by Kat Robinson
I caught Chef McPhail by phone while he was packing up all sorts of Louisiana delights this afternoon. He’s sending 27 big boxes of foods that will be consumed at these dinners, and he’s excited about coming up this way.
It turns out Lou Rice from Northwest Arkansas Community College and John McClure (who we all know from the World Cheese Dip Championship) got to talking and got Chef McPhail an invite to come to Arkansas and support some local charities in the area with these dinners. The proceeds from these dinners, by the way, will go towards a couple different charities — for instance, the Northwest Arkansas Chefs Association, which will use the money for scholarships. Also the Arkansas Alumni Association and the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences.
It’s a good weekend to be in Fayetteville, with the Razorbacks hosting the Auburn Tigers. I asked Chef McPhail how he felt about Razorback fans. “I love football and I think it’s pretty cool to go to different parts of the country to see how different fans root on their different teams. They’re always competitive. We’re going to be out there the morning before the game. We’re going to do a pig roast right outside of the stadium.”
The chefs are going to do a New Orleans Couchon de Lait right outside the stadium. “We’re going to take a whole pig and roast it and inject it with bacon fat and liquefied pecans,” said the Chef.
“How do you go about liquefying pecans?” I asked.
“We take the rendered bacon fat for this. We get our pigs in whole, we butcher the whole pigs and make our own bacon. We save that really good rich salty fat from making the bacon, bring it to a simmer and drop in some great roasted Louisiana pecans. We cook them down soft and then used high powered blenders to make it thin, like a thin peanut butter. We have these big metal syringes, and once that hog is roasting we’ll start injecting it with all that bacon fat.”
You’re going to smell that when you arrive Saturday morning for tailgating, for sure. Chef McPhail already has his gameplan down. “We’re going to be swinging by the hotel and grabbing our food, then heading out. We’ll do our Couchon de Lait New Orleans shrimp boil with Louisiana white shrimp. We’ll take some Louisiana shrimp boil, some hot sauce, some Zatarain’s, serve it all up with some house made boudin and some potato salad.”
It’s going to be something else. I’ve seen the menu — grilled Alligator Andouille, Smoked Green Onion Boudin, Mizuna and Mustard Salad, Red Beans and Rice and whatnot, all going to be served up at the Laughlin House 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — with plenty of time to let it all settle before the game starts at 6 p.m.
Of course, it’s not the only meal being offered. The chefs will also being doing a lunch at the UARK Bowl in Fayetteville on Friday, a dinner in Bentonville at South Walton Suites Friday night and a dinner at Café Rue Orleans Saturday night. Tickets are still available for these things but they’re going fast.
Now you know I did ask Chef McPhail about his locavore views. He’s very passionate about cooking what comes from a 100 mile radius of the restaurant.
“I think it’s wildly important, being a chef in whatever town that you’re from, to cook what’s available right there. I want people to be blown away by what they find on the end of their fork. If I could cook for anyone, cook them one meal and serve it to them blindfolded, I’d want them to be able to try it and say ‘oh, I’m in New Orleans.’ For us it’s about big bold in your face flavor — smoked, grilled, fire roasted, really good food. You can’t get that if you’re buying all your produce in California. For me it’s supporting a way of life here in Louisiana, supporting traditions that have been around for 250 years that have made this state as good as it is. It’s good to shake hands with a farmer — say hello to the wife and family and know where your food is coming from.”
Want to dine on Chef McPhail’s Louisiana fare? Find out more or order your tickets through this link.