Taste Louisiana food in Charlotte, NC restaurants


Chef Ryan Trahan's wagyu tartare, which he prepares at Vestal Restaurant in Lafayette, La.

Chef Ryan Trahan’s wagyu tartare, which he prepares at Vestal Restaurant in Lafayette, La.

Get ready, Charlotte. Louisiana is coming to the Queen City.

On Nov. 3 — and for one night only — 14 chefs from across the Bayou State will take over select Charlotte restaurants to introduce some of their best culinary creations.

Presented by Louisiana Culinary Trails, Louisiana X Charlotte restaurant night is part of a campaign that started more than a decade ago to provide foodies in major cities with a little Louisiana lagniappe to whet their appetite and leave them wanting to take a trip to the Bayou. Past takeovers have occurred in New York City, Atlanta, Nashville and Houston, among others.

“We’re coming to you Charlotte, and we’re going to feed you some amazing food that you can only find in Louisiana. Hopefully you’ll leave hungry for more,” said chef Samantha “Sam” Carroll, an award-winning Food Network star, restaurant owner and executive director of Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Carroll’s team, which works closely with the Louisiana Office of Tourism and Culinary Trails, will send about 1,000 pounds of seafood to Charlotte for the event.

“Not only are the chefs some of the best in our state, but we’re providing them with fresh Louisiana seafood from our waters to use so people can enjoy the labors of our fishermen. It couldn’t be more authentic than that,” said Carroll, who has also been a featured chef in past takeover events. “But it’s not just seafood. There will be something for meat lovers and a little bit of everything.”

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Gumbo is among Louisiana’s staple dishes. Tim Mueller/Louisiana Office of Tourism Louisiana Travel

For the Charlotte event, each Louisiana chef will come from a different part of the state, all nominated by tourism officials as the best of the best. They will be paired with a local restaurant and will work closely with management and staff to create a special menu.

The Goodyear House in NoDa is among the participating Charlotte restaurants and will host chef Ryan Trahan, owner of Vestal Restaurant in Lafayette, La. He’ll work closely with Goodyear House chef Chris Coleman to help prepare five specialty dishes for the event.

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Chef Ryan Trahan of Vestal Restaurant Green Olive Media

“Ryan will do a wagyu tartare with oyster mayonnaise, a crispy crab and rice cake, and a cracklin crusted red snapper, which I’ve heard is pretty interesting in terms of preparation,” said Coleman, whose family has roots in Louisiana. “And then on our side, I’m doing a tribute to my mom’s jambalaya, with a Carolina gold rice creole with shrimp and chicken. Our junior sous chef, who is from Monroe, La., is making his mom’s creole filé gumbo.”

Coleman said the Louisiana takeover experience is a great way for local kitchen staff to learn from experienced chefs from another culture. He also said it’s a way to expand his network and make new culinary friends. But mostly, he says, it’ll help put Charlotte on the map as a culinary destination.

“In the past, these events have been hosted by more recognized food cities, so for them to select Charlotte is a big honor,” Coleman said. “It shows that we’re a city that’s popping up on people’s radar in terms of food culture. We’re excited to learn from these Louisiana chefs, but we’re also eager to show off what we are.”

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Chef Chris Coleman of Charlotte has appeared on Food Network several time, with successful ventures on “Chopped,” “Beat Bobby Flay” and “Alex Vs. America.” Courtesy of Chris Coleman

Other participating restaurants are:

Reservations are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be welcome at some places, while others may require reservations or a pre-purchased ticket.

And just what makes Louisiana cuisine so special?

“In Louisiana, everything revolves around, ‘Where are we eating and what are we going to eat?’” Carroll said. “We’ve become such a culinary destination, in part because of the influence and heritage of all the settlers who brought their cuisines with them. Now, the dishes that are famous in Louisiana are the all-stars from all of the cultures. It’s history on a plate. And with all the new blood and new people in the restaurant business, it’s being revived and updated, with chefs using more local ingredients and bringing these dishes to today’s time.”

If you can’t wait until November for your next bite of Cajun food, go ahead and check out Carroll’s recipes.

Visit www.louisianaxcharlotte.com for more info.

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Shannon Greene is a Charlotte native and Winthrop University graduate with more than 20 years of journalism and communications experience. Outside of work, she enjoys going on adventures and making memories with her 6-year-old son, Evan. Follow her on Instagram at Shannon_Greene_SC or Twitter @Shannon_Greene

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