Frackin’ Gumbo Competition Brings in Dough

by Nicholas Rummell
Autumn Stein
March 2012

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There’s nothing like digging into endless pots of gumbo to raise money for a cause. Almost 200 fans of N’awlins cooking packed into New York City's Jimmy’s No. 43 last month on Mardi Gras weekend to sample a dozen gumbos in a fundraiser for Chefs for Marcellus. The group, founded by Pastry Chef Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez and Chef Jimmy Carbone, as well as not-for-profit director Hilary Baum, is devoted to halting the practice of fracking—in which high-pressure liquid chemicals are used to extract natural gas from shale formations and gas wells—across the Marcellus shale region. The region spans New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia.

The fracking issue has quickly become one of the most prominent among environmentalists, and politicians have called for moratoriums on the practice. Critics of the process claim it releases dangerous methane gas into the atmosphere, contaminates local water sources (and product), and may even lead to earthquakes. Culinary professionals from Mario Batali to prominent NYC chefs (including Bill Telepan and Peter Hoffman), to bakers in upstate New York have also taken up the anti-fracking mantle because of the negative impact fracking has on the farmland where they receive most of their product. Some NYC-based restaurants, breweries, and cooperatives have said they will discontinue to use product from the shale region if fracking continues in those areas.

It might only be one small step, but the Chefs for Marcellus event was an incredibly tasty reminder of the interest in protecting local farming and water sources. The gumbos on the event’s menu starred local New York produce from farms located on top of the Marcellus Shale, along with shrimp from Florida.

The winners were: Chef Brendan Corr (who most recently worked at Chelsea pizzeria Co.), who won Best Overall gumbo; Brent Sims of The Green Table for Most Local Ingredients/Awareness; Nissa Pierson of Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Center won the Most Creative award; and Shameless Carnivore blogger Scott Gold for Best Gumbo with Smoked Duck. Judges for the event included Carlucci-Rodriguez, Managing Editor Will Blunt, FoodCorps founder Curt Ellis, and food stylist and Chef Emma Feigenbaum.

Click here to sign the petition to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.