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Friday, January 6, 2017

Best Times of 2016: Aimee Looks Back

by Aimee Tortorich

2017 is finally here which means that we can all kick 2016 to the curb. These past twelve months have shown us the good, bad and the ugly. There have been losses and sadness along with wins and celebrations, but you have to take the good with the bad for everything to balance out right?

Even though this past year had its share of setbacks, it was an epic year for me! From announcing the plans for our upcoming restaurant, Gov’t Taco, to cooking at the legendary James Beard House, I pretty much kicked 2016’s ass. Here’s a look at some of my favorite things I had the chance to do this year:

Gov't Taco

In early April, Jay Ducote officially announced the opening of his first food concept, Gov’t Taco. I humbly accepted the position as Executive Chef and have been working nonstop to build a menu that food enthusiasts will be excited to experience. 

I’ve gained a vast knowledge of food by traveling the world as a Navy photographer and am ready to throw Baton Rouge some bold flavors and curveballs in the form of tacos. Through our progressive vision and seasonal menu, we will continually strive to keep diners on their toes, so look out Baton Rouge! Your taco dreams will be coming true in 2017!

Volunteering for Operation BBQ Relief

As a Louisiana native, 2016 was especially difficult for me. We suffered many tragedies too close to home. One of the most humbling experiences I found myself fortunate to be a part of was volunteering to feed flood victims.

Jay put me in contact with Operation BBQ Relief, a Disaster Response Organization based out of Missouri, where they ultimately served 313,587 meals in South Louisiana over 13 days and with 540 volunteers. There is something to be said about the positive effects that come out of negative situations. The amount of support and help that I experienced during this tragedy was overwhelming and I am so proud to call Baton Rouge my home.

New York Culinary Dream Tour

There aren’t many times in people’s lives where the sun, moon and stars are aligned, but they most certainly were in July! Our New York culinary tour was what dreams are made of. The magnitude of awesomeness was off the charts and very difficult to put into words, but I will give it my best go!

Private Wine Tasting at Food & Wine Magazine

The day before our James Beard dinner, Katrina Rank (Napa Winemaker and now dear friend), invited the Bite and Booze team to a private tasting with Executive Wine Editor for Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle in their wine cellar. We did a blind tasting of eclectic wines from around the world. Ray guided us along with his impeccable wine knowledge and rated Jay D’s Blanc Du Bois as the best Blanc Du Bois he has tasted, ever!

Cooking at the James Beard House

Posing in the legendary James Beard kitchen (from left to right): Eusebio Gongora II, Blair Loup, Jay Ducote, Chuck P, Aimee Tortorich, Shelly Flash, Sarah Burkhaulter
Posing in the legendary James Beard kitchen (from left to right): Eusebio Gongora II, Blair Loup, Jay Ducote, Chuck P, Aimee Tortorich, Shelly Flash, Sarah Burkhaulter

As many of you may not know, the James Beard House is a sacred ground for aspiring chefs. It’s the ultimate measure of a chef’s talent besides gaining a Michelin star or Master Chef Certification, in my opinion. It’s what separates the good from the great in the culinary field and it’s been on my radar for a while, but I knew that years of hard work and persistence would be the only way I would even have a chance to cook there.

To my surprise, early last year I got an invite from Jay Ducote to help him execute his Tailgate on 12th menu! It was an unforgettable experience that the Bite and Booze team crushed!

Chefs & Champagne

Hanging out at Chefs & Champagne with John Besh and Chef Roxanne Spruance
Hanging out at Chefs & Champagne with John Besh and Chef Roxanne Spruance

Anything with the title “Chefs and Champagne” will naturually make my top moments of 2016. Fresh off of that James Beard dinner high, the Bite and Booze team headed down to the Hamptons to cook at the James Beard Foundation’s ‘Chefs and Champagne’ event at the W├Âlffer Estate Vineyard. 

It was no coincidence that Louisiana’s, John Besh, (and one of my culinary idols) would be this year’s honoree for all of the work he does throughout the Besh Foundation. Aside from humbly serving alongside some of the best chefs in the country, Bite and Booze was the only culinary team to represent Louisiana.

Pineywoods Supper Club

Blair, Jay and I cooking with fire at Mahaffey Farms
Blair, Jay and I cooking with fire at Mahaffey Farms

There is something special about cooking outdoors. The smell of fire and a drink in hand is probably my favorite setting for cooking. Our Pineywoods Supper Club dinner at Mahaffey Farms had to make the list. We executed the majority of our dishes entirely on wood fire and served some amazing dishes. From Jay Ducote’s Dutch oven biscuits to Nashville style hot chicken feet, all the guests were stoked and we had one hell of a time!

In conclusion, I say this to you 2016: I will not dwell upon you. I will happily thank you for all of your ups and downs, knowing that either way, you have been a year to remember! I will recall the disappointments, losses, and upsets but most importantly I will celebrate your blessings: the love, laughs, and memories that I have shared.

Cheers to what’s to come in 2017!

Take a look at what the rest of Team Bite & Booze had to say about 2016:

Best Bites of 2016: Blair's Picks
Best Bites of 2016: Jay's Picks
Chuck P's Best Bites of 2016 (Burger Edition)

1 comment:

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