As chefs and fishermen convene for Slow Fish, a different sort of seafood festival surfaces in New Orleans _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - The international conference Slow Fish is in New Orleans this week, drawn in part by the region's rich seafood heritage.

Assemble a few tents, a stage and some food booths and festival-loving New Orleanians know what to do. Eat, drink, dance it off, repeat.

The Old US Mint at the foot of Esplanade Avenue is a familiar enough venue for local festival.

But this weekend there’s something different at the Mint, and elsewhere around town. It’s a seafood festival that breaks away from the usual formula and promises a taste of something different too.

It’s part of Slow Fish, a conference related to the international food advocacy group Slow Food. The conference has previously been held in Genoa, Italy. But for the first time Slow Fish has shifted to New Orleans.

About 150 delegates are expected. Many of them are chefs and fishermen, along with scientists and researchers and advocates. They’ll be addressing issues for seafood at the intersection of culture, commerce and ecology.

Some have come to cook, others to teach and to learn. All have come to eat, and that’s where the public part of Slow Fish comes in.

While the conference takes place inside the Mint, outside Slow Fish hosts its own festival on Friday (3-7 p.m.) and Saturday (noon-6 p.m.), with free admission, local bands performing and pay-as-you-go food stations.

These will deviate from the festival norm, however. A couple dozen local and visiting chefs will take part, alternating through and cooking up a wide variety of seafood. There will be fryers and grills and stew pots on hand, fish carving stations for whole fish treatments and whatever the individual chefs decide to prepare.

“We’re gathering these great chefs, they’re bringing seafood, we’re providing seafood, a mix of both, and we’re letting them go at it,” said Gary Granata, head of the local Slow Food chapter. “It’s a chance to check out seafood from across North America in one place.”

As a kick-off, some of the visiting chefs will be paired with local eateries for a Slow Fish dine-out, on Thursday evening, collaborating with local chefs to serve different seafood specials.

Angeline - chef Alex Harrell hosting chef Drew Deckman of Deckmen’s en el Mogor, Baja, Mexico

Bourbon House - chef Darin Nesbit and Dickie Brennan host chef Digby Stridiron of Baltar, St. Croix, Virgin Islands

GW Fins - chef Tenney Flynn hosts chef Nate Hereford of Niche, St. Louis, Missouri

Mosquito Supper Club - chef Melissa Martin hosts chef Jessica Tantalo of East End Market, Orlando, Florida

On Sunday, the group is combining Slow Fish with Slow Meat (another Slow Food initiative) for a traditional Cajun boucherie and seafood boil held at Docville Farm, a farm and event space downriver in Violet.

It’s pitched as an all-day, sunrise to sunset food event, with some learn-and-eat education built in. Toby Rodriguez of Lâche Pas Boucherie and his crew will butcher and prepare a whole hog, while shrimper Lance Nacio of Anna Marie Seafood will prepare a seafood boil. Oysters, stations for raw and cooked fish and beer from 40 Arpent Brewing are all part of the program. Tickets to this all day event are $100. See more details here.

Slow Fish is about more than eating well. It’s about artisan ways and new innovations in a changing world and about building awareness for what’s possible. But still, when it comes to food, there’s nothing that builds awareness like digging in, and it looks like there’s plenty of that on the agenda this weekend.

Get details at

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.