Sipping Up and Eating Out at NOLA’s Chefs Taste Challenge

by Ashlee Nicole
Published: Last Updated on

NOLA’s first-ever Farm to Table Chefs Taste Challenge happened this past weekend and I was privileged to have media access. Let me be the first to tell you that ANY event featuring food and drinks is my type of party! Plus, getting a $129 ticket comp’d doesn’t hurt — at all! Not only was I there tasting and voting for the top dishes, but I also blogged live via my Instagram and Snapchat accounts.

CTC Chefs

These 10 chefs from around the U.S., competed for the Gold Award:

Chef Craig Baker, Local Eatery & Pub, Indianapolis, Indiana
Chef Frank Brigtsen, Brigtsen’s Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana
Chef Rocky Durham, Santa Fe Culinary Academy, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Chef Matthew Farmer, Apolline Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana
Chef Joshua Galliano, Companion Bakery, St. Louis, Missouri
Chef Richard Jones, Green Door Gourmet, Nashville, Tennessee
Chef Joel Navejas, The Farmhouse, Fort Collins, Colorado
Chef Hari Pulapaka, Cress Restaurant, DeLand, Florida
Chef Carmen Rodriguez, Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, Lake Arrowhead, California
Chef Elise Wiggins, Panzano, Denver, Colorado

CTC Winners

From left to right, Chef Hari P, and his NOLA dish, received the GOLD award, Chef Richard Jones took home the Silver award for his Shrimp and Grits dish, and NOLA Chef Matthew Farmer (Apolline Restaurant) was the Fan Favorite award for his Sweet Potato Bisque.

The challenge was held on Friday, Aug. 7, at the Ernest N. Memorial Convention Center in downtown NOLA. Upon entry, I was greeted with my media badge, voting card + pen, and a wine glass (you know I was excited about that part). Inside, the chefs manned their stations that were around the room, in no particular order. Each chef had his own station and sous chef to help prepare dishes for the hundreds of foodies waiting to entice their palettes. Each dish was paired with a white or red wine.

Wine Glass + Voting Card
Wine Glass + Voting Card

Centerplate’s Crawfish & Grit Croquette
paired with Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc
Crawfish & Grit CroquetteCrawfish with Stoned-Ground Grits and New Potatoes

Chef Carmen Rodriguez’s Barbacoa Beignet paired with Bonterra Merlot
Barbacoa Beignet
with Slaw Curtido and May-Haw Sauce

Chef Richard Jones’ Shrimp and Grits paired with Bonterra Chardonnay (Silver award)
Shrimp & Grits
Ramp Butter-poached Louisiana Shrimp on Garbanzo Grits with Pickled Okra, Smoky Green Lentil Sauce Americain, Country Ham Crisp & Tabasco Butter

Chef Joel Navajos’ Swamp & Turf paired Bonterra Zinfandel
Swamp & TurfSmoked Pork & Dirty Rice Boudin Sausage, Turtle & Giblet Gravy, Ham Hock Red Lentils

Chef Craig Baker’s Chicken & Its Lunch paired with Bonterra Chardonnay
Chicken and Its LunchCornmeal Fried Chicken Ballottine, Three Corn Infused Porridge, Summer Squash Chow Chow, House Hot Sauce

Chef Hari Pulapaka’s NOLA – New Old Latin Asian (Winner) >paired with Bonterra Red
NOLA - New Old Latin Age (Winner)
Hatch Green Chile Panna Cotta, Smoked Redfish Brandade, Redfish Ceviche, Eggplant Massaman

Chef Frank Brigtsen’s Sweet & Sour Alligator paired with Bonterra Red
S&S Alligator
with Curried Rice Calas Griddlecake & Tabasco Peach Jam

Chef Rocky Durham’s Braised Beef Shortrib Street Taco paired with Bonterra Red Blend
Shortrib
with Red Bean Refritos and Yellow Macadamia Mole

Chef Matthew Farmer’s Roasted Sweet Potato Bisque (Fan Favorite) paired with Bonterra Red Blend
Sweet Potato Bisque
Confit Duck Leg, Fennel, Sorghum Roasted Sunflower Seeds

Chef Joshua Galliano’s Louisiana Wild Boar paired with Bonterra Red
Wild Boar
Quinoa Granola, Coffee Roasted Carrots, Persimmon Mole

Surprise! It’s dessert!
Desserts!
Dark and White Chocolate covered Strawberries, Truffles, and more

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company’s Lazy Southern Saison. YUM!
Lazy Magnolia Beer

As you can see, Bonterra Organic Wine sowed up the night with its amazing wine selection. I’m googling where to buy as I type (such the multi-tasker).

I thoroughly enjoyed all dishes, but above all, if I had to choose three, my faves would be Chef Carmen’s Barbacoa Beignet, Chef Rocky’s Braised Beef Shortrib Street Taco, and… it’s a toss up between Chef Frank’s Sweet & Sour Alligator and Chef Matt’s Roasted Sweet Potato Bisque. But Chef Craig’s Chicken & Its Lunch was also tasty. See! Being a voting foodie is über difficult, so, I’ll just say that those were my top five.

I had a super great time at the Chefs Taste Challenge. To say this was the first annual event, it’s the start of something truly amazing. There was a great turnout and I’m sure next year, even more foodies will show up and show out. I met some great people and made connections. Food, drinks, AND networking? What more can a gal ask for?!

Thanks to my good friend Naomi and her superiors at the Convention Center for hooking me up with such an awesome night. I highly appreciate the access and look forward to many more events like this.

For more info or to plan to attend next year’s event, check out the official site.

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