the event to answer any questions.  

For four years, Tales of the Cocktail has partnered with
360 Vodka and Holly Grove Market to compost the
discarded produce, napkins, egg shells, vegetable peels,
herb stems, seeds, pits, fruit peels and more.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without our partner Holly Grove Market and Farms who do an outstanding job every year of collecting the compost bins each night, delivering it to their farm and converting the contents into rich compost to grow more local produce,” added Morrison.  “It truly comes full circle!”
Spearheading a composting initiative that embodies the sustainable practices 360 Vodka values is one of the many green initiatives the company is committed to in order to live up to their reputation as the World’s Greenest Vodka. 

Tales of the Cocktail celebrated its 10th Anniversary in July, themed “Aged-Well.” Founder Ann Tuennerman spoke of the partnership between the cocktail festival and 360 Vodka at the Louisiana Restaurant Association's 59th Annual Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO on August 12 in the first Idea Zone, a series of presentations aimed to help restaurateurs become more profitable and efficient.
Ann Tuennerman
Founder of Tales of the
Cocktail, a five-day
cocktail conference in
New Orleans every July.

“We measure our success in garnishes,” said Tuennerman. “Although we still have challenges recycling glass in the New Orleans market, composting our used produce and recycling the thousands of card board boxes is something we feel is important to our community and we aim to be a positive example for other event producers.”

Along with Chef Haley Bittermann of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group and Johnny Blancher of Ye Olde College Inn, the three panelists shared their efforts in the area of conservation, sustainability, reusing and recycling.

LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren refills her used 360 Vodka bottles with filtered tap water to avoid throwing them away. Another great way to reuse the bottles she's discovered is to use them to make cellos and infusions with fresh Louisiana produce like figs, strawberries, blueberries and Meyer lemons and gift them during the holidays.

Fine dining is a family affair in Shreveport

In the third part of the “Couples in the Kitchen” article, which appeared in the summer edition of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s A La Carte magazine, you’ll be introduced to Ernest and Tina Palmisano. While Ernest has been operating the restaurant for decades, Tina joined the business a few years ago, when the two were married.

With a large percentage of Louisiana restaurants being family owned and operated, the story of couples working together in the business had us thinking, “How do they balance their personal and professional lives?”  We’ve found they are sometimes one in the same, as running a business together is extremely personal. Meet Ernest and Tina of Ernest’s Orleans in Shreveport.   
Tina and Ernest Palmisano run Ernest's Orleans Restaurant
in Shreveport. They were featured in the LRA summer
edition of A La Carte magazine in the article, "Couples
in the Kitchen: Family at the core of many
Louisiana restaurants."
On the top of the hill on Spring Street in Shreveport sits Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant, where diners can nosh on prime steaks, fresh seafood and Italian cuisine in an intimate atmosphere. For years, the restaurant has been part of the fabric of Shreveport’s dining history and from the veranda, one can enjoy the scenic view of downtown.

Ernest Jr. has spent most of his life in the restaurant business. His father, Ernest Sr., owned Ernest’s Supper Club on the riverfront, which opened in the 1940s and fed many until it closed with Ernest Sr.’s passing in 1983. During Ernest Jr.’s career, he’s seen things change and knows that they will continue to do so.
“Back in the day, customers would come in to the restaurant and spend the whole evening with us, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy a leisurely meal, wine and conversation,” he said. “These days, younger diners are in such a rush and they want to be in and out quickly, because they have so many other things going on.”

At 51 years old, Ernest is hardly a cynic but has noticed changes not only in dining habits, but also with technology, staffing and how willing people are to stick with you, particularly during the rough spots.

Ernest married his wife Tina in 2007 and she has brought a new energy to their restaurant. Her passion and dedication to attracting new patrons, younger ones to replace the older ones that have passed on, is evident in her approach to the business.

Born in Lafayette surrounded by family members who spoke broken Cajun French, Tina absorbed all she could about the ways of cooking Cajun cuisine. At 24, she attended Louisiana Vocational’s culinary program and has trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Her culinary spark was rekindled and she received a master certification in Foodservice Management from Cornell University and completed her first chef level with the American Culinary Federation.  Her diverse skills include being a master florist and holding an event planner certification.

Tina attributes her long-standing passion to many fine mentors along the way. Her husband is one of those mentors, sharing his love of the business and Italian cuisine with her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chef Frank Brigtsen inducted into the LRA Hall of Fame

Chef Frank Brigtsen is inducted into
the LRA's Hall of Fame, Aug. 11 at
the Five Star Futures Gala.
Photo by: Allyson O'Keefe
In the restaurant and hospitality industry, encountering genuinely kind chefs, owners and staff is really rather common. After all, we are in the business to entertain, accommodate and serve. However, when the decision came to determine which individual was to be inducted in the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame this year, one man stood above the rest—Frank Brigtsen.

“His commitment to our industry and his focus on using local seafood and other ingredients separates his restaurants from many others,” said Melvin Rodrigue, 2012 LRA Chairman. “He gives of his time to the next generation of chefs and managers, even employing Louisiana ProStart graduates in his kitchens.”

A James Beard award-winning chef, Brigtsen was honored at the Five Star Future’s Gala at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, August 12, in front of 400 industry leaders, restaurateurs, chefs, managers and the 2012 class of scholarship recipients.
An individual with a heart of gold and a passion for serving his guests, Brigtsen is a tribute to hard work and creativity. Along with his wife Marna, they own Brigtsen’s Restaurant and Charlie’s Seafood where the menu changes each day.

Brigtsen’s acceptance speech was moving and sincere. In it he said, “Every time I put on my chef coat, I’m putting on 250 years of Louisiana’s proud culinary traditions and legacy. It’s my job to give back and that’s why I cook, serve and teach. I’m particularly proud that one of my students is a recipient of a general hospitality scholarship from the LRA Education Foundation.”

He shared his story of how he entered the restaurant industry during his speech.

“I was broke with no job, living at home with my mom,” he said. “I was looking through the classifieds and saw a Commander’s Palace ad looking for Creole cooks or individuals willing to be trained in the Creole traditions.”

Brigtsen apprenticed at Commander’s Palace under the guidance of Chef Paul Prudhomme. In 1980, he became the first Night Chef at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen when the restaurant began dinner service and during his seven year tenure was promoted to Executive Chef. Paul and his late wife were instrumental in helping the Brigtsen’s open their restaurant in 1986.

In 1988, Food & Wine magazine named him, “One of America’s Top 10 New Chefs,” and New Orleans magazine named him the Chef of the Year in 1994. In 1998, Brigtsen received the James Beard Award of “American Express Best Chef: Southeast.  

Past inductees into the LRA’s Hall of Fame include: Al Copeland Sr., Archie Casbarian, Ralph Brennan, Dickie Brennan, Ella Brennan and Charles Goodson.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Raising Cane's Todd Graves named LRA's "Restaurateur of the Year"

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers Founder
Todd Graves is the 2012 LRA
Restaurateur of the Year.
The most prestigious Louisiana restaurant industry honor—Restaurateur of the Year—was awarded to Todd Graves, Founder, Chairman, CEO, Fry Cook and Cashier, of Raising Cane’s Restaurants, August 11 at the LRA’s Five Star Futures Gala. Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Chairman Melvin Rodrigue began is introduction of Graves as the top honoree with, “our next honoree has earned a tremendous notoriety and success building a quick service restaurant concept for which he received the worst grade in his business class at Louisiana State University (LSU).”

Graves has built his business with little support in the early days. No bank would lend him money as they didn’t believe a simple chicken finger concept would work. Some bankers even told him he should give up the idea and “get a real job.” At that point, Graves knew he would need to raise his own capital to achieve his dream.

From the oil refineries in South Louisiana to his eventual move to Alaska to commercial salmon fish, he worked diligently until he had raised enough seed money to open his first Raising Cane’s right outside the gates of LSU. In a moment of inspiration, he named the restaurant after his yellow lab, Raising Cane.

“Todd is a great example of an individual who followed his dream, and against great odds, made his idea a reality,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO, LRA. “His story is one that shows the entrepreneurial spirit that makes the restaurant industry one that many individuals find their calling, career and life’s work within.”

In 15 years, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has grown from that first location to more than 130 restaurants in 16 states. Raising Cane’s now ranks as one of the fastest growing privately-owned companies in the U.S.

Philanthropy is a huge part of Graves’ commitment to the community. Graves and Raising Cane’s have given more than 25 percent of their profits back to the communities where Raising Cane’s restaurants operate. With an emphasis on education, food insecurity, active lifestyles, canine assistance and business and entrepreneurial organizations, the impact has been enormous.

“The generosity of restaurateurs ought to be well known,” said National Restaurant Association Chairwoman Roz Mallet. “Our industry donates $3 billion a year, and Todd is an example of the philanthropic nature of restaurateurs.”

Past Restaurateur of the Year honorees have included: Leah Chase, John Besh, Greg Reggio, John Folse and Paul Prudhomme.

Friday, August 10, 2012

$40k in scholarships given to 14, by LRA Education Foundation

It’s a wonderful thing to support young people as they pursue their dreams of higher education. Going to college for any student is an important milestone and a journey they will recall throughout their lives.
While there are scholarships given by many organizations and institutions, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation created the Scholarship Fund to specifically support ProStart students and students who are currently enrolled or have been accepted in a hospitality or culinary degree seeking program.

“The LRAEF Scholarship Fund is designed to seed future leaders in the restaurant business in Louisiana,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO, LRA. “This is the second year we will award $40,000 to deserving students and we are looking for new and exciting ways to grow the Scholarship Fund.”
On Saturday night in New Orleans, the LRAEF will host its inaugural Five Stars Futures gala—a star-studded affair which also recognizes today’s restaurant industry leaders for their philanthropy to the industry and other important humanitarian causes.
Fourteen individuals will receive scholarhips to continue
their culinary or hospitality educations at the inaugural
Five Star Futures gala, Saturday, August 11 at the
Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

The scholarship recipients will be recognized during the evening and many of the students will have family members present.
“Having the scholarship recipients recognized in front of a room full of Louisiana’s most notable restaurateurs, service providers and hoteliers is certainly to their advantage,” said Alice Glenn, Executive Director, LRAEF. “Any of our member restaurants and associates would be doing themselves a favor to keep an eye on the progress of these students.”

The LRAEF and National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) ProStart Scholarship is a co-branded scholarship given to students who have, or will receive the ProStart Certificate of Achievement. This year’s recipients are: Sabrina Bodenheimer, Victoria Cart, Caitlin Hall, Melissa McGuire, Kaila Mogg-Stone, Thien Nguyen and Andre Rochon. Among the schools this scholarship class chose? The John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University; Louisiana Culinary Institute and the Art Institute of Houston will be the schools training this group for careers.
The General Hospitality Scholarship is a scholarship given to students who are currently enrolled in or have been accepted in a hospitality or culinary degree seeking program. This year’s recipients are: Rheham Algattan, Stephon Cook, Gregory Estevan, Scott Kohls, Christina Manriquez, Kayleigh Mehrtens and Hillary Scott—continuing their educations at John Folse Institute and Louisiana Culinary Institute.

Special gala guest, NRA
Chairwoman Roz Mallet
“We are thrilled to reward the hard work of these 14 students,” said John Eastman, LRAEF Chair. “We are very proud of them and know that their commitment to the foodservice industry will make it that much stronger in the years to come.”
The Five Star Futures Gala is Saturday, August 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. In addition to recognizing today’s industry leaders and supporting the next generation, the event will feature a live auction with guest auctioneer Mark Romig and the special guest, Roz Mallet, the first African American Chairwoman of the National Restaurant Association.

Special thanks to our Gala Sponsors: Reinhart Food Service, Acme Oyster House, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Mr. Mudbug's and Crescent Crown Distributing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Gulf Coast's premier restaurant show opens Saturday

New Orleans is home to great restaurants, exciting attractions and beautiful hotels and this weekend, the city plays hostess to restaurateurs, hoteliers and service companies in town from near and far.
Special guest to open the
Louisiana Foodservice EXPO
is Roz Mallet, the
first African American woman
to chair the National Restaurant
Every August, the restaurant and hospitality industry heads to the Big Easy for a weekend of business and pleasure for the Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO.

Joined this year by special guest, Roz Mallet, National Restaurant Association Chairwoman, the 59th EXPO, or the LRA show as it’s commonly referred to, kicks off Saturday, August 11 at 10:45 a.m. at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.

As thousands from the industry usher in another EXPO, several hundred companies will be waiting to greet them and share products, services, innovations and ideas as the three-day show gets underway.

Stan Harris, President/CEO of the
LRA and former restaurateur shares
the value of attending the 59th
Annual Louisiana Foodservice &
Hospitality EXPO.
“There’s a lot to see and learn at the EXPO and I recommend attending for more than one day,” said Stan HarrisLouisiana Restaurant Association President/CEO. “With more than 400 companies, 67 of them new exhibitors, even if you’ve attended in the past, this is a new EXPO.”

One of the new features of the EXPO is the IDEA ZONE, a series of express sessions, most of which only last 30 to 45 minutes. This provides attendees with an educational reprieve from walking the show and take away tips and techniques to help them become more profitable in their operations.

“I’m particularly excited about the Fish of the Gulf session with Chef Brian Landry and the Charcuterie Showdown with Cochon Butcher’s Ian Barrilleaux. The wine aromas class with the Windsor Court’s sommelier Sara Kavanaugh should draw a great crowd too,” said Harris. “With a lineup that runs the gamut from the science and secrets of selecting and cooking rice to hearing from one of New Orleans’ most notable chefs on plating techniques that wow, and many others, the IDEA ZONE has something for every restaurateur.”
The Louisiana Restaurant Association booth design mirrors
that of an art gallery, staying true to the EXPO,
"Art of Hospitality," theme. Images featured are courtesy
of award-winning photographer David Gallent.
The LRA booth has been relocated to the head of the 1300 aisle and designed to resemble an art gallery, staying true to the show’s theme the “Art of Hospitality.” Included in the LRA booth are ServSafe, the LRA Workers’ Comp program and Office Depot.

Another feature of the EXPO is the addition of a hospitality suite on the show floor in the form of a tour bus. Under the title of “PAC the Bus,” contributors to the NRA Political Action Committee will have access to the amenities of the bus—libations and cuisine—during EXPO hours.

On Saturday, the Great American Seafood Cook off will determine the King or Queen of American Seafood and in Louisiana, we are rooting for Keith and Nealy Frentz from Covington’s Lola Restaurant. In its 9th year, the goal of the Cook-Off is to promote the use of domestic seafood, which in Louisiana, we realize is vitally important to the economy.

If you are in the restaurant or hospitality business, can you really afford to miss this show? Shopping hundreds of companies on your own would take a lifetime. The LRA offers it to you all under one roof!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Five Star Futures Gala, a “star-studded” evening

Louisiana’ restaurant and hospitality industries will convene August 11 for an evening to recognize today’s industry leaders and support the education of the next generation. The Hilton Riverside Grand Ballroom will be decked with beautiful spring bouquets, libations and world-class cuisine and all to benefit the Louisiana Restaurant AssociationEducation Foundation’s Scholarship Fund.

“We are looking forward to raising funds for our Scholarship Program and awareness of some of our industry’s most philanthropic members,” said Melvin Rodrigue, LRA Chairman. “To make the evening even more special, the National Restaurant Association Chairwoman Roz Mallet will join us.”

LRA Chair Melvin Rodrigue will
name the restaurant industry's high
award winners during the Five Star
Futures Gala, August 12.
Throughout the program, Guest Auctioneer Mark Romig of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp will get the bidding started on great packages like round trip airfare, charter fishing trips, duck hunts and multi-course meals—one by Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona and Mondo. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on four tickets to the New Orleans Saints season opener September 9 and VIP amenities at the Hyatt Regency.

The event also features a Cork Pull. Members of the LRA donated a bottle of wine to the Cork Pull to increase contributions to the Scholarship Fund.

National Restaurant Assoc.
Chair Roz Mallet will be
the special guest of honor
at the Five Stars
Future Gala.
“Having a Cork Pull at our event affords our members various giving levels throughout the evening,” said Alice Glenn, Executive Director, LRAEF. “We are extremely thankful to all our members who have contributed to the success of the Five Star Futures Gala.”

Fourteen students will be awarded a total of $40,000 in scholarships during the opening portion of the program. It is with support of the Gala sponsors and the annual ProStart Partners that the foundation is able to award these funds, and for the second year in a row.

“During the latter part of the program, we will announce the LRA’s top award recipients, the Advocate of the Year, Associate Member of the Year and the Restaurateur of the Year,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO, LRA. “We will also induct a beloved member of the New Orleans restaurant community into the LRA’s Hall of Fame.”

A few tickets are still available! If you are interested in attendees this “star-studded” event, please call Alice Glenn at (504) 454-2277 or email today!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brewing a successful business in Baton Rouge

In the summer issue of the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) magazine, the cover story, “Couples in the Kitchen: Family at the core of many Louisiana restaurants,” shared three couples experiences in the restaurant business. Meet James and Lina Jacobs who recently opened Magpie Café in Baton Rouge.

In early June, James and Lina Jacobs opened their dream business—Magpie Café in Baton Rouge on Perkins Road. Named for their dog Maggie, whose nickname is Magpie, they brought James’ love of a great cup of Italian coffee and Lina’s fondness of locally-sourced and wholesome ingredients to the Perkins Road Historic Merchants District location.

Magpie Cafe owners James and Lina Jacbos.
“Many people consider opening a restaurant, or in the Jacobs’ case a café, for the freedom of being their own boss,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO of the LRA. “Many restaurants are family owned and operated, which is a significant part of the cultural and culinary fabric of Louisiana.”

The groundwork for the cafe was unknowingly laid during a trip to Italy to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary.  While there, they tackled the country with no tour guides or real plan and spent 21 days exploring cities, towns and villages.

“I went to Italy with a huge ego about what good coffee was,” said James. “I grew up drinking dark roast with a lot of milk and even used a French press, but I was completely humbled by the coffee, its sophistication and culture in Italy.”

He certainly doesn’t discount the Louisiana coffee culture, but his Italian coffee experience seeded the plan to seize an opportunity to bring a different type of coffee to Baton Rouge.

Lina noticed the regionalism of Italy’s cuisine, as they used what was available and locally harvested. How the available products varied by region was reminiscent of the bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood of Louisiana’s rich land and waters. 

Before they abandoned their former careers for their new found loves, they took a motorcycle trip through the Carolinas. They stopped along the scenic byways to visit coffee shops, restaurants and cafes that offered specialty coffee and organic cuisine similar to their interests.
“The challenges in opening Magpie Café were more than we anticipated,” James said. “We’d never done this before and we thought we’d have time to grow into it.”

What they didn’t expect was to sell out of everything they had in the first hour they were opened during the first two weeks. They were completely overwhelmed by how Baton Rouge embraced their business.

“Right now, we are up to six staff members including Lina and me,” said James. “She and I have been discussing where we go from here, how we will expand our menu to offer more variety and keep up with the demand.”

The couple’s goal is to have Magpie become the pinnacle of the best coffee in the region, bringing true Italian traditions and proper servings. For example, James shared that there is no 24 oz. cappuccino in Italy, while it is routinely available here. 

Fortunately, there is some common ground between their former careers and their new one. James said he feels the immediate satisfaction and rewards of being his own boss instead of reporting to one.

“Being able to act on our own, instead of having to go to a boss, just can’t be topped,” he said. 

If you or someone you know is interested in opening a restaurant, café, coffee shop or sweet shop, the Louisiana Restaurant Association can assist budding entrepreneurs with what you need to know to get started in the industry. From the licenses, required food safety and sanitation and alcohol server training, labor laws and workers’ compensation coverage, the LRA is here to support individuals choosing to make a career in Louisiana’s rich culinary landscape.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Five Star Futures Gala to recognize scholarship recipients, industry leaders

The Five Star Futures Gala, formerly known as the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Awards Banquet, has been rebranded to bring new excitement and a greater awareness of the restaurant industry’s philanthropy, and for the past two years, has benefited the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) Scholarship Fund.

The stars will shine bright on August 11, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, beginning with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. Dinner, a live auction with guest auctioneer Mark Romig, Executive Director of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp., and awards will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Notable New Orleanian
Mark Romig will serve as the
auctioneer for the live auction
during the Five Star Futures Gala,
August 11 at the Hilton Riverside.
The event’s menu is inspired by the restaurant concept, Petit Manger, which was developed and presented by the Rayne High School team at the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, earlier this year. The Rayne team placed third in the nation and received rave reviews from judges and spectators.

“The Rayne team’s concept was so impressive,” said NRA Board Member Dickie Brennan. “The judges and my fellow NRA Board Members were looking at me, giving me the thumbs up when Rayne completed their presentation. I was so proud.”

For the second consecutive year, the LRAEF will distribute $40,000 in scholarships to deserving students wishing to further their college culinary or hospitality management education.

“The success of the LRAEF’s scholarship program is a testament to the leadership and dedication of our members who support it through various chapter activities year round,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO.

NRA Chairwoman Roz Mallet
is the special guest for the
Five Star Futures Gala and
understands the value of
investing in the future of
Louisiana's restaurant workforce.
Special guest for the evening is the National Restaurant Association Chairwoman and NRA Education Foundation Trustee Roz Mallet. An avid supporter of ProStart and a mentor to many, Mallet is an exemplary individual who has built a 35 year career in the restaurant industry, beginning as a student in college.

“One of our challenges as an industry is to promote the wide range of opportunities we offer to young people on the verge of starting their own careers,” said Mallet. “That is why ProStart and the LRAEF’s scholarship program were created—to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice industry leaders.”

Join us as we celebrate today’s leaders and tomorrow’s future stars on August 11. Tickets are available online and proceeds benefit the LRA Education Foundation Scholarship Program.