Sunday, March 18, 2018. Chef’s Soiree Is Beautiful. It rained yesterday, and the forecast was for rain again this afternoon. At the time, in the place, and in the intensity to take a lot of the pleasure out of the Chef’s Soiree, the most important culinary event on the North Shore all year long. Even though the Soiree will go rain or shine, and many large tents were set up, the weather was heading right at us an hour before the gates would open.
But then we get lucky. A rainless slot between two large lobes of precip lets the sun come out. The gates open up, and a block-long, twenty-people-wide blue sky and sunshine showing on the radar. Within five or ten minutes, we were all smiling and on our way to our favorite chefs’ portable kitchens.
In a phenomenon that recurs every year, everybody headed straight for Pat Gallagher’s stand. Pat has been at the Soiree since it was founded 33 years ago. And his reputation–even as he moved from restaurant to restaurant over the years–is that he cooks the best food on the North Shore. So his lines are always long, from his steaks to his miraculous soup, until he sells everything he has. Which is a lot of food.
The main goal of the Soiree is to raise funds for several organizations that help young people in trouble from an assortment of family and lack-of-family situations. However, I am the guy who eats the food surpluses generated when Mary Ann takes took too much of something. I also carry plates of food that MA can’t seem to get enough of. Speaking to other friends here, these functions are handled widely by other husbands. It’s a lot of fun, and potentially a very large meal.
Perhaps that’s how the Soiree became so popular. There’s a great deal of food, most of which involves beautiful shrimp (we’re in the middle of the season), rice (with interesting admixtures), pasta, and sauces. The wines are on the light side, and the spirits are made into a variety of cocktails. A Mustang will be raffled off. Persistent bands play throughout the event. You run into lots of people you know. The promise of the previous sentences is fulfilled by two people–Denise and Michael Wagner, who have performed at the Soiree since its first iteration, and who also organize the choir that I sing with every week. (This is, of course, another example of my thesis that only 500 people live in the New Orleans area.)
The Soiree keeps going for two hours, even when a somewhat foreboding cloud formed over the gathering. The food and drinks seem to be endless. Every ticket available was sold, everybody is deliciously stuffed, and the Youth Service Bureau will be able to keep and expand its many programs for people who need them.