News From the Kitchen
“Food is like a lifestyle,” Jervon Francis, 19, reflects on her night working back of house alongside Kristen Essig from Coquette. She, along with three other trainees, helped run Guest Chef Night, our monthly intimate dining experience with our city’s culinary stars.
Kristen Essig has been named one of Coastal Living Magazines “5 Coastal Chefs to Watch”(2015), nominated as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” (2015), and one of Times Picayunes Chefs to Watch (2014). Kristen proudly joined the Coquette family in the fall of 2016 as a co-chef and partner with her love, Michael.
She served a three-course meal and working alongside her were some of our current trainees. Darius Simmons, 17, distinctly remembered the food they cooked. “We made steak and shrimp. I got to taste some of the snacks and appetizers Chef [Kristen] made.” The menu included a surf and turf element with grilled Gulf Shrimp with sauce Romesco and pickled horseradish Gremolata for the first course and Beef Hanger Steak with Louisiana Heirloom tomatoes Georgia Peaches and pickled squash served over braised black-eyed peas for the second course.
“I learned how to grill and that was something I learned the most about from that night,” Gerald Jordan, 20, recalled. “It’s very hot. I still got a lot to learn but it was a good experience.”
With every seat in our cafe filled, the smoked catfish dip with salsa verde and buckwheat crackers started the night off to a great start. “Food really brings people together, everyone in that room was from different backgrounds but all eating together,” Jervon remarked.
Jervon said she really enjoyed working alongside Kristen. “She was patient and very attentive, I didn’t feel rushed and I got to ask a lot of questions.” Jervon will be starting her externship with Kristen at Coquette next week.
“I’m excited to learn more from her.”
When the night was almost over Gerald and the other trainees got to introduce themselves to the guests. “I’m not scared to introduce myself to the guests. I told them the part of the food I did- the grilling.”
“We worked as a team, we didn’t have to rush to do anything and Chef (Kristen) was real nice,” Darius said. He said his team worked together really well. When asked what his favorite dish was he couldn’t pin it down to just one “I just love all food.”
Our monthly Guest Chef Night celebration was held on Thursday, March 15th featuring Chef Marcus Jacobs of Marjie’s Grill. Attendees enjoyed an unforgettable meal that included fresh cracklins, Thai-style ceviche, BBQ gulf shrimp, and Thai BBQ pork shank. Each course was paired with drinks courtesy of Roulaison Distilling Co., Wayward Owl Brewing Co., and Coffee Science. Additional food sponsors also included Home Place Pastures, Whole Foods Market, and Sprout NOLA.
Attendees also enjoyed a live auction with items from Bacchanal and a special opportunity to support our Youth Development Program and initiatives to combat food insecurity in New Orleans.
And, no Guest Chef Night is complete without celebrating our participants. Guests heard first-hand accounts from graduates CeCe and Liberty about how Liberty’s Kitchen helped them to achieve personal and professional goals.
We kicked off our 2018 Guest Chef Night Series with Chef Will Avelar of Meril. Chef Will created an extraordinary family style meal that included Fried Rock Shrimp Salad, Korean Short Ribs with cucumber kimchee, Candied Pork Ribs, Miso Glazed Carrots, Lemongrass Steamed Jasmine Rice, and Bananas Foster Doberge cake. Attendees also enjoyed passed appetizers of Caviar Deviled Eggs and Gulf Oyster Shooters.
Current program trainees and graduates joined Chef Will in the kitchen and as front-of-house staff to make the evening a great success. Chef Will also included Javette Hitchens, a graduate of Liberty’s Kitchen and a current line cook at Meril to assist with the evening.
“I’m honored to have been asked to participate as a guest chef for Liberty’s Kitchen’s dinner series and show my support for this incredible program,” said Chef Will. “Mentorship is invaluable for young people in the hospitality industry, and myself, as well as the Foundation and Emeril’s restaurants, are proud to be a part of helping shape the next generation of this workforce in our community,” stated Chef Will.
Attendees also participated in a live auction. Items included an Ariodante Contemporary Art & Craft Gallery Experience that included art and jewelry pieces, a wine tasting courtesy of Bizou Wines, and a meat and cheese tray from Liberty’s Kitchen. Chef Will also auctioned a private cooking demonstration for 12 people to be held at Liberty’s Kitchen with the winner selecting the menu.
Liberty’s Kitchen closed out the 2017 season of Guest Chef Night on November 16th with a fun-filled night of fine dining courtesy of Tenney Flynn of GW Fins. Guests were pleasantly surprised by a champagne welcome along with complimentary wine pairings with each course, which Chef Flynn facilitated in having donated by Republic National Distributing Company and Kobrand Wines. Each course, with the exception of dessert, were seafood items sponsored by Inland Seafood.
Long standing supporters of Liberty’s Kitchen were in attendance as guests and volunteers. A true sense of community and joy was felt by all in the room. Additional volunteers were provided via our longstanding partnership with Starbucks, along with donations from Stephen Torres and Steelite who provided additional flatware and plates, and Ariodante Gallery who donated a piece of art for the live auction.
Attendees also had a chance to hear a first-hand testimonial from Kayla Wilson, a recent Liberty’s Kitchen graduate. Ahmaad Lott, a Young Men’s Voices have Power (YMVP) intern, also shared his thoughts on the importance of the work that Liberty’s Kitchen provides and the need to support New Orleans’ youth.
The Guest Chef Night series will resume in January 2018.
– Letrece R. Griffin, Marketing Specialist