Consider that a quarter of people who attend the annual festival in The District of Rock Island say that food is their favorite part of the event. And then think of one person: Emeril. With "the huge craze of New Orleans chefs," said Jennifer Fowler, executive director of The District, "this would be the year to pull this off."
What "this" is in the context of this year's Gumbo Ya Ya (held Friday and Saturday from noon to 12:30 a.m.) is turning the event's focus to food. Specifically, it means a pair of cooking demonstrations on Saturday featuring Chef Patrick Mould, founder of the Louisiana School of Cooking.
Gumbo Ya Ya, in addition to its two music stages, will also have a culinary stage this year close to 17th Street. The venue should comfortably hold between 75 and 100 people.
Mould will be showcasing two dishes in his presentations. Saturday at 3 p.m. he'll show how to make chicken and smoked sausage gumbo and pear, gorgonzola, and sweet-and-spicy pecan salad with cane syrup herb vinaigrette. And at 6 p.m., he'll feature pork and smoked sausage jambalaya and Cajun fried turkey. Samples of the dishes will be available for at least 75 people at the demonstrations.
"I see it [the focus on food] as part of a trend," Fowler said. "It's going to be something we'll try to expand upon next year." (The District did inquire about Emeril, by the way, but his appearance fee "wasn't a friendly figure," Fowler said.)
In addition to Mould, several local chefs will be demonstrating Cajun cooking, albeit without samples. Watts, from Eduell's Specialty Foods, will show how to make buttermilk chicken at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, while Chef Rachid Bouchareb of Le Figaro will demonstrate crawfish pecans in a Louisiana sauce on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Thirteen food vendors will be selling food, too, with the best Cajun delicacy taking home a $100 cash award.
The family-themed event will also have a variety of activities geared toward children. Kids will be able to make Mardi Gras masks and beaded necklaces from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Also on Saturday, from 3 to 4 p.m., Dennis Stroughmatt will present a workshop for children explaining zydeco music, including its instruments and history.
Stroughmatt will also be hosting a Cajun-dance workshop for all ages from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday in front of the East Stage.
And of course there are all the regular Gumbo Ya Ya features: a French Quarter marketplace, regional artists creating street banners at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and Cajun and zydeco music on two stages.
Admission to Gumbo Ya Ya is $8 for adults. For more information, visit (http://www.ridistrict.com).
Gumbo Ya Ya Entertainment
Friday, June 6
We're Late & Smell Like Beer (11:45 a.m. and 5 p.m.)
Donna Angelle & The Zydeco Posse (7 p.m.)
Jo Jo Reed (9 p.m.)
Roddie Romero (11 p.m.)
Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp (5 and 6:30pm)
Dikki Du & The Zydeco Crew (8 p.m.)
C.J Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band (10 and 11:30 p.m.)
Saturday, June 7
Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp (noon and 1:30 p.m.)
Jo Jo Reed (3 p.m.)
Donna Angelle & The Zydeco Posse (5 and 6:30 p.m.)
Roddie Romero (8 and 9:30 p.m.)
C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band (11 p.m.)
Backwater Bayou (noon)
Roddie Romero Jam (2 p.m.)
We're Late & Smell Like Beer (4 and 5:30 p.m.)
Rosie Ledet (7 and 8:30 p.m.)
Dikki Du & The Zydeco Crew (10 and 11:30 p.m.)