- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) - A group of renown British chefs and up-and-coming culinary students spent Nov. 14 in Lafourche Parish as part of a Louisiana culinary visit.

The group toured the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University, Bourgeois Meat Market in Thibodaux, Raceland Sugar Mill and Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano.

The idea for the trip came from a conversation between food historian Jessica Harris and chefs Jeremy Lee and Yotam Ottolenghi last year.

“We were at an event and … I was talking about New Orleans, running my mouth, and he’s like, ‘I’ve never been to New Orleans.’ So I said, ‘well come visit!’ That’s how the whole thing happened,” Harris said.

Harris is an expert of the food and foodways of the African diaspora and has previously worked with Chef John Folse. She is a recipient of the Lafcadio Hearn Award, which is awarded by the Folse institute to culinary professionals who have impacted Louisiana food and culture.

Lee is the chef of Quo Vadis restaurant in London. Harris called Ottolenghi “one of the top chefs in the UK right now.” Donald Sloan, the head of the school of hospitality management at Oxford Brookes University, and about a dozen students were also on the trip.

“When it was all decided that they were coming and because we were bringing students, (Folse was) like ‘you’ve got to take students to Nicholls State,” Harris said. “They’ve got to see Nicholls State. So that was the nucleus of this whole day’s trip. You need to go see cane country, you need to come to Nicholls State, you need to understand the culture, and you’ve got to do it by coming and showing up.”

While touring the new Nicholls culinary building, the group heard about the worldwide influences on Louisiana cuisine.

Nicholls President Bruce Murphy mentioned in his opening remarks that the institute’s emblem includes multiple flags. These, he said, represent the different cultures and influences that have made Louisiana food what it is.

“Gumbo could only have happened here,” Randy Cheramie, recruiting coordinator and instructor of the culinary institute, said in response to Murphy. “When you look at the seven nations that had their hand in the pot, so to speak, you take one of them out and it’s a whole different ball game. It’s funny how we’re still evolving down here. It’s still a melting pot.”

During his cooking demo of a seafood gumbo, Folse explained the cultural and historical ingredients in the dish in addition to the roux, shrimp and crabmeat that he added to the pot.

“My final exam is ‘tell me who is in this damn pot,’” Folse said.

The group will round out their Louisiana culinary visit with a few more days exploring the New Orleans culinary scene.

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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