Local restaurateurs feed ideas to farming symposium

A luncheon featuring locally harvested fare paved the way for the second annual Farm to Table International Symposium, which will be held in New Orleans on Aug. 2-4.

The theme for this year’s Farm to Table International Symposium, “The Process,” will explore the best practices for urban farming, bringing products to market, sourcing locally, sustainability and what to expect when the Food Safety Modernization Act is implemented.

The process for bringing the second annual symposium, also known as F2Ti, to fruition began in earnest at a recent luncheon hosted by Dickie Brennan at Tableau, his year-old eatery in the historic Le Petite Theatre overlooking Jackson Square.

The symposium, which is produced jointly by the SoFAB Institute and the LSU AgCenter, will bring together leading practitioners in the growing farm-to-table movement to explore the cultivation, distribution and consumption of food and drink sourced locally. The symposium will be at the New Orleans Convention Center and will be held concurrently with the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s 61st Annual Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO. Attendees will have access to both exhibits.

While the farm-to-table concept has in recent years become a mainstream household buzz phrase, its evolution has taken place over the course of decades of commitments by restaurateurs and chefs like Brennan and chef Michel Nischan, who have been sourcing locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood from their communities for many years.

Nischan, a two-time James Beard award recipient and farm-to-table food pioneer, is chairman of the 2014 symposium.

He is the owner and founder of Dressing Room, his homegrown restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, and chef executive officer and president of the Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit dedicated to nourishing neighborhoods by providing easy access to healthy, fresh and affordable locally grown foods.

Nischan was joined at the recent luncheon by prominent names in the region’s culinary scene, including Bobby Fletcher, assistant director of the LSU AgCenter; artisan butcher Michael Plauche, of Two Run Farms; shrimper Lance Nacio, of Anna Marie Seafood in Montegut; Sandy Sharp, of Covey Rise and Chappapeela Farms in Husser; and rancher Stuart Gardner, of Gonsoulin Cattle in New Iberia.

Liz Williams, president and director of SoFAB, anticipates that Nichan’s high profile in the sustainability movement will lend luster to the 2-year-old symposium.

“We are so excited to have Michel Nischan serve as the honorary chairman of Farm to Table International this year,” Williams said. “His work in food policy has earned him well-deserved respect among chefs.”

Nichan’s fans include Ben Thibodeaux, Tableau’s chef de cuisine, who built his luncheon menu entirely from ingredients sourced from the local vendors who were present at the luncheon.

For more information on the symposium, visit f2t-int.com.