Chef Chris DeBarr, who became well-known for his globetrotting cuisine at Delachaise, Green Goddess, Serendipity, and — most recently — Bywater Bakery, is embracing his story-telling side with a new pop-up, Lit Kitchen’s Unforgettable Chefs.
DeBarr is using the pop-up to trace and share his roots as a cook, and to pay homage to the chefs who have influenced his cooking. The first event, to be held on September 12 at Killer Poboys on Dauphine, will focus on Lulu's Provençal Table by Richard Olney. DeBarr says one of the first parties he ever hosted as a cook was influenced by the aioli party described in the book.
While the book focuses on a French aioli party, aioli dinners were held in country parishes of south Louisiana between 1890 and 1920 for people living in Louisiana who chose to ignore Nova Scotian roots. Instead, they sought to strengthen their emotional and culinary ties to France. Typically, men ate while women cooked and sons waited tables.
In an email to Eater, DeBarr said,
I wanted to do these dinners in homage to "Unforgettable Chefs" because in talking with my younger colleagues, they sometimes surprise me by who they haven't read or don't know, and it made me think back to when I was a young chef leaning so heavily, self-taught as I am, on their language and spirited culinary insights. Elizabeth David, Craig Claiborne, and Richard Olney schooled me on French cuisine more than did Julia Child...I never did watch many chefs on TV besides Justin Wilson....
Olney in particular was the most challenging of these cooks. His love of offal, his groundbreaking sense of seasonal cooking in The French Menu Cookbook in 1974 doesn't always get the historian's love like Alice Waters gets, and she knows it because Olney influenced her path to create Chez Panisse, his diffident language so opinionated and carefully calibrated.
It kills me to hear young cooks say they don't know who Richard Olney is, so I thought of the time when I was young and first hosting supper parties for my friends. I loved the description of an Aïoli Party, and so I made that happen for about 20 friends, just as Olney describes in his book with Lulu Peyraud, and it was a joyous, mad circus of flavors and conversations and gave such a relaxed atmosphere!
DeBarr says that the pop-up at Killer Poboys will recreate a “grand aioli party.” The menu includes three different kinds of aioli — classic, fennel, and squid ink. For the rest of the menu and more information, visit the pop-up’s page here.
Interestingly, there’s another pop-up dinner in the theme of the aioli dinners of South Louisiana soon. Justin Devillier cooks for the New Orleans edition of the Aioli Dinner Supper Club at the private home of Alexa Pulitzer and Seth Levine on October 5. That dinner is part of a series of pop-up dinners around Louisiana inspired by Rodrigue’s 1971 Aioli Dinner painting and benefits Louisiana A+ Schools, a non-profit arts in education organization, which is sponsored by the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.