On a beautiful Sunday evening in Atlanta at the spectacular King Plow Arts Center six of the finest chefs from Louisiana prepared an elegant representation of Louisiana cuisine in an informative and entertaining wine dinner event.

Featured chefs and restaurateurs included an old friend Paul Prudhomme, plus greats like John Folse, Leah Chase, Randy Cheramie, Gary Darling and Mary Sonnier. This special Culinary Celebration Benefit – a very special annual Atlanta event-- benefited the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.”

Propelling the distinctive cuisine of his native Louisiana into the internationa
l spotlight, Paul Prudhomme is the renowned owner and chef of New Orleans’ famous K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen and author of numerous best-selling cookbooks. As a result of endless requests for his seasoning secrets, Prudhomme created his own line of all natural herbs and spices called Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blends®. When television chefs are ranked someday, Chef Paul will be recognized as a genuine pioneer who got his message about the great food styles of Cajun Louisiana to the world.

Chef Paul prepared an appetizer on stage before a packed house, Saint-Amant D’or, consisting of baked aged brie with goat cheese custard, roasted fennel and sun-dried tomato and honey. The Mondavi Chardonnay paired nicely with this unforgettable dish that, because it was served with coconut crackers, reminded several diners of Thai cuisine.

Known as Louisiana’s culinary ambassador to the world, John Folse has poured his passion for Louisiana culture and cuisine into his restaurant, Lafitte’s Landing, and his long-running enormously popular PBS program, “A Taste of Louisiana.” In addition, the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary heritage while fostering Louisiana’s role as a culinary leader. Following the evening’s format, the distinguished chef prepared Fleur-de-lis triple cream and oyster bisque which was so delicious that everyone was willing to forget all those warnings about fat, calories and good health. We were helped health wise by glasses of spectacular white burgundy.

Co-founder of Semolina International Pasta Restaurant chain and Zea Rotisserie Grill in New Orleans, our next chef, Gary Darling lived and cooked in Louisiana for over 20 years. He moved to Cajun country after extensive travel honing his talents in Europe, Mexico and the U.S. and was named New Orleans’ Chef of the Year in 1983. His creation, baby spinach with pepper-jelly vinaigrette became an instant hit, proving that simple food satisfies gourmet yearnings when prepared with care and love.

For the past 53 years, Leah Chase has been the owner and chef of Dooky Chase restaurant – a New Orleans Creole landmark and a personal favorite. She has cooked countless servings of jambalaya, Creole filé gumbo and shrimp. A cookbook author, Chase has appeared on cooking shows with nationally recognized chefs including Julia Child, Graham Kerr and John Folse. Her fresh gulf pompano with Creole crabmeat ragout defies description. You had to be there to appreciate the distinctive spicing and blending. This was a dish that fit comfortably with a domestic Pinot Noir. Randy Cheramie was the chef and owner of the well-known Randolph’s Restaurant in Golden Meadow, Louisiana, for 20 of its nearly 60-year history. He is currently a chef and lecturer at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University and thus well qualified to prepare south Louisiana Pork Wellington with a country mushroom Duxelles and Fois Gras. Everyone knew the wine for this entrée had to be something from France, and bottles of 2000 Bordeaux soon appeared.

Chef Mary Sonnier met her husband and business partner while working as an apprentice under Paul Prudhomme at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. They fell in love with the restaurant business as well as each other and opened their acclaimed restaurant, Gabrielle, recognized nationally by Bon Appetit, Southern Living and Gourmet magazines, to share their interpretation of contemporary Creole cuisine. No ending would be complete without dessert and the Plaquemines Satsuma Pudding cake withhomemade pecan lace cookies was not only wonderful on the palette, but fun to watch as it was prepared live by this culinary artisan.

The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is an academic college of Nicholls State University. Nestled deep in the heart of Cajun Country, Nicholls State is located in Thibodaux, Louisiana, 50 miles southwest of New Orleans. The area is rich in cultural heritage and is known for its hospitality and fine cuisine. There could be no better ambassador than Chef Folse for the Institute and the mission of sharing this indigenous cooking culture with the world. The evening, the fourth annual fundraiser, was under the auspices and sponsorship of Popeyes, a division of AFC Enterprises, Inc.

For one magic evening though, these celebrity chefs and their divine creations were ours to be enjoyed in a wonderful room in midtown Atlanta. This was a remarkable testament to how food and wine appreciation in Atlanta has developed in just a few years. Our standards are high and getting more so. As we are introduced to the best food prepared by culinary artisans, we almost instinctively know that below average or even ordinary wine is unacceptable. Our expectations are different and better now which truly benefits the dining culture of the area.




Read about some more exceptional Chefs

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