Chef Donald Link, head of the Link Restaurant Group (which includes Cochon, Herbsaint, Cochon Butcher, and Peche), has co-chaired the Boudin, Bourbon & Beer fundraiser with Emeril Lagasse since its inception four years ago. He takes his responsibility to the event and the organizations it benefits very seriously. But not as seriously as procuring the perfect ice luge for the afterparty.
How did you get involved with the Boudin, Bourbon & Beer fundraiser?
It's interesting, because we [at the Link Group] were talking about doing a block party fundraiser. And the very next day, I was talking to the director of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation about it, and Emeril wanted to know if we wanted to do something together - to do one big party instead of two little ones.
What does being the chair of the event entail?
Basically, designing what it would look like, what chefs we'd bring in - we get to bring in a lot of really great chefs from out of town, as well, chefs that we really respect. I also visit the organizations that benefit from the fundraiser, make sure that the money is being used as intended. I hold an epic afterparty, too. For the event itself, I help organize the chefs and work with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation on logistics. I also make sure that the image of the event, the brand, the purpose, are kept front and center.
My personal priority, maybe selfishly, is to keep as much of the money raised as possible here in New Orleans., to benefit the kids here. It's the whole idea of doing the festival in the first place. The Link Group wants to focus on youth development, and, happily, a good part of the money raised goes toward that.
What are you serving this year?
It's a traditional plate that I'm playing with, with sausage, cheese, cornbread, and a black-eyed pea salad.
What's the most memorable boudin dish you've had at Boudin, Bourbon & Beer?
Well, I think it's interesting when chefs use seafood in their boudin - this year, Kristen Essig's [from Meauxbar] looks interesting. She's not using pork, but is doing a shrimp and rice interpretation instead.
The most unusual?
Well, I'm pretty hard to shock.
What are you looking forward to the most this year?
Besides the afterparty? (Laughs) Seeing all the chefs. It's not often you see this many chefs all in one place. I also always love the crowd that attends. I'm interested in seeing how the new space [at Champion Square] works out this year, we had quite a line last year.
What beer are you enjoying these days?
I don't drink a lot of beer, but I really like the guys from LA-31 [Bayou Teche Brewing]. They've built up quite a lot of traction in the last few years.
What's your favorite Abita beer?
What's next for the Link Restaurant Group?
Cochon Butcher in Nashville is opening soon, but I'm really not in any hurry for any other projects to happen. Peche has been a great success, you know, but I don't want to do anything too quickly. I want to make sure all my staff are happy in all the restaurants, and just make sure everything's well in place before thinking about more expansion.
Boudin, Bourbon, or Beer. Pick the one you couldn't live without.
(No hesitation) Boudin.