Eight Gulf Coast chefs — including Restaurant R'evolution's John Folse and Galatoire's executive chef Michael Sichel — are on their way to London courtesy of BP. The oil giant is sending them to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games host city to fill it with a "dash of spice."
Last week, BP announced via The Ehrhardt Group (the New Orleans-based public relations firm, of which BP is a client) that the "Spirit of the Gulf" events at the Games will target "more than 1,000 people each day," encouraging them to visit the Gulf Coast and "sample the world's freshest and best-tasting seafood and experience the Gulf's unique culture and distinctive attractions."
BP's large presence at the 2012 games set off a wave of protests this month. Several of the company's massive London billboards were smeared with "oil" and a campaign has begun to have BP removed as an Olympics sponsor. BP vice president of government and public affairs Crystal Ashby says the company is "proud to use the power of the London 2012 Olympic Games" to promote the Gulf and show the company's "ongoing commitment to the community."
The four-day event will feature seafood dishes prepared by Folse, Sichel, Mississippi chefs Chris Poplin (Biloxi's IP Casino Resort Spa) and Calvin Coleman (Gulfport's Naomi's Catering), and Alabama chefs Chris Sherrill (from Orange Beach's Eat!) and Alec Naman (from Mobile's Naman's Catering). Naman says he was asked to make shrimp pasta — but would rather make crab cakes with a corn and tomato relish. Florida chefs Justin Timineri (from Florida's Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services) and Paul Stellato (of Panama City's Firefly) round out the travel party.
According to a news release, BP also will send three bands from the Gulf to perform in London, including the Kinfolk Brass Band. In response to Gambit's inquiry, BP spokesman Ray Melick said they'll announce the other bands soon.
The Olympic Games kick off July 27 and will run through Aug. 12. — Alex Woodward