It’s hard to miss that chef John Besh’s restaurant company is growing.

His group has 12 high-profile restaurants, and he has a major new project on the way in the Pontchartrain Hotel, now being redeveloped.

Behind the scenes, the chef’s charitable foundation has been growing apace too. Its programs are expanding their reach and next month the foundation’s annual fundraiser returns with a new approach intended to open things up further.

The John Besh Foundation, now in its fifth year, primarily funds scholarships for minorities in New Orleans to attend culinary school and funds micro loans for local food producers.

For its Fêtes des Chefs event, Besh invites high profile chefs from around the country to host private dinners in local homes. The event is March 19. The list of hosts includes the likes of Aarón Sánchez, Sean Brock, Edward Lee and “Top Chef” star Gail Simmons, and tickets are $1,000.

This year, the Besh foundation is adding a second event aimed at a wider audience. Called Fêtes Fest, it’s a party at the Civic Theatre on March 18 with food from local and visiting chefs, open bar, live music and an $80 ticket (see details below).

“We have our big event, but we know not everyone can make that event,” said Caroline Rosen, executive director of the John Besh Foundation. “You have to do different things for the different types of people who want to be involved.”

This year, the foundation has also begun a membership program for people who want to contribute to its programs throughout the year. Memberships at $20 a month, and members receive invitations to pop-up dinners, happy hours and other events organized by the foundation through the year. For instance, there’s a crawfish boil in the works for this spring and, later this year, an outing to Grand Isle to visit an oyster farm that receives support from the foundation.

The group’s scholarship program is called Chefs Move!, which is expanding this year as well from two annual scholarship recipients to three. Aimed at minorities, and intended to diversify restaurant leadership in New Orleans, the program funds a nine-month hitch at the International Culinary Center in New York, with support for living expenses, followed by a two-month paid internship at a Besh restaurant back in New Orleans.

“It’s about giving them the opportunity to be on equal footing with a lot of other individuals,” said Rosen. “After you go to culinary school, you still have to work in the kitchen for a long time. But now you have the tools.”

Fêtes Fest

March 18, 7 - 10 p.m.

Civic Theatre, 510 O’Keefe Ave.

Soul Rebels brass band and Tysson perform. Open bar.

With food from chefs including:

Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery

David Slater of Emeril’s Restaurant

Ryan Prewitt of Pêche Seafood Grill

David Bancroft of Acre (Auburn, Alabama)

Kelly English of The Second Line (Memphis)

John Currence of City Grocery (Oxford, Mississippi)

Fêtes des Chefs

March 19

Private homes, locations vary

Tickets and details at

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.