Thursday, January 19, 2012

BBC America’s Road Trip: Louisiana

Chef Jamie Oliver, the vocal champion of organic ingredients, gets so hammered his last night in New Orleans, he binges on junk food on the way to Cajun country. He is certainly not the first and he will not be the last. At least Oliver came to play during the Louisiana episode of Jamie’s American Road Trip (promo here), which airs this coming Tuesday on BBC America.

Sort of a punkier British alternative to Anthony Bourdain, Oliver set out to understand America through our regional cuisine. Obviously, it would have been a crime to skip New Orleans. Oliver could not ask for a better guide than Kermit Ruffins, the Louis Armstrong-influenced trumpeter and vocalist, whose band is not called the Barbeque Swingers for nothing. Well known for grilling outside his gigs, the Treme co-star takes a quickly sobered Oliver on a tour of the still deserted Lower Ninth Ward. It is a timely reminder work remains to be done. Yet disappointingly, Road Trip never features any of Ruffins’ music. Come on, help an artist sell some CDs.

Thoroughly hung-over, Oliver trenchantly observes on his way up to David Allemond’s hurricane ravaged restaurant, McGee’s Landing, the surrounding Bayou region was ravaged far worse by Gustav than New Orleans was hit by Katrina, but scrupulously avoids the loaded implications. Before cooking for Allemond’s symbolic reopening, Oliver hunts gators with grandmother and former State Representative Sydney Mae Durand, a Democrat appointed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to the State Pharmacy Board, who sadly recently passed away. Much to the consternation of PETA, but to the credit of Oliver, he kills them and grills them.

Naturally, all the Creole and Cajun food looks delicious, most definitely including the alligator. It is also entertaining to watch gumbo legend Leah Chase lay down the law with hipster Oliver. Frankly though, fifty-some minutes is simply not sufficient to do New Orleans justice, let alone the entire Pelican State. Still, it is pleasant enough as far as armchair culinary tourism goes when it airs on BBC America this coming Tuesday (1/24). To support the Jazz Foundation of America in its continuing efforts to aid musicians whose homes and livelihoods were badly damaged by Katrina and subsequent hurricanes, viewers can also check out their website here.

(Photos: Freemantle)