Eric Paulsen with Jenny and Shane Mutter


The James Beard Foundation’s “Taste America” is a national culinary tour celebrating the diversity of American cuisine while also giving back to local communities through a Taste America Scholarship. New Orleans hosted the Fifth Annual Taste America weekend, which featured a panel of top chefs at the Royal Sonesta on Friday, October 6 for “A Night of Culinary Stars,” an exclusive dining event to support the mission.

A tasting reception of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres kicked off the event, featuring selections from local chefs: Zachary Engel of Shaya; Michael Stolzfus and Kristen Essig of Coquette; Martha Wiggins of Sylvain; Nick Lama of Avo; and Michael Sichel of Galatoire’s.

Later, guests were seated for a dinner prepared by a collaboration of culinary experts who created a multi-course dining experience unlike any other. Featured chefs included Taste America All-Star Rocco DiSpirito, Author of Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious: More than 200 (Mostly) Plant Based Recipes For Everyday Life; Rebecca Wilcomb of Herbsaint; and Host Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto of Restaurant R’evolution and Royal Sonesta; and Pastry Chef Michael Regua of Antoine’s. Bread service was served by Chef Kelly Fields of Willa Jean, and a special cocktail was provided by Arnaud’s: the French 75.

Al Groos of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Octavio Mantilla of Besh Restaurant Group, Katy Casbarian of Arnaud’s, Melvin Rodrigue of Galatoire’s and Marv Ammari of Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts served as Co-Chairs.


Event at a Glance

What: “A Night of Culinary Stars from the Fifth Anniversary Taste America Culinary Tour,” benefiting James Beard Foundation
When: Friday, October 6
Where: Royal Sonesta