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Best in the Kitchen

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Best Farm-to-Table Chef

Manny Augello: Jolie's Louisiana Bistro in Lafayette

When chef Manny Augello of Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro of Lafayette was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York this past May, he brought a good bit of Louisiana with him.
    
Augello served a Louisiana Farm-to-Table Dinner at the acclaimed Beard House, featuring authentic spring and summer foods of Louisiana. Produce and meats included Creole tomatoes, boudin, cracklins, crabmeat, choupique caviar, “true grits” and South Louisiana cheeses, among much more. They even smoked out the kitchen while cooking with the boudin, Augello adds with a laugh.
  
 “People were quite blown away,” he says. “We definitely brought Louisiana with us. I think they had as much fun as we did.”
    
Chelsie Lovell, Jolie’s general manager, found a wine named La Louisiane while touring France and incorporated it into the menu. The wine was so named because of the poor soil in which the grapes were grown; vintners related it to the struggle of the Acadians.
    
“It seemed like a perfect fit,” Augello says.
    
Augello wanted the culinary world of New York to not only experience the great tastes of fresh Louisiana foods but also recognize that great Louisiana cuisine exists outside of New Orleans.
    
“We wanted them to know we’re from Cajun Country, not New Orleans,” he says. “There’s more to Louisiana than New Orleans.
  
 “You can feel the culture, you can feel the warmth,” Augello adds of Lafayette. “Our food culture has really exploded in the last five years.”
    
Augello hails from Palermo, Italy, but grew up in the United States, later attending Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. He met his ex-wife, a native of Lafayette, while at school, and she brought him to the Hub City where he began working for Jolie’s as sous-chef and charcutier. Five years later, he’s the executive chef and cooking at the Beard House; he’s also a leader in the farm-to-table movement in Lafayette, sitting on the advisory board of the Acadiana Food Circle and purchasing 82 to 86 percent of Jolie’s produce from local farmers at the height of any season. His menu changes constantly, with customers learning weekly specials from the restaurant’s e-mail newsletters and blackboards posted above the restaurant’s historic bar. Jolie’s menu changes for the two big seasons of fall and winter and spring and summer, he explains, with some items preserved by pickling or made into sauces for later use.
    
“We like to spread the money around, give back to the community,” Augello says.
    
Augello’s specialty is charcuterie – he started the first charcuterie program in Southwest Louisiana. He uses only three ingredients in the process – “patience, meat and salt” – with no preservatives, and each result is unique, Augello says.
    
“I want it to taste like it’s supposed to taste,” he says. “It’s a science all its own and something very dear to Jolie’s.”
  
 To see Augello’s Louisiana Farm-to-Table Dinner menu from the James Beard House event, visit jamesbeard.org/events/louisiana-farm-table-dinner-053012. For more information about Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro, visit jolieslouisianabistro.com.

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