Bacon Fat-injected Cervena Venison Loin, Morel Mushrooms, Celeriac-Sweet Potato Pavé, Parsnip Purée, and St. Germain-Currant Jelly
Chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace – New Orleans, LA
Pairing: Highland Park 18-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Chef John Besh of Besh Restaurant Group – New Orleans, LA
Pairing: Piedirosso, Mastroberardino, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso, Campania, Italy, 2010
Chef Scott Boswell of Stella! – New Orleans, LA
Pairing: Nut Brown Ale, Samuel Smith, United States
Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona – New Orleans, LA
Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Cloudy Bay, New Zealand, 2011
Mixologist Paul Gustings – New Orleans, LA
A special thanks to Steelite International for providing all plateware for the evening, as well as to Glazer’s for providing wine and beer pairings.
The 2012 New Orleans Rising Stars Honorees Dinner, hosted upstairs at Commander's Palace, felt like reunion—but not the awkward familial or high school variety. In celebration of the city's newest Rising Stars class, New Orleans' most respected culinary talent gathered, swapped stories, and got a little saucy.
With a room full of chefs, the only proper way to celebrate was to dig in to the dinner prepared by Host Chefs Tory McPhail, Susan Spicer, John Besh, and Scott Boswell. McPhail's Bacon Fat-injected Cervena Venison Loin, Morel Mushrooms, Celeriac-Sweet Potato Pavé, Parsnip Purée, and St. Germain-Currant Jelly was smoky, sweet, and earthy (and perhaps the best dish we've had paired with Highland Park 18-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky). Scott Boswell reminded us of NOLA's Southern roots with Braised Australian Beef Short Ribs and Loaded Baked Potato-style Cheese Grits. And Besh and Spicer tapped the bounty of Louisiana seafood with Ricotta Cavatelli with Louisiana Crawfish, and Sautéed Sheepshead with Caribbean Crab Pilaf.
Host Mixologist Paul Gustings tapped into what New Orleanians (or at least her visitors) love most: cocktails. His Highland Park Sazerac and Angostura Phosphate fueled the evening's guests, including some of the inaugural 2003 New Orleans Rising Stars—Boswell, Pastry Chef Megan Roen-Forman, and Chef Tom Wolfe. Other star guests included student volunteers from Café Reconcile; Mixologists/Mentors Neal Bodenheimer, Chris McMillian, and Ed Diaz; and Gala Host Chefs Chris Montero, Brett Gauthier, Chip Flanagan, and Drew Dzejak (who all partied despite the mountain of prep awaiting them the next morning).
But Rising Star Chef David Slater was the man with the biggest job the next day. He and (now wife) Barbie graced Commander's with their presence even with a wedding rehearsal dinner set for the next evening. Chef Besh helped them celebrate early by triple-fisting wine. And Leon and Pierre Touzet's father, Leon Touzet II, echoed Besh's sentiments, advising the room in his toast to drink lots of red wine to ensure a long and happy life.
Rising Star Artisan Bart Bell, who arrived to the dinner fashionably late, will never know what his mentor, Neil Swidler, said on his behalf (Neil, your secret's safe with us). But it was no secret that Besh, mentor to Brian Landry, Kelly Fields, and Alon Shaya, was the proud papa of the evening with the biggest litter of Rising Star mentees. If the fashion police had been present they would have toasted the ever-impeccably dressed Rising Star Community Mixologist Chris Hannah and date Basil Zerinsky, both clad in stunning vintage. McMillian chimed in instead, praising Hannah for his devotion to the craft and outstanding bar program at Arnaud's French 75. Boucherie Partner James Denio stood in for Rising Star Chef Nathanial Zimet's mentor Shane Ingram. The voodoo spirits of New Orleans inspired Denio to channel Ingram from his North Carolina outpost, but luckily the only spirit to make the toast was Highland Park.
With whisky swigged and a perky pepper mill twirling routine complete, the night led one camp to Maple Leaf and another to an undisclosed location to light their fingers on fire in a game of pass the torch. No fingers, we're pretty certain, were harmed.