On March 20 – 21, 2013 ICCA members were exposed to legendary chefs Paul Prudhomme, John Folse and Susan Spicer plus star chefs John Besh, Donald Link and John Harris for tableside discussions during an event we called the ICCA regional Conference New Orleans; the future name for these events will be “A Culinary Immersion New Orleans.” This event, the third in a series of regional events hosted by ICCA to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, will become a part of our annual calendar. The two-day event in the “Big Easy” was anything but that. We visited 10 restaurants, and yes we ate at every one of them. As you know, only when you visit that many restaurants in such a short period of time can you appreciate the differences and similarities in the cuisine. Surprisingly there were many more differences than similarities making it an incredible learning experience. We started at Restaurant R’evolution hoisted by John Folse who gave the most incredible PowerPoint presentation about the seven nations that influenced the famous Cajun and Creole cuisines we have come to love. The heritage and ethnic diversity of this region is celebrated in the dishes at every restaurant we visited. From the local products to the attention to the traditions of the past that offer these bold and balanced flavors, you can understand why New Orleans rose for the ashes, or should I say floods, of Hurricane Katrina. We video taped each chef and on our newly redesigned Web site you can see very short 90 minute action packed videos of these chefs and their amazing stories. Many describe their dishes and the logic in their menu development and business plans. Perhaps John Besh, who grew from one establishment to a mini empire of eight restaurants, shared the best secret to his success – the chef partners running his new places were all trained by him at his flagship Restaurant August. He found their passion for a cuisine and made them chef-owners. He and chef-partner Brian Landry grew up fishing on Lake Borgne, the epicenter of coastal cuisine in Louisiana. Their shared passion for Louisiana seafood brought them together to create Borgne, a celebration of coastal Louisiana with a touch of Isleño influence. Isleño is a Spanish word for Islander. Chef Paul Prudhomme took us on a personal tour of his Magic Seasonings Blends Plant, his chef Paul Miller has been with him since 1981, just two years after K-Paul’s opened their doors. He cooked an incredible array of appetizers and some of their classic dishes that have made them one of the most successful restaurants in New Orleans. Susan Spicer met us at Mondo, her new neighborhood place inspired by international flavors – the translation of the Italian word Mondo is Global. See her video for details on the tastings we enjoyed from her wood burning oven. Donald Link shared the story of his success at Herbsaint and more importantly how Katrina played a role in his newest success story at Cochon and Cochon Butcher. Lu Brown, New Orleans award winning mixologist entertained us at the Brennan family restaurant Cafe Adelaide where we were also joined by Tom Fitzmorris, radio host, restaurant critic and expert on all restaurant happenings in the local area. We also enjoyed an amazing dinner at Lilette with award winning chef John Harris, who treated us to a peak at his new Bouligny Tavern next door. He has also recently opened a new restaurant Exchange Alley in New York with his CIA roommate Paul Gerard. Details on the menu items can be found in the Dine Around section of the newly redesigned ICCA Web site.