OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. – Mississippi’s culinary community, seafood industry, and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) come together to host an evening of food and dialogue paying homage to the diversity of the Southern coast and encouraging cooperation to protect the bounty of the Gulf waters. The evening, a fundraiser for WAMA’s nature-based educational programs, includes a cocktail hour and family-style dinner menu in the Museum and the Ocean Springs Community Center that speak to the connectivity between culture, economy, and the natural world. The art of Walter Anderson serves as a backdrop, reinforcing the important relationships between people and coastal environments.
2019 James Beard Foundation's Best Chef South Chef Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar (Oxford) collaborates with James Beard Semi-Finalist Chef Alex Perry of Vestige (Ocean Springs), along with Chef Michael Paoletti and Pastry Chef Stephanie Paoletti, to prepare a menu paying homage to the ingredients and foodways of the Mississippi Gulf. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art presents conversations with chefs, scientists, and special guests to draw attention to the current threats to coastal ecosystems and aquaculture that impact the seafood industry and the region at large. All seafood will be safely sourced from offshore waters, while drawing attention to the reality that some areas of the Gulf are not currently viable due to critical environmental conditions related to the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Louisiana.
“Part of the Museum’s role in the community is to empower conversation about the intersections of contemporary life and the natural world,” said Julian Rankin, Director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. “As a region, we are intimately connected to our marine environments — culturally, economically, and physically. As the region experiences the inundation of freshwater and chemical byproducts into the Gulf of Mexico that harm our ecosystems, it is also demonstrating the importance of collaboration as we search for long-term solutions to protect coastal environments and ways of life.”
During a cocktail hour and between dinner courses, WAMA facilitates conversations with special guests, including chefs Vishwesh Bhatt and Alex Perry, Mike and Anita Arguelles of The French Hermit Oyster Company, and Jim Franks and Harriet Perry from the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Through personal stories and scientific insights, conversations will reinforce the meaning of these locally-sourced products not only as economic drivers and ingredients on a plate, but as vehicles for regional identity that connect communities around a shared table.
"I’m a Southern chef. I’m from the South. This is where I have put down roots. This is where I have decided to be,” said Chef Vishwesh Bhatt, speaking to the Southern Foodways Alliance. “This place, Mississippi in particular, has dictated what I do and how I do it.”
“In a time where we talk about missions to Mars, where astronomers beam images and weave tales of ‘the next Earth,’ it’s all too easy to overlook the delicate balance that allows life to thrive on the only home we may ever know,” said Chef Alex Perry. “We must learn to be better stewards and that aegis starts within our own backyards.”
Gulf to Plate is presented by Mississippi Gulf Fresh Seafood in partnership with Snackbar; Vestige; Cathead Distillery; Fort Bayou Wine and Spirits; the City of Ocean Springs; Sweet Enchantments Cakes; and Food, Booze & Hiccups. Tickets are $100 per person, inclusive of all food and drink. Tickets available at www.walterandersonmuseum.org.