Pair five Coast mayors with one of the best chefs in each of their cities for a cooking demonstration and you have the recipe for a delicious Five Course Feast.
This new event debuts Nov. 17 at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and those who attend will get a five-course meal and give through the Extra Table fundraiser for local food pantries.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Robert St. John, Mississippi restaurateur and founder of Extra Table, which purchases healthy food in bulk and delivers them to food pantries and soup kitchens across the state.
It’s also going to be a great meal, he said. As each mayor and chef finish their demonstration, everyone will be served the dish. The teams drew from a hat to see who will prepare a hot appetizer, cold appetizer, a fish dish, a meat dish and dessert.
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And it promises to be entertaining.
“Cooking is not really my line of business. I don’t even cook at my house,” said Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott, who is more renowned for his comic relief.
“I’ll handle that,” he said.
“I’m so glad he doesn’t cook,” said Joann Hanson York, who operates Great Bowls of Gumbo catering in Pass Christian. “I’m in charge of the food.”
The Pass native has been cooking for 40 years — longer than the other chefs in the Five Course Feast — and was the oldest and only girl in her class in 1988 at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York.
“I’m going to let the young whipper-snappers do the fancy new stuff,” she said of the competing chefs, “and I’m going to stick with the classics.
The Pass Christian entry is a seafood duo.
“I think we named it ‘A Perfect Pair,’ ” York said, but she also considered the name “Classic Coast Crustaceans.”
All in good taste
The Five Coast Feast was a Coast idea, a “One Coast” collaboration and a competition.
“We’ll get an audience vote on their course,” St. John said.
Rebecca Powers will emcee the event and St. John will serve as host and help at the chef’s table, where those seated on the stage will get to eat the dish each chef and mayor demo for the audience.
Tickets are $75 each, $125 a pair or $1,000 for a table of 10. All the money raised will stay on the Coast and be distributed to the local food banks and soup kitchens that Extra Table supplies: Feed My Sheep, The Lord is My Help, Loaves & Fishes, Our Daily Bread and St. Gerard Outreach.
“Its our job to keep their shelves full. And we do it with healthy foods,” St. John said. “When we raise money for food, we use 100 percent of that money to buy food.”
The organization buys in bulk from Sysco, reducing the cost to feed the hungry.
We hope to create awareness and make significant contributions to the hungry and less fortunate along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, at a time when many are in the spirit of giving.
Robert St. John, founder of Extra Table
The numbers of people who don’t have enough food are startling.
“It’s tens of thousands on the Coast,” Sysco said, and many kids who have school breakfast and lunch at school don’t eat until the next day.
He started Extra Table in 2009 after he got a call from Edwards Street Fellowship Center in Hattiesburg.
“They had completely and totally run out of food,” he said.
St. John called his Sysco representative, told the company to send food and bill him.
“We got them food in time,” he said. “My eyes were opened and I learned there is a huge problem in Mississippi.”
About 670,000 people in the state have “food insecurity,” he said. “Over 200,000 of those are kids.”
Hunger is here on the Coast
The elderly in South Mississippi also are going hungry, said Mary Meldren, chef and director at Our Daily Bread in Pascagoula. She put out her own plea on social media in 2014 saying that after 32 years, the monetary donations were at zero, “and we are broke.”
Since then, they are getting food through Extra Table and community fundraisers, and last month they fed 4,000 meals. But Meldren hasn’t been able to resume meal deliveries for the elderly who can’t come to the center to get a meal.
“Seniors call and beg,” she said.
People in their 90s say they don’t have food, “and it’s haunting me,” she said.
She has volunteers who will deliver, but said she needs money for gas and other expenses.
She hopes people who take part in Five Course Feast will leave with “eyes opened and hearts awakened.”
Fighting hunger is one of the key incentives of Beau Rivage and parent company MGM Resorts International, said Beau Rivage spokeswoman Mary Cracchiolo-Spain.
“Extra Table works collaboratively with these existing food banks,” she said, and all of them benefit.
“That’s why One Coast is so big,” she said of the effort to work beyond city and county boundaries.
If South Mississippi really wants to fight hunger, she said, it will take cooperation to really make a difference.
If you go:
What: Five Course Feast
When: 7 p.m., Nov. 17
Where: Beau Rivage’s Magnolia Ballroom; cocktail attire recommended
Cost: Tickets are $75 each or a pair for $125. Tables of 10 are $1,000 and include wine pairings. VIP seats at Chef’s Table on stage are $500 per person and include overnight stay at Beau Rivage