Inside New Orleans Museum of Art
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Art and cuisine always go hand-in-hand during the Artful Palate, the free summer cooking series hosted by the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group at the New Orleans Museum of Art. This year, other intriguing pairings are in the works, too, with guest chefs, a well-known husband-and-wife duo and farmer collaborators all on the schedule.
This popular annual series of chef-led cooking demos unfolds every other Friday evening, beginning June 26 and stretching to Sept. 18. As in the past, different chefs from Ralph Brennan’s restaurants around town will lead individual sessions. The venue is Café NOMA, Brennan’s casual restaurant within the museum, which recently landed on a USA Today list of “museums with meals worth staying for,” the latest in a string of national travel media plaudits for the eatery. Samples of dishes from the demo are included at Artful Palate, and Café NOMA serves its regular menu with full bar and event specials during the sessions.
Again this year, the overall series is synched with a major exhibit at NOMA. “A Louisiana Parlor: Antebellum Taste And Context,” which centers on a historic parlor acquired from the Butler Greenwood Plantation in St. Francisville, is the inspiration behind sessions exploring the roots and traditions of Creole cooking.
“It’s more than a cooking experience, it’s a cultural experience,” said Chris Montero, chef of Cafe NOMA and the Napoleon House, which Brennan’s company bought last spring. “We show you the food of Louisiana, but also what brought you that food, the history, the people. We try to show the full story of what makes Creole cuisine.”
To help tell that tale, Montero has enlisted friends from different corners of the local food world.
“That’s part of it,” he said. “It’s different personalities, different people telling different stories, sharing different perspectives.”
The seven-part series starts June 26 with “Cooking Creole 101,” led by Montero and Kevin Belton, the charismatic chef/instructor at the New Orleans School of Cooking and host of the forthcoming WYES-TV cooking series “New Orleans Cooking with Kevin Belton.”
For the July 10 edition, “Living Off the Land,” Red Fish Grill chef Austin Kirzner is teamed with Grady Seale, farm manager of Covey Rise Farms and Chappapeela Farm, a prominent local restaurant supplier. Similarly, Ralph’s on the Park chef Chip Flanagan will be joined by Andy Davidson, of the local cattle and sheep ranch Two Run Farm, for the Aug. 7 edition, dubbed “Baaah-ck Roads Culinary Traditions.”
Slade Rushing, chef of Brennan’s Restaurant, will be joined by his wife, the James Beard-award winning chef Allison Vines-Rushing, for “Down Home Cooking” on Aug. 21. The couple previously ran the CBD restaurant MiLa as co-chefs, and are co-authors of the 2012 cookbook “Southern Comfort.”
The series will also see an appearance from Michael Uddo, a veteran New Orleans chef who now leads the kitchen at Brennan’s Old Metairie restaurant Café B. Uddo first earned a following in the 1990s at the popular G&E Courtyard Grill, the French Quarter restaurant in the present-day home of Cane & Table. On July 24, he’ll lead the Artful Palate session called “It’s All About the Roux.”
Chef Steven Marsella, of Ralph Brennan Catering & Events and Heritage Grill, leads “Boudin Basics & Beyond” on Sept. 4. And Montero closes out the series on Sept. 24 with “Creole Tailgating Traditions.”
Each session of the Artful Palate begins at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free but limited and offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Pro tip from Montero: “The regulars tend to arrive early to snag a good seat and have a drink before the demos begin.”