Local chefs pose for a group photo at the James Beard Foundation announcement. Chefs will contribute to the dinner event on Oct. 19 at Ashbourne Farms. | Photo by Rebekah Alvey

On Monday, a handful of prominent chefs gathered at Decca for a special announcement. The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America tour will be making a stop in Louisville for the first time this fall and will feature big local and national names on the menu.

A benefit dinner for the James Beard Foundation will be held at Ashbourne Farms in La Grange on Friday, Oct. 19, and the dinner will be prepared by a collaboration of Kentucky chefs. Similar events will be held in different cities across the United States. 

The Louisville iteration will feature a main dinner by Annie Pettry, owner and chef of Decca, and a visiting all-star chef who will be announced in August. Pettry expressed her excitement over the opportunity and said James Beard is the pinnacle of success for a chef.

Annie Pettry | Photo by Sarah Babcock

Within Louisville, she said there is a strong community of chefs who help each other and a growing food scene with an emphasis on food sustainability.

“We are continuing to grow and push the boundaries,” Pettry said.

The night will begin with a reception prepared by local chefs including Anoosh Shariat of Anoosh Bistro, Paco Garcia of Con Huevos, Ming Pu of 502 Bar and Bistro, Mike Wajda of Proof, and Ouita Michel with Woodford Reserve. Woodford Reserve also is a local and national sponsor for Taste America.

Ashbourne Farms’ executive chef Jason Jones and chef de cuisine Patrick Roney will help cook a portion of the main meal with Pettry and the visiting all-star chef.

The dinner will conclude with a dessert reception by Kathy Cary of Lilly’s Bistro, Emily Luchetti of Big Night Restaurant Group, James Adams from Brown Hotel, Nokee Bucayu from Ashbourne Farms, and Damaris Phillips from Food Network’s “The Bobby and Damaris Show.”

Ouita Michel said the event is an opportunity to have a national spotlight on the state and demonstrate Kentucky cuisine. While she doesn’t know precisely what her portion of the meal will be, she assured it will be 100 percent Kentucky Proud.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the number of small family farms, which Michel said is a unique aspect of the state’s cuisine. She said farms are accessible to urban communities, which means there is a large amount of local ingredients used.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said there’s a lot of pride in Louisville food culture and he is excited about what the James Beard Foundation can add.

“James Beard is not only the definition of excellence in food, but is also showing what leadership looks like in food systems and sustainability,” Fischer said at Monday’s announcement.

Local vegetables, cheeses and bites were offered at the announcement. | Photo by Rebekah Alvey

In addition to the growing food culture, Fischer also mentioned the big role bourbon has played in the Louisville culture and tourism industry and said it is a unique aspect of the city. He said Louisville played host to 16 million tourists last year, and tourism and hospitality are tied together with bourbon.

A portion of the proceeds from the dinner will go to the Taste America Scholarship Fund, which goes to a Kentucky culinary student and is announced in August. James Beard Foundation administers awards for chefs and scholarships for culinary students in addition to events like the Taste America tour.

Other stops on the 2018 tour include New Orleans, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and Austin.