The best foods always have a story. Sometimes it’s about the ingredients, a chef’s ingenuity or the memories created when shared with friends. Sometimes the story is so big it starts a movement and the food scene is forever changed.
As the local food critic for over 16 years, and a culinary storyteller who visits chefs around the Central Coast on my TV show, Taste Buds and with this column, when I heard that the SLO International Film Festival Opening Night was screening a documentary about Ella Brennan, the matriarch of a New Orleans restaurant empire, I decided an opening night foodie party was in order.
“This will be a foodie’s dream event!” Wendy Edison, SLO Film Fest director said. “Chefs from restaurants around San Luis Obispo County will be sharing their tasty culinary treats alongside amazing Central Coast wines and other libations. Café Musique will perform their eclectic, high-energy music from the stage. It’s guaranteed to be a festive atmosphere that celebrates Miss Ella and the generous spirit of New Orleans.”
More than 35 local chefs, wineries, and breweries are already onboard to share their favorite creations at this Mardi Gras-themed tasting and viewing party at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. Tickets are only $50 and include every taste, sip, dance and movie.
The Chefs I chose include my favorites from Taste Buds’ season one, including Nicola Algretta of Mistura with Peruvian delights for us to savor; and Bunn Thai with their authentic cuisine from owning a restaurant for over three generations in Bangkok.
Local favorite, Joe DiFronzo of Giuseppe’s Restaurants, is sharing Central Coast-inspired Italian cuisine. Sarah Paddock of Chipwrecked, who I believe to have the most inspired palette of any chef out there, will be dazzling with home made chips.
Resindo of Papi’s Grill will startle us with butter beef tacos; while Efren’s Mexican Restaurant shares taco street cart fare that is so tasty it becomes a fiery habit. Then the giants of taste, my culinary crush, the team at The Spoon Trade and the incendiary Crab Bisque from the Cracked Crab will blow your minds.
Jeffry’s Catering has always impressed me with wine inspired food and Vivant Cheese will be laying out a board of savory treats. They turn plain milk into soul-turning bites you will not long forget. Surfside Deli will be rocking the mac & cheese comfort food, and Oki Momo will drive it home with their amazing wings. Chef Chris Beckett of Fish Gaucho, coming straight from his Best Chef win, will be dazzling us with Mexican offerings, while Bon Temps stirs our souls with real Creole cuisine.
The Apple Farm will be serving up desserts, something Willet Vey has been doing for over 30 years, with newcomer Royal Baklava dazzling, with Central Roast Coffee complimenting the sweet treats. You can taste them all, with their libation partners, for the one ticket price of $50.
Our wet-your-mouth partners are a “who’s who” list of the best creators of grape juice into a Bacchanalian’s desire. From Baker and Brain, the winemaker’s favorite; to Talley Winery with the tradition and experience; to boutique winners like Amplify, Field Recordings, and Timbre, they will all impress and offer something not seen at usual foodie events.
My favorite Chardonnay has always come from Kynsi and now you can try it along with crab bisque. The hops crowd will be pleased by M Special, Barrel House Brewing and Puffer’s of Pismo, all offering unique tastes for the beer drinkers, to go well with the spicy New Orleans inspired food. Other giants of taste and stature include Opolo, Summerland, and Cambria serving the perfect complements to this awe-inspiring food.
Admission includes unlimited food and drink tastes, live music with Café Musique and viewing the new full-length documentary film: “Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table” by Oscar and Emmy-nominated director and producer, Leslie Iwerks.
A pioneer of the modern American food movement and recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, “Miss Ella” groomed chefs such as Emeril Lagasse at her Commander’s Palace, helping to launch the celebrity chef phenomenon.
Leslie (director of this film and many others including, The Pixar Story, Citizen Hearst, Recycled Life), will be in attendance with Ella Brennan’s daughter, Ti Martin, and son, Alex Brennan, who were recently named “2016 New Orleans Restaurateurs of the Year.”
They are looking forward to talking about the storied history of Commander’s Palace. Other Big screen luminaries such as Josh Brolin and French Stewart will be on hand for interviews and to discuss the film and the food.
Today, the world knows Ella Brennan as the matriarch of a Creole-flavored dining dynasty dating back over a half century. She has become a household name in the restaurant business with the success of New Orleans establishment Commander’s Palace.
Restaurateurs and chefs from all walks of life recognize the important role that Ella has played in building and enhancing Creole cooking in a way that the world could never have anticipated.
What many don’t know is that when Ella Brennan was a teenager in 1940s New Orleans, the city’s food and drink business was in its infant stage, generating less than $1 million dollars a year.
Today, it has grown into a billion-dollar industry for the city, many crediting the Brennan Family, guided by Ella, for pushing Creole wining and dining into the American mainstream and creating a lasting impact on how Americans eat and drink.
Interviews and vintage footage with current and former Commander’s Palace chefs, restaurateurs, peers, family, and friends will provide the past and present glimpses into Ella’s unique life and world.
For a woman “who can’t cook worth a lick,” but knows “how good food should taste,” this is the intimate and inspiring story of a true American icon.
Tickets for this all-inclusive evening are $50 or $40 for students and Film Society members. For tickets go to: www.slofilmfest.org
Teri Bayus is the Host of Taste Buds, shown on KSBY Ch. 6 at 3:30 p.m. Sundays and The C-W Ch. 7 at 11 a.m. Sundays, and are available online at: www.tastebuds.tv, and Taste Buds Channel on YouTube. Dinner and a Movie is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media.