What They’re Saying About the Second Annual Charleston Flavor Foray: Grits, Gullah, and the Three O’Clock Dinner, the Second Annual NOLA's Backyard and other culinary adventures organized by our team.

Click below to read feedback about our most recent foray to Austin, Texas.

Beverly and Barbara,

Once again thank you so much for organizing such an inspirational trip. Additional thanks and a huge shout out to the trips sponsors for supporting the endeavor.

It was such a pleasure to meet the best of Charleston, the chefs, farmers and artisan producers all so full of passion. They represent the region so very well with their dedication to their crafts. There were so many wonderful takeaways that will continue to inspire.

Great news! I learned today that the Sweet Home Café was recognized as a Semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Restaurant of the Year.  What a wonderful surprise and a great recognition of this special place.

I cannot thank you both enough for your support of this concept development through the past Flavor Forays. They have been so valuable in providing insights that help in showcasing authentic culinary experiences that tell the story of the communities that create and cherish them.  I look forward to sharing a toast the next time we are together.

Hats off to Matt Lee for his wonderful stories and insight into what Charleston offers.

All my best,

Albert G. Lukas

Supervising Chef

Restaurant Associates


Beverly & Barbara

After a busy week back on the campus, I realize I am long overdue in my thanks to Beverly and Barbara for a terrific educational trip full of flavorful food experiences and fond memories. I was extremely impressed with the quality of presenters, chefs, farmers and artisanal producers. The passion they have for their program was truly inspiring. I was able to show some of the salient points to the Stanford team with the videos I took during the trip. They were blown away and have a newfound respect for Charleston and the food culture there. We are planning to bring some of these folks and their products to the Stanford campus in the upcoming months for our students to have a great experience as well.

As part of our Mardi Gras celebration at Stanford we made cornbread and grits using Geechie Boy Mill products. It was enthusiastically received by our students and culinary team for its exceptional flavor and quality. We also displayed information to our students about the artisanal program and Jimmy Red corn.

Of course, we could not have engaged together without the incredible sponsors who graciously spent their time with us. Lisa, Michele, Heidi, Dennis and Mark thank you very much. I look forward to continuing the dialogue which occurred on this trip and working towards new partnerships for Stanford.

It was a real pleasure to be part of this Flavor Foray and my best wishes to all!

Eric Montell

Executive Director

Stanford Dining

Beverly & Barbara

Sincere thanks for an inspiring/FULL couple of days in Charleston. The itinerary was excellent and provided great insight to the scene there. It was especially nice to spend time with old colleagues and meet many new ones as well. A special thanks to our walking-talking encyclopedia Matt Lee and the generous support of our sponsors, I look forward to connecting with you all.

Best Fishes!

Ed Brown


Restaurant Associates

Thank you Bev and the rest of the crew! 

This trip was truly special, and has already sparked great conversations and experimenting in my kitchens here in Charlotte. To echo Ed, a huge thanks to the sponsors as well as our guide to all thing Lowcountry Matt Lee. The itinerary was amazing, food was divine, and weather was gorgeous! Looking forward to crossing paths with you all in the future


Chris Coleman

Director of Culinary Experience

Charlotte Marriott City Center

Barbara and Beverly


I wanted to thank you so much for bringing me on this wonderful trip with truly wonderful people. I learned and saw so many things that I may have never seen if it was not for your gracious hospitality. I hope to see you both very soon



Scott M. MacMaster |

Executive Sous Chef

Turning Stone Resort Casino

Beverly, Barbara,

On behalf of our team from Delaware North I want to thank you for a well thought out and executed Flavor Foray.  It was a great educational event and we also appreciate the sponsorship from the outstanding companies. You really packed a lot into a couple day. Well done!

Best regards and thank you again…

Jeffrey Friedman

Regional Vice President

Delaware North

Hello to You Both!
I just wanted to reach out and thank you both for an incredible event. Total success! On the train right now heading to the NY Marquis.
My boss is very pleased and not only is on board for the future but wants to attend as well. Thanks again... great work!

All the best,

Dennis Gavagan

Director of Food Service Business Development/

Corporate Chef

More Than Gourmet


I would like to thank you again for including me in the NOLA’s backyard trip.  I truly enjoyed it.  It was great meeting all the attendees as well as the local business owners and building friendships as well as business relationships with all of them.

The local owners are very proud people.  As they spoke about the area and their businesses you could tell that it wasn’t just a JOB.  They spoke from their hearts and with a great deal of passion. They live it day in and day out and believe in what they are saying. I was drawn in each time a local business person talked and told their story as I’m sure all of us were.

Thank you again for including me in this great adventure.

Gidget Wickham

Executive Chef

Delaware North

Kennedy Space Center

Ladies and Fellow Participants,

I apologize for the late response.  There’s always a price to pay when you get away from the office for a bit, but it was so worth it.

I cannot express my gratitude for the invitation to such an awesome event.  This trip gave me such an appreciation of the Creole culture and delivered in such a passionate manor by Chef John Folse. From the Pontchartrain Crab Processing Plant to Houmas House Reception, Rural Life Museum, LSU Food Incubator, Plantation Tour, Sugar Mill and Baron Dinner, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Department, Leah Chase and the dinner at R’Evolution are experiences I will never forget.

The group of attendees and sponsors were such a delight to be around and I made so many new friends.  The agenda was detailed but relaxed.  The hospitality we were shown was second to none and the food was over the top.

The highlight of the trip for me was the Sugar Baron Dinner and Chef John Folse. The history of the meal and that Chef Folse decided to prepare it for us. The tour, music, education, stories and the food were absolutely magnificent. Chef Folse’s passion, knowledge, and his love of his craft were inspirational. I was able to spend a little time with Chef and truly enjoyed talking with him.

I want to thank Beverly and Barbara for their patience during the booking process.  Also thank you to Michaela for her warm hospitality and making everyone feel so welcome.  Thank you all for being a part of such a wonderful group and fantastic event.  I hope to get invited again.

Sincerest regards,

John Storms

Corporate Executive Chef/Director of Culinary

Hard Rock

Good afternoon Beverly and Barbara,

I want to thank you both for a truly wonderful experience while attending the Flavor Foray’s NOLA’s Backyard event earlier this month.  From Chef Folse’s amazing and insightful history lessons to crabbing on Lake Pontchartrain to the delicious Sugar Baron Dinner at White Oak Plantation, your team executed every detail beautifully.

Thank you for your kind invitation and I’m looking forward to future visits to further experience the people, tastes and sights of the Louisiana Bayou.

Warm wishes,

David Iott

Clinary Educator & Training Executive Chef

The Teaching Kitchen @Stanford, Stanford Dining

Thank you Beverly! The entire trip was amazing!

Best Regards,

Stephen Bonin

Executive Chef

Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt

Dear Beverly,

The trip was so amazing that it is hard for me to pick what was the best.

Following the crab from the lake to the table, the cane from the field to the sugar bag, it’s what makes the Nola trip special.

Having John with us, telling us the story is very special, the meals were unique and superb. Listening to Leah always motivates me, she is such a personality.

Thank you so much, it was so well organized.

On a personal note, I want to thank you for having my sister and Beatrice participating, my sister had the best vacation of her life.

Thank you again, I am so happy to be part of this group.

Kind regards,

Jean-Marie Clement

Director Food & Beverage Concept Development and International Integration

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Good morning John,

Just a short note to THANK YOU for allowing me to participate in the NOLA’s backyard experience. It was truly outstanding in every way. First Class to you and the entire team, in particular to your chefs that catered for us. From the best soft shell crab I have ever eaten to the journeys back in time through food and settings, everything was not only well thought out but also well executed. Again thank you also for the amazing book, I have started to read a page or two and can’t wait to find time to dive further.

Hopefully we get a chance to see each other again soon somewhere.

Best regards

Rainer Zinngrebe

Vice President Culinary, Corporate Chef

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

Dear Beverly,

THANK YOU and the team SOOOO MUCH for an amazing few days in NOLA’s backyard, it was truly a first class trip that was enjoyed by all I believe.

As for the ROI question, difficult to answer. For me personally it allowed me to network with both fellow professionals as well as vendors, that might yield future business opportunities from me connecting them or talking about them to our chefs in the US, in particular for me the Pontchatrain Crab was a highlight that I already have spoken to some of our chefs about. As an organization we don’t prescribe.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Rainer Zinngrebe

Vice President Culinary, Corporate Chef

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

Dear Beverly, Dear Barbara,

I finally made it home today. What an amazing trip this was. I am not sure what to vote for if I had to pick my personal favorite experience. It was great from the minute I set foot in New Orleans to the final dinner at the Wine Room in R’evolution.

The entire experience was flawless. And inspirational. You have outdone yourselves in putting a great group of people together and teaming up with John Folse to showcase the sights and sounds of NOLA’s Backyard.

Thank you for continuing with the great work and bringing industry leaders together for this event. This is truly unique not just for the inspiration, education and celebration of great food and the people behind it, but most importantly it is a unique opportunity to network with colleagues and friends in the industry.

A big “Thank You” to all the sponsors of the event too. They are amazing and gracious co-hosts of the events.

On to salads, vegetables and tea without sugar for the next 10 days.

With best regards,

Achim Lenders

Global Vice President Food & Beverage

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide


Good afternoon Beverly and Barbara,

Bravo Ladies!  I wanted to reach out to let you know how impressed I was with your Flavor Foray in Louisiana this week.  There was not any activity or adventure that lacked flavor or culture in any way.  From the moment we left the airport on Tuesday until we left Dooky Chase's on Thursday (or R'evolution in my case) we were immersed in southern hospitality.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to represent Ed Brown and Restaurant Associates in such an amazing setting.  You along with John Folse organized an amazing itinerary that was second to none.  The food, the culture, and the people made for a priceless experience.  I will be thinking of this adventure for a long time to come.

I also want to compliment you on the wonderful and diverse sponsors that were involved.  The people and products were stellar and I will be looking to maintain these relationships with these individuals and their products.

Lastly, I was so impressed with our LSU visit that I have already reached out to a culinary business incubator in the Boston area as I was enamored with the entrepreneurial spirit and passion of the startups that we were exposed to.

Again, thank you so much for the passion that you brought to this amazing gathering in NOLA's Backyard.  It was spectacular.  Let's please keep in touch.

Eat well, drink well, be well...

Brian Flagg

Executive Chef
Restaurant Associates

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hello Beverly and Barb,

I just wanted to let you both know as to how impactful and inspirational our recent Flavor Foray to Charleston was for me.

Over the past two years I have been developing the culinary concept and menu for the soon to open Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. The menus has been extensively researched and planned to pay homage to the endless contributions that African American cooks have made to the foods we eat daily.

Each year on New Years Day countless amounts of Americans from all backgrounds hope to start the year off with wealth and good fortune by having a healthy serving of Hoppin' John.

Instead of the commonly prepared style of making it with white rice and black eye peas I choose to revised the menu after our trip. As I was so inspired by the Gullah flavors that we encountered I realized that their story must be told through the food that we serve.

Our version will be offered as Gullah Style Hoppin’ John, Carolina Gold Rice & Sea Island Red Peas, House Smoked Bacon and not just on New Years Day !

Albert G. Lukas

Supervising Chef

Restaurant Associates

I wanted to thank you and the entire team for welcoming me to Charleston and helping me discover this beautiful region.

The past three days were full of learnings, adventure, and friendship, I had a “lovely” time.

Jean-Marie Clement

Director, Food & Beverage Concept Development and International Integration

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Dear Beverly,

I mirror everyone’s comments of appreciation and thanks!

You had asked me to provide you some feedback on ROI and here it is.

As an operator I found significant value in spending time with the sponsors. Ironically 2 of the sponsors had been working to get time on my calendar that I was avoiding. My spending time with them and getting to know them better, I have already cleared time on my calendar to meet with them and look more closely at their portfolios.

It’s always valuable to spend time with colleagues and connect. To have access to Global Starwood, Regional Hyatt, Think Food Group as well as Field Four Seasons in a short period of time allows for quick learning in an environment that is not intimidating.

Personally to have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and understand all that goes into influencing a food culture is priceless. I loved the balance of history, culture, product and influence.

Thank you again and please let me know if I can provide further feedback.

Susan Terry

Vice President of Culinary and Food & Beverage Operations

Marcus Hotels

It was an absolute pleasure spending time with you and Beverly last evening, as well as in the delightful company of all present. It was an impressive group, and all spoke so glowingly of the adventures you both arranged for them. Through your diligence and attention to detail, you gave them a real authentic taste of all that makes the Carolina Lowcountry such a compellingly unique slice of our country. 

Thank you again for including me last evening. The night was a smashing success. 

I met with Mira this morning, and they expressed their genuine delight over the exposure their wines gained from the event. It appears that Four Seasons in Miami is deeply interested in adding the 2012 Syrah to its wine list, so from that alone they consider it a singular success, and they asked me to pass along their thanks as well. 

I hope we get to conspire again in future. 

Bryan Hunter

Lou Hammond & Associates

Overall it was an outstanding experience. I think a lot was covered and it was very beneficial. 

I have been to CHS a couple times prior but this time was fun as it was a true immersion with the chefs and producers. 

The one on one time with the chefs was the most beneficial for me. Their passion for what they do was unparalleled. It was truly inspiring. Especially BJ's cooking and his story. 

The tea experience was great too, I never knew there was a tea plantation in the US. 

After we broke on the last day I headed up to Artisan Meat Share, this is the place that is overseen by Craig Diehl. It is a spot I have been wanting to go to for a while. Very cool little space that did great sandwiches, snacks, awesome craft beers and artisan hand made meats.  The charcuterie was spectacular. The display cabinets were fully stoked overflowing with all sorts of salt cures, terrines, rillettes and smoked sausages. It was pretty awesome to say the least. 

Once finished lunch I hopped an Uber over to GrowFood. This was great. My gracious host toured me through the small but well stocked facility of about four large walk in coolers full with local products. It was pretty cool. I think they have something very special there that other cities would benefit from having the same concept. A central hub for farmers to send thier product 'on consignment' for sale to local restaurants. 

Again, I can't thank you enough for including me as part of this culinary dive into Charleston’s unique and inspiring culture. You have something special going on with the Forays and the group of individuals you selected to be part of it were so nice and fun to be around. 

Aaron Brooks

Executive Chef

Four Seasons Miami

So great meeting new people and reconnecting with others!  Thank you again Beverly and Barb for putting this all together.  And Leigh for guiding us!  Learned and experienced (and ate) so much!

Michael Doneff

Chief Marketing Officer

José Andrés Think Food Group

Thank you for organizing this amazing insightful trip to Charleston. I am still thinking about those Square biscuits.

I appreciate the thoughtful tours and introduction to not only the food of the lowlands but also the insights that our tour guide provided. A real treat.  I enjoyed meeting the farmers and the local partners of the chefs, they were so passionate and committed.

Very inspirational.

Shame that the housing is so expensive and that they don’t have enough parking, otherwise I would move tomorrow.

Thank you again for organizing this. Please pass on my gratitude to all the sponsors who made this possible.

Achim Lenders

Global Vice President Food & Beverage

Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Thank you once more for the refreshing, educational, and memorable journey through Charleston.

After having gotten a couple of Callie’s warm biscuit early Friday morning from the store on King, I’m feeling withdrawal effects and might need to start making my own soon.

Meeting with local chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, local produce distributer and fisherman was most inspirational. Each of them is so passionate at what they do so well.

Much appreciate your allowing me to be part of this well planned gathering – (this was my 1st time visit to this historic city). I equally enjoyed spending time with you, each of the sponsors and the entire group of hospitality colleagues.

Thanks again and please pass share the thanks with all the folks that made this trip possible.

Christoph Leu

Corporate Chef, North America Food & Beverage

Starwood Hotels & Resorts

What a fantastic time it was! Enjoying the company of all of you and the magic that Charleston offers made it a very memorable trip.

A huge special thanks to Bev and Barb for all their efforts and overwhelming hospitality. Additional thanks and a tip of my hat to the sponsors who supported the amazing itinerary.

The last time I was in Charleston was eight years ago and I was truly amazed to see how much the food scene has developed. The passion, commitment and drive that those chefs, farmers and fisherman displayed to us was very inspirational.

I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future and to enjoy your company once again.

PS: I was so pleased to see on Saturday that my local market offers Callie's biscuits in four flavors. Made Mother’s Day breakfast easy

Albert G. Lukas

Supervising Corporate Chef mid-Atlantic Region

Restaurant Associates

You provided such a lovely experience last week – thank you!

It was so great to experience Charleston for the first time by meeting the local Chefs and tasting our way through the city.  I definitely want to go back!  I find myself recounting stories to my friends of hominy, biscuits, Gullah cooking, shrimp and Angel Oaks.

Thank you for sharing all the notes from the participants.  They are an insanely-experienced group of people that I feel so lucky to have met.

I hope it will translate to some additional business for Torn Ranch so that we can be a regular sponsor for your upcoming Forays.

Michelle Chodor

Director of Corporate Accounts

Torn Ranch

I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed that trip to Charleston.  I have continued to talk about it daily at work…no doubt they are wishing by now that I would stop bringing it up!  

Rita Dever

Associate Partner and Corporate Chef

Lettuce Entertain You

I wanted to thank you for everything you did for me in Charleston it was AWESOME.

You and your team did a fantastic job and I truly appreciate your introducing me to everyone personally.

Brian O’Connor

National Accounts Manager

Cardinal International  

I enjoyed the event immensely and was honored for the invite. It was great timing for me as I am working on a new Southern concept. I can’t thank you enough for the invite. Your program is best of class.

Darlene Marcello

Vice President Food & Beverage and Procurement

HRI Lodging

What they're saying about NOLA's Backyard:

“At times one believes it’s necessary to travel to faraway places to explore and discover the unique, different and history. Last week was proof that all that and more can be achieved by staying close.

From the start of the Shoebox lunch, to the final meal in the company of Leah Chase was 1st class and exceeded all expectations. Being in your company did indeed morph into being part of family.

Thank you Beverly, Barbara, Michaela and John for planning such a great event while showcasing hospitality at its best throughout.

I’m looking to forward meeting each of you again soon and shall that be on a swamp boat cruising through the NOLA bayous.”      

Christoph Leu

Corporate Executive Chef

Starwood Hotes & Resorts

“A big thanks to you, the sponsors, and everyone behind the scenes that made this happen!!

When you asked halfway through the trip if there was anything that you could have done better, I said, and still say, “NO, NOT A THING!”

First class all the way and a great way to learn.

Thank you again!”

Peter Farrand

Vice President of Operations

Shula’s Steak Houses

“We had a wonderful time as well. We were excited to be involved and got a ton out of the trip.

Mike and I are already doing some work with some the sponsors of the trip and hope to do more business with them going forward.

Please convey my thanks to everyone involved in Planning and executing this trip. From my perspective it was perfect!!”

Scott Marshall

Senior Vice President and COO

Landry’s Signature Group

Golden Nugget Food and Beverage

“We had a wonderful time and learned a great deal about the food, history and culture of Louisiana.  Our snack at Tony's consisted of red beans and rice, gumbo, fried catfish and jambalaya!”

Brian Sullivan

Senior Vice President of Culinary Development

California Pizza Kitchen

“Thank you everyone for a memorable week.   Such a great job!  It was really well put together, a great group and some really great learning experiences.”

Miriam Russell-Wadleigh

Executive Chef, Lakeside Dining

Residential & Dining Enterprises
Stanford University

“An amazing week it was- thank you SO much!”

Doug Zeif

Founder and Principal

The Concept Gurus andNext! Hospitality Advisors

“The place just doesn’t seem the same without you.  Thanks to everyone for visiting and allowing us to show off our state.  Now you know why Louisiana has 5 of the top ten cities named the happiest in the United States.

Please let me know if you will make a return visit and I’m happy to help expand your seafood experience.  Would love to take you to the docks, get you on some boats, and introduce you to the fishermen and more of the processors that make up the second largest seafood producing state in the country.”

Karen Profita

Executive Director

Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

“Yes! It was amazing and so hard to believe it’s over. I keep thinking of all the different places we went and ALL the Food we ate!

I can’t wait to hear what the next trip will be.”

Carol Mueller

Executive Vice President


“What a great adventure! I LOVED IT. Please start planning the next one asap !!!:)”

Alexandre Bollengier

Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Cardinal International

By Giorgi Di Lemis, consultant/vice president White Lodging

“NOLA’s Backyard, a flavor immersion in Louisiana Bayou country"

Once in a while, an event comes to play a role in our lives, connecting us to people and cultures other than ours, while adding meaning to our professional and personal lives.

The event named NOLA's Backyard; a flavor immersion in Louisiana Bayou country, that took place in October 2015, was created and organized by former Food Arts publisher Barbara Mathias and executive editor Beverly Stephen in partnership with chef John Folse and Michaela York, vice president marketing, Chef John Folse & Company.

The quest was to immerse in the history, culture and gastronomy of the region, while visiting working Plantations, producers, processors, chefs and fishermen. Even though I have been blessed with Chef Folse’s passionate delivery of Louisiana history, during my pilgrimages to the Greystone CIA for the Flavor Summit; I was amazed at the depth of historical facts that Chef Folse is able to convey with great eloquence. Magic happens when history, culture and food traditions merge. The various ethnic groups that came together and the culture that they have embedded in this part of the world, when studied through the region’s blended cuisine is miraculous.

I also met the one and only, Leah Chase in her restaurant, Dooky Chase, open since 1941. Today Leah who is 92 continues to live life with her undimmed passion and sharp wit. She told us about the various cultures and ethnic groups that came together in Louisiana; Native Americans, Spanish, French, English, Africans, Germans, and Italians.  Leah; “we lived together, we learned from each other, we borrowed each other’s ideas and cooking methods, we just got along”.  How could we not want to forward this simple but powerful message.

Yes the food wherever we went was delicious; Etouffees, Jambalayas, Alligator meat [whole 6 foot Alligators cooked all day on Pecan wood], Boudins, bread puddings, Craw Fish and myriad other regional delicacies…. We were served at Dooky Chase "gumbo z’herbes" which Leah serves only once a year on Holy Thursday. But what will endure with me the most is the lasting memory of the 2 protagonists that I met, John the King of Cajun and Leah the Queen of Creole and their enduring legacy. They are the raconteurs of their own history, their perseverance leading to profound success. They are actors of a very rich and blended culture. John and Leah possess the courage of loving strangers that come to see them and morphing them into family members for life.”