REGIONAL BBQ STYLES TAKE CENTER STAGE
When we hear comments about our Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival - one of four free festivals produced and presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, they are almost always compliments. People love that we have two stages that alternate shows all day long. They love the talent, the location, the crafts, the t-shirts, the ambience - and especially the fact that it's free.
People also say they love our food offerings. Still, he have heard the comment that for an event billing itself as a barbecue festival, there wasn't as much, well, barbecue as they may have been expecting.
It's true that we had a lot of vendors selling food that wasn't exactly traditional barbecue in the way most people think of it. That was on purpose.
For one thing, we didn't want to have endless repetition of the same menu items. We didn't think most people would want eleven different versions of pork ribs or fourteen different versions of brisket.
Also, we took pride in presenting a very balanced and very diverse selection of foods - while still staying true to the theme of grilled and smoked foods.
Finally, when we started this festival eight years ago, there simply weren't that many real barbecue restaurants in New Orleans. There are a lot more of them now.
So, this year, our food coordinator, Renee Tervalon (pictured here) has overseen a big change in our food vending set-up.
In addition to bringing in a number of new food vendors, we have changed the way we organize how food is presented at the festival. Rather than focusing on the name of the restaurant preparing the food, we are putting most of our attention on the regional barbecue style our vendors represent.
Then we put out a public call for entries asking restaurants and caterers in our area to submit their ideas for what regional barbecue styles they would like to serve.
Several dozen entries came in. Renee then had the task of narrowing that list down to a number that was manageable for our event.
Next, Renee organized an exhaustive series of tastings so that our team could evaluate the food and make sure it was of the highest quality and fits within the context of our festival. For two and a half weeks, we sampled barbecue nearly every day. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!
Ultimately, we decided to increase the number of food vendors at the festival from 12 to 14, just to make sure we had the best options available.
Finally, Renee worked with our vendors to make sure all of their menus were just right. The result is a presentation that represents a number of famous barbecue regional traditions: Texas, St. Louis, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kansas City, some international and, of course, Louisiana. Included among our vendors are some of New Orleans' newest and most popular barbecue restaurants - some are known for adhering to regional traditions; others are kind of like New Orleans: they mix influences from a bunch of places.
Be sure to look for interviews with some of our barbecue chefs on our Oral History Stage, located in Gallier Hall, across St. Charles Avenue from Lafayette Square Park.
And check out the 2013 Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival menu online here.
More About Our Food Coordinator: Renee Tervalon
Renee Tervalon has been playing with her food her entire life. This fascination led her away from law school and into the kitchen of Greg Sonnier at his New Orleans restaurant, Gabrielle.
After this true trial by fire, she enrolled at the Johnson & Wales University culinary program in Denver, CO, where she finished with honors and received the President's Award for outstanding and exemplary service to the community.
Upon returning to New Orleans, she cooked at the famed restaurant Herbsaint under the watchful guidance of chef Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski.
Shortly after leaving the kitchen at Herbsaint, she began her tenure with the Food Department of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. For the past 10 years, Renee has helped to bring the culinary traditions of New Orleans to the Festival masses - coordinating the many food vendors and scheduling cooking demonstrations at the Food Heritage and Cajun Cabin stages.
For the past four years, Renee also has managed the food operations at two of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s free festivals: the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival and the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival.
She is the proud parent of a picky eater.
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