The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is holding its 21st celebration of our culinary and drinks culture this week, and tomorrow (Friday, May 24, 2013) marks the second time the party will include a pastry competition. Participants will include Jacquelyn Lopez of the New Orleans Hyatt Regency, Shun Li of the Windsor Court, Gonzalo Jiminez of the Grand Hyatt in New York City, and Ravindra Verma of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.


From the official release:


Hosted by Keegan Gerhard of Food Network’s Challenge; local, celebrated pastry chef Tariq Hanna of Sucré; and the Royal Sonesta Hotel, this ticketed event will feature burlesque beauties Trixie Minx, Bella Blue, Madame Mystere and Roxie Le Rouge. Each chef, assisted by the region’s best baking and pastry students, will display their skills and craftsmanship by designing a signature showpiece, as well as hundreds of chocolate, fruit and caramel petit fours, a “chef’s choice” petit four and bon-bons, all of which will be displayed and tasted at an after-party following the Friday Grand Tasting. Celebrity judges, Johhny Iuzzini of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts and Amanda Rockman, Pastry Chef at L2o in Chicago, will be joined by Rob Sobkowski, of Swiss Chalet, as well as attendees, to choose their favorite delight. The winning design and pastry chef will be awarded with a $5000 prize sponsored by Swiss Chalet Fine Foods. "The Gateaux Show has been an exciting addition to our lineup of events, a little racy, but that’s New Orleans for you," states Neill Buie, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience Board President. "Not only do attendees get to enjoy delicious desserts and champagne, but they also help us raise funds for our beneficiaries. It is truly a way for everyone to have their ‘pastry’ and eat it, too!"


There you have it. Left out of the paragraph above is the fact that the chefs' “signature showpiece” will be inspired by one of the four burlesque entertainers, and paired with Champagne by Nicolas Feuillatte. I, for one, am particularly interested to see how the performers inspire the chefs in this regard. I suspect that is a more complicated undertaking than matching a dessert to Champagne…


NOWFE is a nonprofit that, in the last 20 years, has donated more than $1 million to various local programs and foundations. Tonight the organization puts on the Royal Street Stroll, and assuming the weather holds out, you won't find anything better to do than walk through the Quarter, checking out galleries and sipping wine. You can visit NOWFE's website for a list of seminars being held Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, or to find out details on the Grand Tastings Friday night and Saturday afternoon.


I've judged the Grand Tasting in the past, and I can assure you that you won't be disappointed by the food or wine on offer. I'll be there on Saturday, May 25, to cover the 7th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-off, hosted by the Louisiana Seafood Board. The winning chef qualifies to represent Louisiana at the Great American Seafood Cook-off, which will be held in New Orleans Aug. 3, 2013. It's been several years since chef Tory McPhail took the national title for Louisiana in 2009. I'll be interested to see what the chefs cook up on Saturday. Not that I'm biased in favor of Louisiana chefs (I am biased in favor of Louisiana chefs), but I would like to see the crown return home this year.


Are you attending NOWFE this year? If so, we'd love to hear from you, either before or after the event.