Wanda Barros operates the lush Belle Ecorse Farms, a 10-acre microdairy farm and goat cheese plant in St. Martinville, on land her French Acadian family has been working for decades. She refrains from milking her small, happy herd of dairy goats from October until the first signs of spring appear, allowing for milk that’s flavorful and high in butterfat. Her lovingly handmade, national award-winning cheeses include fresh, soft chèvre, goat milk feta, and soft-ripened/bloomy rind cheeses. As is evident in the superior quality of her cheeses, Barros labors vigorously over her products. She was the first person to tell me about Chef Manny Augello (featured in theOct/Nov 2016 Best Chefs issue), the then 24-year-old Executive Chef at Jolie Bistro in Lafayette, who was establishing the restaurant as a pioneer in the state’s nascent farm-to-table movement. Augello had many farmers and small purveyors on their toes. He would be the first customer to arrive at farmers markets when they opened.
Now the chef and owner of Bread & Circus Provisions (B&C), Augello has inspired a generation of chefs in — to patronize local growers and artisans and he is still first in line at the farmers’ markets.
"Some of my favorites have always been farmers who grow a small number of things but grow them really well,” Augello says. Based on the season, in addition to Barros’ goat cheeses, diners are likely to find watermelon and strawberries from Robin Farms in Churchpoint, eggplant and peppers from David Richter, tomatoes from Anthony Accardo in Convent, and grits and polenta from Glen Domaingue in Abbeville. Jamie Vickery’s Red Wattle hogs are the foundation of Augello’s extensive charcuterie program at B&C. “At an early age it was instilled to me the importance of making do with what you have available and using those ingredients to yield the least amount of waste possible.”
A native of Palermo, Sicily, Augello says those are the fundamentals of farm-to-table.
“For many years I was unaware that there was a choice to cook with a different approach,” says Augello. “It wasn’t until I worked in restaurants that were not family-owned that I was exposed to this ass-backwards way of operating a kitchen, coming up with menus. I didn’t get it. It seems so much harder to get along with the craft when you’re not taking a moment to listen to the world around you.
“I couldn’t give a shit whether or not a producer is throwing loads of extra money into acquiring a seven letter stamp so that in turn they can charge me more for their goods. What is important to me is that respect is given to the product from conception to transaction; the producer makes an uncompromising statement to ethically and humanely source and raise their product; that there’s an obvious effort by the producer to uphold their environmental responsibility to the seasons and the earth. And lastly, the less waste the more brownie points.”
Jamie Vickery’s Red Wattle hogs are the foundation of Bread and Circus’s chartcuterie program.
In addition to the authentic Neapolitan pizza, Italian soul food and masterful charcuterie at B&C, locally sourced ingredients make up the bulk of the menus at several other chef-driven restaurants in Acadiana. Check out the menus from Chef Collin Cormier at Pop’s Po’boys, Chef Katie Gross at Ruffino’s on the River, Chef Ryan Trahan at Dark Roux and Chef Paul Krato at POUR for brilliant marriages between top-notch ingredients from local farmers and artisans an masterful culinary creativity. Locally sourced ingredients are also at play in Collin Cormier’s popular, commercially available Swamp Pop line of sodas.
Belle Ecorse Farms 337-394-6683, belleecorsefarms.com
Bread & Circus Provisions 258 Bendel Road, Lafayette, 337-408-3930, bandcprovisions.com
Dark Roux 3524 Kaliste Saloom Road, Lafayette, 337-504-2346, darkrouxla.com
Pop’s Po’boys 740 Jefferson St., Lafayette, 337-534-0621, popspoboys.com
POUR 605 Silverstone Road, Lafayette, 337-981-8085
Ruffino’s on the River 921 Camellia Blvd., Lafayette, 337-706-7333, ruffinoslafayette.com