Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wohl honors 'Best of the Best' of James Beard Foundation

            The 2012 James Beard Award nominees were released this week and although we were disappointed that Chef Justin Girouard of The French Press didn’t make the cut, we were happy to see Chef Donald Link up for the prestigious Outstanding Chef category. Link is known for his New Orleans restaurants but recently honored Lafayette but opening a second Cochon in River Ranch last year.
            Good luck to Link and here’s to future nominations for Lafayette chefs.
            If you love following the Beard Awards better than the Oscars, you’ll be thrilled to learn that New Orleans food writer Kit Wohl has profiled 21 American chefs who have been honored by the James Beard Foundation in “The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: a 25th Anniversary Celebration of America’s Outstanding Chefs” (Chronicle Books).
            This gorgeous coffee table book not only includes personality profiles of these award-winning chefs from 1991 to today but offers images of their kitchens and cuisine and some of their outstanding recipes. Some of the best-known names include Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters and Tom Colicchio. 
The following is a lovely simple summer salad by Waters:

Summer Salad
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 handfuls mixed greens (8 ounces)
3 radishes, sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh chives or chervil
Directions: With a mortar and pestle, puree the garlic. Transfer the garlic to a bowl, add the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil to make a vinaigrette. In a large bowl, add the greens, radishes, chives or chervil, or both. Add three-quarters of the vinaigrette, toss and taste. Add more dressing as needed. Serve immediately.
            LSU graduate Suzanne Perron left home to pursue a career in fashion design, traveling to New York to work with Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Anna Sui and Ralph Rucci. As with many Louisiana natives, even though she was highly successful, the Bayou State beckoned. Perron returned to New Orleans to be closer to family, planning her moving date for Aug. 31, 2005.
            While many people might be curtailed by a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, Perron became more determined.
            “It turned out that Hurricane Katrina delayed but did not derail my plans,” she writes in “Designing in Ivory and White: Suzanne Perron Gowns from the Inside Out,” published by LSU Press. “My desire to be in Louisiana intensified.”
            Perron opened her own custom design business in New Orleans, specializing in unique gowns for weddings and Carnivals. The book contains her story, plus photos of her couture fashion, from Mardi Gras queens to Garden District weddings. There’s also a chapter on the “couture process,” including aspects such as beadwork, design, draping and fabric manipulation.

Book events
            Ben Lowenkron and Christopher Shipman of Baton Rouge, and Carol Rice of Lafayette will read from their work at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau. An open mic will follow. Lowenkron has published a chapbook of poems, “Preacher's Blues,” and teaches in the English and the Humanities departments at Baton Rouge Community College where he a faculty adviser for the poetry club. Shipman is the author of “Human-Carrying Flight Technology,” is poetry editor for DIG Magazine of Baton Rouge and teaches English at Baton Rouge Community College. Rice is working on her first collection of poetry titled “Autobiography of a Plankton Reflections on the Sea of life.” For more information call Patrice Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or email festivalwords@gmail.com
            The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will conduct its semi-annual Big Book Sale beginning on Thursday, March 29, at the Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd. at the Lake, in Kenner. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, March 29-31 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 1. More than 60,000 gently used books, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, videotapes, music tapes, and vinyl records will be offered for sale. According to members of the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library, the sale includes an exceptional collection of collectibles, art, travel, history, military and Civil War books. For more information, call (504) 455-2665 or email  friendsjpl@yahoo.com.
            The ninth annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference will be Saturday, March 31, at the Terrebonne Main Library in Houma. The keynote speaker will be Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist and journalist Rick Bragg, author of two best-selling memoirs, “All Over but the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man.” “The Prince of Frog Town” is his latest, completing the trilogy. Other speakers include Mary Kay Andrews, Eileen Dreyer, Heather Graham, Damon Stentz, Brigett Scott, Robert San Souci, Dianne de Las Casas, Chris Cenac, Claire Joller and poet laureates Julie Kane and Darrel Bourque, along with Jack Bedell, David Middleton, John Doucet and Alison Pelegrin. There will also be a visiting agent and editors. The cost for everything, including lunch, is $35. Registrations are accepted at the door. Special accommodation rates are available at the Courtyard Marriott, across the street from the library. For information, visit www.mytpl.org

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at chere@louisianabooknews.com.