For some chefs and restaurant owners, it’s personal. For others, it’s a chance to give back to the community. And then there’s the bragging rights that come with serving the best dish of the night.
Stir up all those ingredients, add a little music, and you’ve got the 33rd annual Capital Chefs’ Showcase, benefiting Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, on Sept. 10.
Like many of those donating their time and talents for the event, Bin 77 Bistro & SideBar co-owner Brian Dykes’ family has been affected by cancer.
“My father passed away from cancer in 1996, and my sister Sallie died in October 2014,” Dykes said. “We limit the restaurant to four events a year because we just can’t do more. It adds up. But when a showcase opening came up last year, I decided we would do that.”
While this will be Bin 77’s second year to participate, Drusilla Seafood Restaurant/Drusilla Place Catering has taken part in the event since it began 33 years ago. Then, Drusilla was owned by Gary and Edna Bonanno. Jimmy Zito and his son Brad acquired the business in 1991.
“In the very beginning of Capital Chefs’ Showcase, 14 restaurants and caterers, including La Provence in Lacombe, LeRuth’s in Gretna and Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant, would do a cooking demo, then people would taste the dishes,” recalled Jimmy Zito, adding he and his wife, Cindy, attended those early shows, and he still has many of the recipe booklets handed out to guests.
Drusilla’s participation is “a reflection of the work we do, the type of food we put out. I think it’s important we’re not just giving away food, but reflecting the quality of our food and what we stand for,” he said. “Cancer Services is such a wonderful thing. It was an easy (benefit) for us to decide to do. Cancer touches almost everyone.”
Drusilla has to participate this year so executive chef Sonny Creel can defend the Best of Show title he won last year during the inaugural Bite & Booze Cooking Competition, Brad Zito said.
About 20 chefs have agreed to participate in the “Top Chef”-style contest, which will be judged by Food Network Star and culinary enthusiast Jay Ducote and a panel of food experts and other local celebrities. Judging will be based on taste and appearance.
“Last year, I made a duck tenderloin stew, but this year, I’m going to do beef short ribs with shiitake mushroom risotto, parsnips, asparagus and béarnaise sauce,” Creel said. “Last year, I went with a big-city style, something completely off the wall. This year, all the components are more old school, kind of an homage to the classics. Nothing on the plate is there just because it’s pretty.”
Creel, who joined Drusilla 10 years ago after stints with the Country Club of Louisiana and The Marina Café in Destin, Florida, prepares a different dish for each Capital Chefs’ Showcase.
“I make it up for the show. It’s not a dish on the menu,” he said. “I create it just for that night.”
Bin 77 executive chef David Dickensauge hopes to unseat Creel with his dish of braised pork cheek with a tamale pavé, black bean pureé, paprika velouté and salsa verde aïoli. It’s a take on the new braised veal cheek dish on Bin 77’s menu.
“I like braised meat when it’s done correctly — for about six to 12 hours, low and slow,” he said.
Dickensauge, a Mississippi native, began his culinary career in New Orleans in 1994 and worked throughout the country before returning to Louisiana in 2012.
Dykes said Bin 77 opened in 2008 as The Grape Wine Bar, a franchise, but three years ago separated from that franchise.
“We (he, wife Tiffany Dykes and business partners Kelwin and Linda Clark) changed the name and hired David,” who is emphasizing a local farm-to-table menu that complements the wine selection, Dykes said.
The other 30 restaurants and caterers participating in the event at the Baton Rouge River Center are Mary Aycock, Baton Rouge General, Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar, Café Americain, Carraba’s Italian Grill, Cheesecake Bistro by Copeland’s, Chef Don Bergeron Enterprises, City Pork, Copeland’s of New Orleans, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Galatoire’s Bistro, Giggles Toys & Candy, Juban’s Creole Restaurant & Caterer, Mansurs on the Boulevard, Mike Anderson’s Seafood, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Portobello’s Grill, Red Stick Spice Co., Restaurant IPO, Ruffino’s Catering, Sammy’s Catering, Southside Gardens, Stroubes Seafood and Steak, Sweet Impressions Bakery and Café, Tallulah, The Edible Event, The Island Restaurant & Pub, Unique Cuisine Catering, Wanda and Phil Calkins Catering and Zea Rotisserie and Grill.