by Ian McNulty
If you suddenly start seeing a certain lemongrass grilled shrimp dish with ribs and crab kimchee on more New Orleans menus, that’s not because it’s necessarily the trendy new dish. Rather, it’s because this recipe cooked up by local ninth grader Sierra Torres is the “Dish That Makes a Difference.”
That’s the name for an annual student culinary program at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), the high school-level arts school in the Faubourg Marigny. Begun in 2010 in conjunction with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, the program challenges students in NOCCA’s culinary arts program with a recipe competition. In past years, winners saw their recipes prepared and served in Lagasse’s restaurants, with proceeds benefiting their school.
This year, however, the Dish That Makes a Difference has been expanded. From March 1-10, Torres’ recipe will be featured at more than a dozen local restaurants and even the food truck Taceaux Loceaux. Participating chefs have free rein to reinterpret Torres’ recipe for their own menus.
In addition to Lagasse’s three local properties (Emeril’s, NOLA and Emeril’s Delmonico), those participating restaurants range from Maurepas Foods to Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop (see the complete list here).
In January, NOCCA asked a panel of chefs and restaurateurs to judge student recipes based on a theme of Louisiana seafood. They selected Torres’ dish, officially known as “spicy lemongrass grilled shrimp with strawberry glazed pork ribs and strawberry crab kimchee.” Proceeds from the sale of the dish at participating restaurants will support NOCCA's culinary arts program.