Annual event showcases N.O. food

Some of the country’s hottest chefs are in New Orleans to experience the city’s food and fun as part of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience.

Running through Saturday, the 21st year of NOWFE will celebrate the lifetime achievements of Leah Chase and entertain crowds of food and wine connoisseurs at various events, including Thursday’s Royal Street Stroll, where participants can taste wines and listen to live jazz while shopping along Royal Street in the French Quarter, and the Vinola Tasting, where wine enthusiasts can mingle in the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel Ballroom with winemakers while sampling offerings from about 40 elite wineries.

Friday and Saturday offer plenty to do, too. There are seminars about what’s new in wine and food, Grand Tastings in which 175 wineries and 75 chefs will participate, the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off and the second year of The Gateaux Show, a burlesque-themed pastry competition and tasting.

Here are some of the highlights:

New this year is the “Funkin’ It Up” fundraiser at which the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award will be presented to Leah Chase, chef and owner of Dooky Chase Restaurant. The event will take place at the Hyatt Regency, 601 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. General admission tickets are $250, while tickets to a VIP after-party at Borgne are $100.

The nonprofit John Besh Foundation also will award the John Besh and Bride Mayor Chefs Move! Scholarships for Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts for the International Culinary Center in New York.

The festive Gateaux Show, hosted by chefs Tariq Hanna and Keegan Gerhard in the Grand Ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, will pair elaborate pastries with Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte. It features Trixi Minx and the Beauties from Burlesque Ballroom and cocktails by Henrick’s Gin mixologists. Those attending the 8:30 p.m. party, which follows the Friday Night Grand Tasting, will help select the winning pastry design, which will earn its creator a $5,000 prize.

The Grand Tastings, which feature foods prepared from local and area chefs and selections of wines from around the world, will be held in the New Orleans Convention Center, Hall J. Tickets are $99 in advance and $119 on the day of the event. Participants must be 21 to enter.

In addition, at the Saturday Grand Tasting, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board will crown the King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood during the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. The winner will represent Louisiana in the 10th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off on Aug. 3 at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality Expo in New Orleans.

Chef Cody Carroll, of Hot Tails Restaurant in New Roads, and chef Troy Deano, of 18 Steak at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel in Baton Rouge, are among the 10 chefs from top restaurants across Louisiana competing for the coveted title.

Canstruction New Orleans will have on display structures built of canned goods and nonperishable food items. Local teams of architects built the large art structures around the theme “10,000 Reasons to Love Louisiana” to raise more than 100,000 meals through donations of both food and funds for Second Harvest Food Bank’s 23-parish service area.

In the past 20 years, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has raised more than $1 million for nonprofit organizations, its organizers said.

The 2013 beneficiaries are Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s ProStart Program, Delgado Culinary Arts School, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts’ Culinary Program, the John Folse Culinary Institute and the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans.