May 3, 2006

Kelly Schulz
V.P., Communications & Public Relations
504-566-5045 / 504-421-0962(cell)

Mary Beth Romig
Dir., Communications & Public Relations
 504-566-5050 / 504-606-8430 (cell)


Twenty-four New Orleans Chefs to be in Attendance to be Honored and to Prepare the Evening’s Menu

Award Demonstrates Economic and Spiritual Importance of New Orleans Restaurant Industry

New Orleans, May 3, 2006 - The James Beard Foundation will celebrate the culinary legacy of New Orleans at the 16th Annual James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation's most prestigious recognition program for outstanding achievement within the fine food and beverage industry. The Awards ceremony and reception will take place on Monday, May 8, at the New York Marriott Marquis, and will be hosted by New Orleans native Cokie Roberts, a political commentator for ABC News and senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

"We are thrilled that the James Beard Foundation will recognize our city for its contribution to America's culinary heritage," said Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The culinary tradition of our great city is an integral part of the quintessential New Orleans experience, and that experience is as strong as ever.”

Under the direction of Reception Executive Chef Susan Spicer, owner and executive chef of Bayona, over 20 chefs from New Orleans and vicinity will prepare the dishes that have made New Orleans one of the greatest culinary destinations in the world. Among the classics on the menu that night will be po' boys, red beans and rice, gumbo, and beignets. Modern flavors of New Orleans will be captured in contemporary dishes such as grilled crawfish with creole cream cheese gnocchi and daube of Louisiana rabbit with white asparagus. The awards are attended by more than 1,500 culinary industry leaders."

The mission of the James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence. New Orleans has faced insurmountable challenges since Hurricane Katrina, and its restaurant community has remained incredibly strong and committed in its efforts to rebuild. These are chefs who have supported the James Beard Foundation for the past 20 years by cooking at the Beard House and participating in fundraisers. We remain committed to helping our colleagues in New Orleans and to nurturing and furthering the preservation of this great city for years to come," said Dorothy Cann Hamilton, chairman of the James Beard Foundation.

The restaurant industry was among the first to open again after the hurricane, and proved to be an important gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. “From the earliest days in October, the restaurants became places where people went to reconnect. And for the visitor, you know when you come to New Orleans, you’ll eat better than you ever have. This recognition from the James Beard Foundation is a great reminder to New Orleanians and the entire nation of just how unique and special our restaurants and dining culture are,” added Perry.

Two local chefs are among those nominated for the title “2006 Best Chef Southeast,” namely John Besh, Restaurant August, and Donald Link, Herbsaint. Last year, the James Beard Foundation honored Galatoire’s Restaurant with the S. Pellegrino Outstanding Restaurant Award. Willie Mae Seaton, proprietor of Willie Mae’s Scotch House was honored as one of “America’s Classics.” Click here to see the film Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House.

In another nod to the region’s cuisine, The James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards dinner, held on May 7 at the Grand Hyatt New York, will offer a Cajun Country-themed menu overseen by Louisiana native Chef John Folse, owner of John Folse & Co. and author of the Encyclopedia of Creole and Cajun Cooking.

A portion of the $375 admission price to the awards will be donated to a charitable fund established to support the rebuilding of New Orleans's restaurant community.

"It is especially meaningful for the New Orleans restaurant community to be recognized at the James Beard Foundation Awards because so many of our industry colleagues and members of the media attend. It gives the New Orleans restaurant community the chance to say 'We are back! Come visit us!' said Susan Spicer, whose restaurant reopened last November.

If New Orleans cooking is the heart, then music is the soul of the city. Wanda Rouzan, “The Sweetheart of New Orleans Music,” one of the crescent city’s premier musical ambassadors, and her band, “A Taste of New Orleans,” will provide the evening’s entertainment.

The James Beard Foundation Awards were established in 1990 to recognize and honor excellence and achievement in the culinary arts. More than 60 awards are presented in the areas of cookbook publishing, restaurants and chefs, broadcasting, food journalism, restaurant design, and lifetime achievement. The awards are judged by industry professionals who are assigned to judge specific award categories based on their expertise.

New Orleans chefs slated to be in attendance – and cooking – at the May 8 reception include: Burton Benrud and Wayne Maher, Café Du Monde; Jacques Leonardi, Jacques- Imo's Café; John Besh, Restaurant August; Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace; Frank Brigtsen, Brigtsen's; Michael Regua, Antoine's; Leah Chase, Dooky Chase's; Willie Mae Seaton, Willie Mae's Scotch House; Craig Cuccia and Don Boyd, Café Reconcile; Kenneth Smith, Upperline; Ross Eirich, Galatoire's; Susan Spicer, Bayona Restaurant (Awards Reception Executive Chef); Tenney Flynn, GW Fins; Aldolfo Garcia, RioMar,; Eric Venéy, Muriel's Jackson Square; John Harris and Beth Biundo, Lilette; Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing, Longbranch; Bob Iacovone, Cuvée; Thomas Wolfe, Peristyle; Emeril Lagasse, Emeril's Restaurant.

Sponsors for the 2006 awards include: All-Clad Metalcrafters; American Express Company; Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association; Chefwear; Contessa Premium Foods; Continental Airlines; Ecolab; Gallo Family Vineyards; illy caffè North America; KitchenAid Home Appliances; McIlhenny Company, maker of TABASCO® Brand Products; the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau; S.Pellegrino; Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.; Viking Range Corporation; and, Waterford Wedgwood.

About New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB)
Since 1960, the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau has been the driving force behind New Orleans' most important industry, attracting $4.9 billion to the region annually. Nationally recognized for superior customer service, NOMCVB currently represents over 900 members and provides convention services and visitor information for business travelers and vacationers. In 2004, the NOMCVB welcomed a record-breaking 10.1 million visitors to one of America's favorite meeting and leisure destinations. The NOMCVB is committed to rebuilding the city of New Orleans. (

The James Beard Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving, nurturing, and celebrating America's culinary heritage. The Foundation provides scholarships and educational opportunities to culinary students, serves as a resource center for those in the food industry, offers members and the public the opportunity to enjoy the talents of emerging and established chefs, winemakers, cookbook authors, and dedicated purveyors, and honors professionals in the food and beverage industry for their achievements with the annual James Beard Foundation Awards.