Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone and the only signs of Thursday's turkey can be found in today's gumbo, I feel that a few people were left off of my annual list of things to be thankful for.
Yesterday, I spent most of my waking hours at Gleason Gras, the first annual event to raise awareness for ALS and to support the family trust created to assist former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason. Despite the cold, wet, windy weather, the entire day was a resounding success by all measures. There were personal appearances by Sean Peyton and Drew Brees. Music by Kristen Diable, Papa Grows Funk, and Better Than Ezra. And a heart felt and hilarious speech by the guest of honor.
But perhaps the day's best performance was by Cochon's Stephen Stryjewski, who stood all alone at the Cochon food booth for no less than 4 hours straight and served hundreds of cochon de lait po-boys to a never ending line of hungry hordes. No cashier or assistant cook. Just a man, a plan, and this pig:
We New Orleanians are extremely spoiled when it comes to food, and fundraising events are not granted an exception to our high standards. Common knowledge is that an enticing list of participating restaurants is the best way to increase attendance for any event, no matter what the cause.
What we often overlook is the fact that at many of these events, the restaurants donate the food with no strings attached. When you consider not only the food cost but also the labor which restaurants undertake to participate at these events, the time, dollars, and cents add up significantly. Yet, seemingly every weekend, you can find the city's best chefs around town serving seafood gumbo, croque monsieurs, and roasted lamb sandwiches at fundraisers all over the area. Whether it be Justin Devillier from La Petite Grocery, who sold so many blue crab beignets yesterday at Gleason Gras that he dispatched someone to the restaurant after he ran out of supplies early in the afternoon, or Alon Shaya cooking up sausages on his Big Green Egg on Royal Street during the Party for the Troops.
While riding in the car on Saturday, I caught a brief segment of Tim McNally's "The Wine Show" in which he and a caller were discussing just how selfless many of our restaurateurs can be when it comes to donating to a worthy cause. Tim said: "Nowhere else in the nation will you find a head chef, on a Friday night during one of the biggest seasons of the year, serving free boudin to over 1500 people."
Just another reason to be thankful for living in New Orleans.