Gastronomic Gravity

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Written by The Independent Staff

Gastronomic Gravity
It bills itself "the largest culinary competition on the Gulf Coast with the largest Best of Show' purse [$10,000] in America," and we encourage you to take the opportunity to see and taste its delicious artistic creations. The Acadiana Culinary Classic returns to Lafayette Monday, May 17, from 7-9 p.m. at the Cajundome Convention Center.

Arrive an hour early and enjoy great wines at Republic National Distributing Company's wine expo. But this year, the competition offered a truly special treat - an opportunity for a sponsor and seven guests to dine with renowned New Orleans chef John Besh, winner of the 2006 James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Chef" in the Southeast. On Monday the event announced that Paragon Casino Resort out of Marksville had secured the slot, ponying up $5,000 for the Classic Sponsorship and helping out a great cause in the process. The Acadiana Culinary Classic is a benefit for Hearts of Hope, formerly known as Stuller Place, a non-profit agency that aims to reduce the trauma experienced by child and adult victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Hearts of Hope services Lafayette, Acadia, Vermilion, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.

Besh, who grew up in Slidell, will also be selling autographed copies of his first solo-authored cookbook, My New Orleans: The Cookbook: 200 of My Favorite Recipes & Stories from My Hometown, on site for $45 and will assist in handing out the evening's awards.

This high-powered competition requires each chef entrant to bring all of his knowledge, experience, skill and creativity. The classic's judges and chefs travel from around the country to participate. In the past the competition has been featured in Southern Living, Food and Wine, Travel and Leisure, and other respected publications that cover the food beat.

Each year a local artist creates and donates an original painting that is auctioned at the event - though early bidding, which starts at $500, is already under way. Last year Francis Pavy stepped up to the plate, and this year's contributing artist is Hope Hebert.

Become a sponsor or purchase a table of 10. Sponsor levels range from $500 to $10,000. Tickets are $100/person and $1,000 for a table of 10. Call 269-1557 for more info.

The Culinary Classic is presented by IberiaBank and Popeyes, with Republic National Distributing and Bruce Foods as supporting sponsors. - Leslie Turk

Rockin' feel-good tunes for the last eight years as Lafayette's go-to party ensemble, The Robbie Bush Band is throwing in the towel and calling it quits. But fret not, fans: This doesn't necessarily mean the end.

The band as it is now - covering music of past and present at private functions like weddings and Mardi Gras balls - opted to drop the cover band gig and take on a new fa├žade of original material, work that will touch on everything from rock and "Louisiana rock" (as Bush describes it), to country, Motown, jazz and Big Band.

"If you put all of that on one CD, it would probably confuse people," Bush jokes, but that's precisely the kind of versatility that's made The Robbie Bush Band so popular. With a typical set list boasting anything from Manhattan Transfer to Alicia Keys, the 14-piece harmony- and horn-driven collective's original work will draw upon these influences, and Bush is looking to take this new project beyond the comforts of home.

"I'm really hoping that the original material will be received well enough to be able to move into some of those directions - South By Southwest, some of the festivals that are around us here and around the country - and be able to perform original material and have it accepted," he says. "You can have a great cover band. If people don't really like your original material it doesn't really matter."

With more than four decades of playing music under his belt, it seems fair to say that Bush will hold a steady hand in his future endeavors - especially with the backing of his local fan base, a band he considers "one of the hardest working, most talented group of team players that [he's] ever worked with," and plans to work with multiple Grammy-winning music engineer Tony Daigle at Maurice's Dockside Studios.

Bush hopes to finish recording the new material by the summer's end. - Lanie Cook