On August 5, 2019, Mississippi’s culinary community, seafood industry, and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art came 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, included a cocktail hour and family-style dinner menu in the Museum that spoke to the connectivity between culture, economy, and the natural world. The art of Walter Anderson served 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, MS) collaborated with James Beard semi-finalist Chef Alex Perry of Vestige (Ocean Springs, MS), 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 presented 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.
“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.”
Gulf to Plate was presented by Mississippi Gulf Fresh Seafood in partnership with SNACKBAR; Vestige; Cathead Distillery; Fort Bayou Wine and Spirits; the City of Ocean Springs; and Food, Booze & Hiccups.
Guest speakers included chefs Vishwesh Bhatt and Alex Perry, Mike and Anita Arguelles of The French Hermit Oyster Company, and Jim Franks and Harriet Perry from the Gulf Coast Research Lab. Their insights reinforced 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.
About the Chefs
Vishwesh Bhatt, the 2019 James Beard Foundation's Best Chef South and Southern Living Southerner of the Year, joined City Grocery in 1997. Under the tutelage of Chef John Currence, Vishwesh Bhatt began working as a line cook. After a brief hiatus to earn his Culinary Degree from Johnson & Wales University, Vishwesh returned to the City Grocery Restaurant Group as Catering Chef in 2002. In 2009 Chef Bhatt opened SNACKBAR, where using his years of culinary experience and exposure to worldwide cultures, he has created a menu that intertwines Southern and subcontinental Foodways. His work earned him a People's Best New Chef nomination from Food & Wine in 2011. SNACKBAR has been recognized by local and national media as one of the finest restaurants in the South. Vishwesh resides in Oxford with his wife Teresa and their pets Tula and Bitbit.
Alex Perry, a native of Ocean Springs, MS, earned a degree in biology from the University of South Alabama before pursuing a culinary career and graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando. Perry worked for eight years at NOJA, one of Mobile’s finest restaurants, before opening Vestige in Ocean Springs. His Modern American menus and approach — influenced by the legendary Thomas Keller — bring precision, ingenuity, and respect to a wealth of regional and global ingredients. Each day, Perry personally inspects every product delivery, from Gulf seafood to foraged mushrooms. His attention to detail and commitment to storytelling through food have earned Perry and Vestige national acclaim, including multiple invitations to the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and a 2019 nomination for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South.