Waitr, a popular restaurant app and on-demand platform, is launching in late spring or early summer a restaurant incubator lab from its Baton Rouge office at Celtic Studios. 

The lab will provide chefs and restaurateurs an opportunity to develop menu items, to develop a brand and to deliver food to Waitr customers. Waitr CEO Chris Meaux said the lab probably will have two to three concepts working out of the kitchen at a time.

"We want to help as many chefs and restaurateurs get started as we can," Meaux said. "It's about working with students from the culinary institute and upcoming chefs, and getting them with mentors to help create a brand and menu.

"These students and chefs will be able to start their business with little costs, and they'll build a following and reputation for themselves on Waitr. Hopefully, that will parlay into a new restaurant concept that they will want to open in the Baton Rouge area."

More details about the lab are being fleshed out, including a time frame for graduating from the program, goals and other guidelines. If successful, the lab could expand to other markets, but that's not Waitr's primary focus.

"We want to create a great culinary experience in Baton Rouge, and we're focused on that for the foreseeable future," Meaux said. "Baton Rouge is one of our largest markets. It's a perfect market for something like this because there are culinary students and vibrant business and restaurant communities.

"There is a thriving food culture in Baton Rouge. We want to make it stronger."

Chefs interested in the restaurant incubator lab can email chef@waitrapp.com

Smoke & Boil pop-up returns 

Chef Richard Markert is bringing back crawfish and barbecue this weekend. 

The guy behind Secret Lair Taqueria is teaming with Benjamin Blakeslee and Belle of the Bakery's Danielle Rockefort for the second Smoke & Boil. The event starts at 1 p.m. Sunday at Tin Roof Brewing Co., 1624 Wyoming St. 

In addition to Markert's barbecue sandwiches and plates, Blakeslee's boiled crawfish and Rockefort's boozy desserts, Smoke & Boil also will feature art on display and for sale from Lafon Willis-Johnson, Stephen Beard Blades, Michael Terrell Decuir, Amber Damare and Mitzi Marcello. 

Markert said he plans to host the event once a month during crawfish season. The next Smoke & Boil is set for Saturday, March 24, at Southern Craft Brewing.

While Markert is keeping busy with this pop-up, wingsday Wednesdays at French Quarter Daiquiris, 5201 Nicholson Drive, Suite F, and Secret Lair Taqueria, he and Blakeslee also are planning to get involved in competitive cooking later this year. 

For more more information on Sunday's event, visit facebook.com/smokeandboil.

Congrats to chef Manny Augello 

When people ask me for a restaurant recommendation in Lafayette, one of my top picks is always Bread & Circus Provisions. It seems word has been getting around of chef Manny Augello's delicious wood-fire Neopolitan pizza and southern Italian cooking.

The James Beard Foundation Awards announced last week its restaurant and chef semifinalists, and Augello was named in the Best Chef: South category. Augello is one of 20 chef semifinalists. The category includes another seven chefs from New Orleans as well as chefs from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. Finalists will be announced on Wednesday, March 14.

If you haven't been to Bread & Circus by now, what's the matter with you? The restaurant is at 258 Bendel Road in Lafayette. For more information, call (337) 408-3930 or visit facebook.com/breadandcircusprovisions

Upcoming food events you can't miss: 

  • Tin Roof Brewing Co., 1624 Wyoming St., hosts a release party for its Haze Hunt Triple IPA from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. The event features DJ Quicksave from KLSU's "The Arcade" playing classic music. facebook.com/tinroofbeer
  • Chef Mike Brewer, of City Pork, will serve dishes at Cane Land Distilling Co.'s Boozie Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The menu includes four-meat chili, ya-ka-mein, smoked salmon BLT, fettuccine and pork belly grits. Brewer also will have desserts like bananas Foster and an ice cream sandwich with bacon chocolate chip cookies. C'mon man, don't you know I'm on that diet?! For more information, visit facebook.com/canelanddistilling

Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.