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Besh stars on Day 2 at Food & Wine Classic

By Dave Buchanan

ASPEN – The last time we ran into New Orleans chef John Besh, he was occupied with rejuvenating that city’s restaurant scene following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

Today, Besh still works at letting the world know New Orleans shouldn’t be ignored, only this time he’s admitting the storm helped him discover something more of his city.

His 40-minute cooking seminar Saturday morning on the second day of the 2011 Food &Wine Classic in Aspen was titled “The New New Orleans.”

Besh prepared a shrimp creole, familiar enough for anyone knowing Louisiana cuisine, but this version incorporated the strong Thai and Viet Nam influence found in that state.

Not many in the audience admitted they knew of the strong Southeast Asia populations, many of which moved to the U.S. working in the energy field, and even Besh said it took Katrina for him to assimilate this cooking style.

The Vietnamese immigrants were “segregated until Katrina brought the city together,” Besh said.

It was during the rebuilding that many other chefs discovered the culinary styles and ingredients that now grace so many familiar-yet-now-different Louisiana dishes.

Besh said it’s not uncommon to find dishes using lemongrass or chili paste, both Southeast Asia influences, as well as the better-known cutlures – French, Spanish, African-American and other – that have forged the New Orleans cuisine prized today.

But the end of Katrina wasn't the only the jumpstart given New Orleans' rejuvenation. It took the ecological and economic disaster of the BP oil spil, which suddenly turned off millions of people to all that luscious Louisiana seafood, to get Besh pounding the podium of "Eat More Shrimp."

The only losers in the lingering fears are those still uneducated about how far the Louisisan shrimp industry has come, Besh said.

He wasn't at all shy about urging the audience to eat more domestic shrimp and “Better yet, eat Louisiana shrimp,” he told the appreciative audience.

The Food & Wine Classic winds up Sunday with a morning lineup of seminars as well as the extremely popular and standing-room-only Quickfire Cookoff pitting Richard Blais against Kevin Sbraga.




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