Baton Rougeans are continuing to take pride in their chefs and local food. Throughout the year, the city made moves to become more of a food city.
On a national scale, the city could be seen on television, thanks to cooks/personalities like Jay Ducote on “Food Network Star” and Jesse Romero on “MasterChef.” Though Romero bowed out too soon, Ducote made an impressive run, nearly winning the title. Ducote also dominated the local scene with new products, releasing a barbecue sauce, wine and mustard.
But those guys weren’t the only ones you could see on TV. Avery Kyle, a 9-year-old student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, has been showing off her talents on “MasterChef Junior.” She remains safe as the show will return Jan. 8.
Chef Chris Wadsworth also tackled the competition on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” a cooking show where chefs shop and cook inside a grocery store for a grand prize of $20,000. Though Wadsworth didn’t win, he has his very own restaurant opening, Goûter, to look forward to.
Wadsworth had previously resided over the kitchens in Restaurant IPO and Modern Meals before making the leap to this new restaurant. Other chefs on the move include Jeremy Langlois who went from Houmas House to Ruffino’s, Troy Deano at Blend Wine Bar and Sean Rivera leaving City Pork.
It was an amicable split between Rivera and City Pork, a restaurant brand that continued to stake its claim in Baton Rouge, opening its third location — Kitchen & Pie — in as many years. What chef Ryan André and his crew have been doing at the locations can’t be ignored, and it hasn’t been, as the Brasserie & Bar will be featured in an upcoming episode of Food Network’s “Burgers, Brew and ‘Que.”
While a plethora of new restaurants opened in the Baton Rouge area, perhaps the biggest news is that one institution, Chelsea’s Café, might be closing by year’s end. Owner Dave Remmetter told The Advocate that the famed restaurant and music venue was up for sale. If not sold, Chelsea’s will be no more by the first of the year.
Remmetter has good reasons for his wanting to leave Chelsea’s. There’s the success of Mid City’s The Radio Bar as well as the upcoming Mid City Beer Garden, which gained approval when it came up for rezoning for alcohol sales in the fall.
While the new bar is in construction phase, across town, the city’s lone brewery Tin Roof turned 5 years old. To mark the occasion, Tin Roof released its first in a new House Beer Series — an Oatmeal Pale Ale.
Another big deal in Baton Rouge is the growth of local products. The LSU Food Incubator continues to grow, getting products like the popular Truly Scrumptious Pretzel Crunch into nationwide markets.
One product that graduated from the Incubator program was Hanley’s Foods. Richard Hanley started with a Sensation salad dressing, then made an Avocado dressing. This year brought a giant — Hanley’s take on ranch, without all the additives and tasting much better than most other brands.
And now these products have more places to sell them. Downtown Baton Rouge got its first grocery store in 50 years with the opening of Matherne’s on Third Street, and LeBlanc’s opened its first Baton Rouge Frais Marché concept in the former Hi-Nabor on Drusilla Lane.
Becoming a food destination hasn’t been an easy ride for Baton Rouge, but with stories like these, the future looks bright. Here’s to another good year in 2016.
Notable new restaurants and bars
Canefield Tavern, Your Mom’s Restaurant and Bar, Tredici Bakery & Café, City Pork Kitchen and Pie, Roux 61, Patron’s Mexican Restaurant, Marina’s Mexican Grill, The State Bar, Shucks!, Fresh Bowls, The River Room, Mahony’s Irish Pub, Simple Joe Café and Confectionary, Marty J’s Seafood, Burgers and Po-boys, Table Kitchen and Bar, La Salvadoreña Restaurant, Crispy Catch, Side bar at Bin 77, Barcadia, Boul and Roux, Corporate Brew & Draft, The Velvet Cactus