Lake Charles came alive this month with a blend of food, wine, beer and spirits celebrating the vibrant culture of Louisiana and the South.
The inaugural Louisiana Food & Wine Festival, hosted by Visit Lake Charles, drew a diverse crowd of more than 3,000 attendees, many first-time visitors from 14 states and internationally from Canada, London, and Prince Edward Island. The festival took place in downtown Lake Charles at Bord Du Lac Park.
“I love Lake Charles. I think it’s a great destination,” said Kristin Tyminski, who visited Lake Charles for the first time from Illinois. “I feel like the people have gone through so much, and there is such resilience in this city.”
Attendees spent the festival days eating and drinking over 400 pounds of shrimp, 200 pounds of crawfish, and 100 pounds of fish, popped over 1,800 bottles of wine and spirits and cracked open 200 cases of beer.
“When we set out to host this festival, we aimed to develop a destination event that would bring people from around the country to Lake Charles so they could experience our community’s food and culture, but also highlight Louisiana and all the South has to offer,” said Visit Lake Charles President/CEO Kyle Edmiston.
The four-day festival showcased mouthwatering culinary creations from award-winning and celebrity chefs, including Amanda Cusey, Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Anthony Goldsmith, Dave Evans, Meg Bickford and the reigning Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off King Owen Hohl. Those culinary creations were complemented by thirst-quenching, refreshing drinks crafted by some of the best beverage experts, including Master Distiller Reiniel Vicente Diaz, Master of Wine Mollie Battenhouse, and Mixologist Oscar Valle.
Lake Charles restaurants also added unique flavors to the mix with several winning festival awards:
Best Taste Awards:
Best Meat: Paul’s Rib Shack Barbecue
Best Creole/Cajun: Hebert’s Specialty Meats
Best Dessert: Coffee:30
Best Vegetarian: Bodega Wine Dive
People’s Choice Best Taste Awards:
Best Seafood: Luna
Best Creole/Cajun: 1910
Best Dessert: Coffee:30
Best Spirit: Bayou Rum Distillery
The festival started on Thursday night with a six-course Louisiana’s Celebrity Chefs Wine Dinner, followed by a day of culinary master classes where attendees got to learn how to pair drinks and cook New Orleans-style gumbo from Edgar “Dook” Chase IV and a fried shrimp and grits ball from Food Network Celebrity Chef Tiffany Derry. Set under a beautiful Lake Charles sunset, Friday was Fire on the Lake, a barbecue extravaganza where guests sampled various culinary treats, such as Gonzo’s Smokehouse & BBQ’s alligator tacos and 1910’s gumbo croquettes. Saturday consisted of the Grand Tasting, with the festival wrapping up on Sunday with a Louisiana-style Jazz Brunch accompanied by a live jazz band.
Several partners, including Louisiana Seafood, Louisiana Crawfish Promotion & Research Board, Performance Foodservice, Sysco, Ben E. Keith, Rouses Markets, Coca-Cola, Jackson Family Wines, Mijenta Tequila, Bayou Rum, and more, helped make the festival a success through generous contributions of food and drinks.
“We are thrilled with the success of our first Louisiana Food and Wine Festival in Lake Charles,” said the festival founder and organizer, Jan Gourley. “We deeply appreciate Visit Lake Charles for partnering with us on this effort and all our sponsors and partners who played a valuable role in getting this festival up and running.”
Highlighting the festival’s commitment to giving back, The United Way of Southwest Louisiana, the event’s charity partner, received donations totaling $12,000. In collaboration with Chef John Currence, the festival also contributed $7,500 to fund student scholarships at SOWELA Technical Community College.
Plans are already in the works for next year. Mark your calendars for the second annual Louisiana Food & Wine Festival, September 19–22, 2024.
Download Louisiana Food & Wine Festival —Louisiana Inspired Master Classes pictures here.
Download Louisiana Food & Wine Festival—Fire on the Lake pictures here.
Download Louisiana Food & Wine Festival—Grand Tasting pictures here.
About Visit Lake Charles:
Visit Lake Charles, the official destination marketing organization for Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana, is the only organization in Southwest Louisiana providing advocacy, promotion, and education for the tourism industry. For more information on Visit Lake Charles and things to see and do in Louisiana’s Playground, log on to www.visitlakecharles.org.